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HIV and AIDS - What you should know

HIV - Understanding the Global Challenge - HIV, or Human Immunodeficiency Virus, is a virus that weakens the body's immune system by attacking and destroying specific cells. This makes the body susceptible to diseases that would typically have milder effects on uninfected individuals. If left untreated, HIV infection can progress to AIDS - Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome.

Infection as a Global Issue

Since its discovery in the 1980s, the HIV virus causing HIV infections has evolved into a persistent global health challenge. AIDS, the final stage of untreated HIV infection, has led to millions of deaths worldwide in recent decades. However, thanks to extensive research and improved medical approaches, the life expectancy for people with HIV/AIDS has significantly improved in recent years.

Controlling Viral Load and Antiretroviral Therapy

The viral load, the amount of the HIV virus in the blood, is a crucial factor in the progression of the disease. The introduction of antiretroviral therapy (ART) has allowed for the control of viral load and the strengthening of the immune system. This has substantially extended the life expectancy of people living with HIV. While AIDS was once almost always fatal, today it is possible to slow down or even halt the progression of the disease.

Early Detection through Diverse HIV Testing Methods

A vital step in early detection and control of HIV is the HIV test. Various testing methods are available, including the PCR test for the direct detection of the virus's genetic material, the antibody test to determine HIV-specific antibodies, and the 4th generation test, which captures both antibodies and antigens.

Rapid tests provide quick results and are used in various settings. Significant progress has been made in recent years, and self-tests offer a discreet way to regularly check one's HIV status. In addition to traditional settings such as pharmacies, medical practices, or health authorities, STI tests can now also be requested and conducted online.

The Red Ribbon: A Global Symbol of Solidarity with HIV-Infected and AIDS-affected Individuals

Correct Interpretation of Test Results

The accurate interpretation of test results is crucial. A negative test does not necessarily rule out an HIV infection, especially if the detectability period of up to 6 weeks has not been reached. Individuals who receive a positive test result should seek immediate medical support to initiate antiretroviral therapy and monitor their viral load.

Prevention and Protective Measures

HIV transmission routes vary, from unprotected sexual intercourse to contact with infected blood, and transmission from mother to child during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Condoms and protective measures play a central role in prevention. Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) provides individuals at an increased risk of infection with the opportunity to protect themselves. In case of potential exposure, post-exposure prophylaxis can be taken to reduce the risk of infection.

Managing STIs and Addressing Stigma

An essential aspect of dealing with HIV/AIDS involves educating about sexually transmitted infections. Testing for STIs is as crucial as an HIV test, as they often co-occur. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential to prevent the spread of infections. Despite advancements, there is still stigma and fear associated with HIV. People living with HIV/AIDS often face prejudices and discrimination. Open dialogue and a positive attitude toward the quality of life for HIV-positive individuals are crucial to overcoming these barriers.

Involvement and Perspectives

Overall, advancements in HIV/AIDS research and treatment have transformed the lives of millions worldwide. With timely diagnosis, proper medical care, and preventive measures, the impact of HIV/AIDS can be significantly minimized. However, public awareness and access to adequate care remain essential to achieving the long-term goal of an HIV-free society. The efforts of organizations like AIDS-Hilfe and the annual World AIDS Day are crucial steps on this journey.