What is HIV, how is it transmitted and how is it treated?


When the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) took the world by storm in the 1980s, many myths began to emerge, partly because of the panic this new disease caused, but mainly because You did not know what we were facing..

Does the virus that causes AIDS cross the condom?

Three decades later, both treatments and our understanding of HIV have advanced significantly. However, there is still a long way to go, not only to prevent new infections, but also to prevent eradicate prejudices, stigma and myths around this virus.

What is the difference between HIV and AIDS?

HIV is the name given to the human immunodeficiency virus, an infectious agent that attacks the cells of the immune system (the body's defenses).

When the virus expands and weakens the immune system significantly, the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), a state in which the body's defenses are so low that any infection can make the patient seriously ill. Patients with AIDS do not die from direct causes of the virus, but from opportunistic diseases.

People who have the virus are called seropositive, those who do not have seronegative. It is important to emphasize that Being HIV positive is not synonymous with AIDS, because the syndrome is an advanced stage of infection that can be prevented with the early detection of the virus, as well as a correct and constant treatment.

Nowadays, a person with HIV can have exemplary health, in addition to having romantic and sexual relationships without any problem.

How can HIV be transmitted?

(Photo by Carsten Koall / Getty Images)


HIV is transmitted through the exchange of body fluids with high viral load such as blood, semen or breast milk.

There are three main risk situations for the infection:

Sexual transmission: through penetration – unprotected – vaginal or anal. O The pre-mineral fluid also contains viral loadTherefore, there is a risk of infection, even if it is not ejaculated.

O Oral sex represents an insignificant probability of infection, although this increases if you have sores, ulcers or blood in your mouth.

Perinatal transmission: a mother with HIV can transmit the virus to your baby during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. Since the mother is HIV positive, there are treatments and precautions to minimize the risk of infecting the baby.

Blood transmission: most of these infections happen by share used needles to inject intravenous drugs.

If basic hygiene guidelines are not followed (using new and sterilized tools), getting tattoos, perforations or medical oversights can also be a transmission route.

When the epidemic began and it was not known what it was or how it was transmitted, many people received the virus through blood transfusions, however, it is currently very unlikely because of all the controls that exist.

It goes without saying that ONLY HIV-positive patients can transmit the virus.

How is HIV not transmitted?

  • Mosquito bites (these insects do not inject blood from one food source into another)
  • Through sneezing, coughing or spitting (HIV can not survive in the air)
  • Pools, showers, tubs, washing machines or share drinking water (HIV also does not survive in water)
  • Physical contact, such as hugging or shaking hands
  • Sweat, tears or saliva (kisses)
  • Share a bathroom or any other object (cutlery, dishes, furniture, clothes …)

Is being at risk with a person with HIV warrants infection?

Treatment HIV, HIV, AIDS, Facebook, retroviral, earthquake
(Getty Images)

Treatment HIV, HIV, AIDS, Facebook, retroviral, earthquake

Not necessarily, Not all forms of transmission carry the same percentage of risk (via CDC.gov).

In addition, through proper and constant treatment, a seropositive patient may become "undetectable".

What does it mean that someone is HIV positive undetectable?

It means that He is HIV positive, but his viral load (the number of viruses in his body) is so low that he does not exceed a minimum margin for blood tests. The goal of current antiviral treatments is to have an undetectable viral load. (via HIVDA Foundation)

Undetectable seropositive patients can keep their immune system intact and can hardly transmit the virus to others. However, undetectable status does not prevent the possible transmission of other sexually transmitted diseasesTherefore, the use of condoms is still strongly recommended.

Is there a cure for HIV? What are the treatments?

There is currently no cure for HIV; Once the virus infects the body, we can not eliminate it completely. What we can do is administering treatments that reduce the presence of the virus in the body at very low levels. Being HIV-positive is no longer a "death synonym" as before, and patients – properly medicated – can lead a long, healthy and fulfilling life.

If HIV detection is done in a specialized medical center (such as the Condesa Clinic), or one of the IMSS or ISSSTE, the patient can receive treatment free of charge. The side effects of anti-HIV drugs vary from patient to patient but usually disappear shortly after starting treatment.

There is also no vaccine that protects the body but There are preventive treatments that drastically reduce the likelihood of infection: pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis PrEP

O pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP by its acronym in English) is a retroviral medication that people seronegative can take daily to reduce the risk of infection to almost 0. The most popular drug for PrEP is called Truvada and can be obtained in pharmacies, although its cost is very high (the patent is still valid in our country).

Beginning in the first quarter of 2018, Mexico, together with WHO (World Health Organization), will initiate Truvada's first free supply protocol. The first test group will be composed of 3,000 people in CDMX and Jalisco. It is hoped that eventually the protocol will be expanded to a public prevention policy and that the drug will be more affordable and cheaper (when the patent expires and generic drugs can be marketed).

Prophylaxis after exposure to PEP

They perform an HIV test on a pregnant woman. (IMSS / ARCHIVE)

They perform an HIV test on a pregnant woman at the IMSS (IMSS)

In case you see involved in a high-risk situation (sex without a condom with a person who is HIV-positive, sexual violence), it is possible initiate treatment to minimize the risk of infection: post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP for its acronym in English). PEP works similarly to PrEP (protecting the cells of the immune system that are attacked by HIV), but while PrEP constantly maintains high body defenses, PEP should be administered within 72 hours (3 days) after the possible transmission.

The PEP can also be administered free of charge in health centers, but it should be emphasized that is an emergency treatment that should not be abused.

If I am not a drug addict, a homosexual man or do not practice prostitution, am I free to get HIV?

No. While it is true that there are more affected groups (injecting drug users, sex workers and men who have sex with men), it is wrong to believe that the rest of the population can not be infected.

What defines whether the virus is contracted or not, is not belonging to a particular population, but rather the practices that are carried out.

For the sexually active population It is advisable to take a screening test at least once a year. For those who are often at risk, it is preferable that they do so every 6 months. The tests can be done free of charge at IMSS, ISSSTE, specialized health centers or with civilian organizations dedicated to HIV prevention.

Although prejudice, fear of rejection and ostracism prevent many people from being tested, we must remember that the best weapon to stop the epidemic is to know our state.

HIV in Mexico

According to the National Center for the Prevention and Control of HIV and AIDS (Censida), it is estimated that in Mexico, there are 210,000 people living with HIV; only 65% were diagnosed and of these the 60% receive treatment. In addition, in recent years, the number of new infections has remained steady at 12,000 per year (although they should be declining, considering that we are a country that has free access to HIV treatment and condoms).

What tools do I have against discrimination?

If you suffer discrimination because of your HIV status, you can go to CONAPRED (Facebook, Twitter) to file a complaint to the phones +52 (55) 5262 1490 and 01 800 543 0033 (free of charge for the whole country).

Sources: Censida, Avert.org, CDC.gov, HIVDA Foundation, Huffington Post, Pepe & Teo /Ricardo Baruch, Aidsmap, Wikipedia, Millennium, sexual activity without a condom and risk of HIV transmission in serodiscordant couples when the HIV-positive partner is using suppressive antiretroviral therapy


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