HIV is one of the largest world-wide epidemics, affecting millions of people since its discovery. AIDS can develop after contracting HIV, although many people live with HIV for long periods of time without ever developing AIDS. The pandemic of living with these viruses has become more manageable since its discovery in the mid- to late-1970s.
The earliest case of HIV was discovered to be in a man in the Democratic Republic of Congo. His blood sample suggested that he acquired the virus from chimpanzees spreading it to his system. “Bush meat trading” was a common method of hunting chimpanzees, and hunters would often come in contact with the animals’ blood.
In the 1980s, a group of cases were reported among gay men who had immune deficiency. The next year, it was reported that the disease was transmitted sexually and through blood contact. The term AIDS was used for the first time, and cases were beginning to be reported from other countries.
By 1990 cases were reported in female partners of men, indicating that the virus was not transmitted just through homosexual sex. The CDC ruled out the transmission of the virus through casual contact, food, water, air, or surfaces.
By 2000, over 307,000 cases of AIDS were reported, and almost 10 million people were thought to be living with HIV worldwide. AIDS was known to be the fourth biggest cause of death worldwide. An estimated 33 million people were living with HIV, and 14 million had died from AIDS since the start of the epidemic.
Today, antiretroviral therapy is recommended for everyone infected with HIV. People on this treatment option take a combination of HIV medicines every day called the HIV regimen. This method prevents the virus from multiplying and destroying infection-fighting CD4 cells of the immune system. AIDS develops when the CD4 cell count falls below 200.
People living with HIV have to change some lifestyle choices in order to stay healthy. Starting medicine care early is important. It can keep those infected healthy for years and reduce the risk of spreading it to others. Disclosure of HIV status to sexual partners is extremely important too. It allows all parties involved to take steps to stay healthy. Getting support can go a long way as well, as being diagnosed is a life changing event.
Today there is still no cure for HIV or AIDS. However, there are treatments available to enable people with the virus to have live long and healthy lives. The best prevention method for HIV is to use a condom during any sexual encounter and to never share injection needles.
Globally, an estimated 36.7 million people were living with HIV (including 1.8 million children). Around 30% of people do not know they have the virus. Only 19.5 million are receiving treatment. 78 million people have died from HIV and 35 million from AIDS since the beginning of the epidemic.
Written by: Alex Dunn