AIDS and HIV (which is the virus that leads to AIDS) are no longer the death sentences they were when people first discovered they were living with aids.
Researchers trace the history of HIV back as far as the early 1920s in Africa. It wasn’t until the early ‘80s, however, that the first recorded cases of HIV and AIDS in the U.S. spread panic among certain communities and the medical world.
Patients with this aggressive immunodeficiency virus died in months, even weeks, with their health visibly deteriorating at a rapid rate.
Seeing what this new and unknown virus did to patients without understanding how it worked or how to suppress it caused genuine fear. People looked at it as a death sentence with no hope for patients displaying the symptoms of HIV at the time.
A lot changed since the ‘80s. Huge leaps in the scientific and medicalfields due to the astronomical amount of funds and research into the disease advanced knowledge of and healthcare for AIDS and HIV.
Medical professionals now better understand the virus and how it works. They developed drugs that are very effective at suppressing the advancement of the virus, and it’s no longer a death sentence.
AIDS is still a life sentence, though. There’s no known cure for HIV or AIDS at this time, but many people live full and active lives with AIDS due to modern medicines.
What Is AIDS?
AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is a set of symptoms caused by HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). When someone with HIV is unable to fight off infection, they develop further symptoms and illnesses that progress the diagnosis to AIDS.
Fewer people with HIV develop AIDS now due to advancements in treatments. For those who do, it’s certainly not a death sentence and living with the condition day-to-day is much more manageable.
Understanding the Difference between AIDS and HIV
There is often some confusion between AIDS and HIV. They are different diagnoses, but relate to each other. The main distinction is that AIDS is a condition, while HIV is a virus that can lead to AIDS.
When the HIV virus does serious damage to a person’s immune system, the diagnosis advances to stage 3 HIV, also referred to as AIDS. AIDS is a term for the condition a person is living with, not the virus, so it doesn’t transmit between people like the HIV virus.
About half of the people with HIV develop AIDS within 10 years.
Why AIDS is No Longer a Death Sentence
There are several classes of drugs that are very effective at controlling HIV and AIDS and stopping the condition from advancing.
In 1995, doctors introduced antiretroviral therapy (ART), more commonly known as the “AIDS cocktail.” This is a combination of drugs that block the virus from developing any further, making living with AIDS a lot more manageable and extending the patient’s life expectancy.
The classes of drugs used to help treat HIV/AIDS include:
● Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs)
● Nucleoside or nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs)
● Protease inhibitors (PIs)
● Entry or fusion inhibitors
● Integrase inhibitors.
Each of these drugs performs a specific function in blocking the virus from advancing. The reason a patient’s health worsens without treatment is because the virus continues to replicate in the body. The only known way to treat HIV and AIDS right now is to stop the virus from replicating and growing.
Different combinations of medicines work better for different people. Some patients only need to take one pill a day with one of the drugs. Other patients need to take several pills each day, as a combination of drugs is the only way for them to stop the virus from developing.
It’s important to remember that AIDS affects everyone differently. It’s hard to say how a person is going to feel day-to-day and how effective the medications will be. The positive side, however, is that modern AIDS treatments are very effective. Studies show that young people diagnosed with HIV or AIDS today can expect to have a “near-normal life” (source) due to modern medicines.
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