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 AIDS / HIV
 Acquired immune deficiency syndrome or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a disease of the human immune system caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).  This condition progressively reduces the effectiveness of the immune system and leaves individuals susceptible to opportunistic infections and tumors. HIV is transmitted through direct contact of a mucous membrane or the bloodstream with a bodily fluid containing HIV, such as blood, semen, vaginal fluid, preseminal fluid, and breast milk.
This transmission can involve anal, vaginal or oral sex, blood transfusion, contaminated hypodermic needles, exchange between mother and baby during pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding or other exposure to one of the above bodily fluids.

 

There is currently no vaccine or cure for HIV or AIDS. The only known methods of prevention are based on avoiding exposure to the virus or, failing that, an antiretroviral treatment directly after a highly significant exposure, called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).  PEP has a very demanding four week schedule of dosage. It also has very unpleasant side effects including diarrhea, malaise, nausea and fatigue.

Antiviral therapy
Current treatment for HIV infection consists of highly active antiretroviral therapy, or HAART.[103] This has been highly beneficial to many HIV-infected individuals since its introduction in 1996 when the protease inhibitor-based HAART initially became available.[12] Current optimal HAART options consist of combinations (or "cocktails") consisting of at least three drugs belonging to at least two types, or "classes," of antiretroviral agents. Typical regimens consist of two nucleoside analogue reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NARTIs or NRTIs) plus either a protease inhibitor or a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI). Because HIV disease progression in children is more rapid than in adults, and laboratory parameters are less predictive of risk for disease progression, particularly for young infants, treatment recommendations are more aggressive for children than for adults.[104] In developed countries where HAART is available, doctors assess the viral load, rapidity in CD4 decline, and patient readiness while deciding when to recommend initiating treatment.[105]

Standard goals of HAART include improvement in the patient's quality of life, reduction in complications, and reduction of HIV viremia below the limit of detection, but it does not cure the patient of HIV nor does it prevent the return, once treatment is stopped, of high blood levels of HIV, often HAART resistant.[106][107] Moreover, it would take more than the lifetime of an individual to be cleared of HIV infection using HAART.[108] Despite this, many HIV-infected individuals have experienced remarkable improvements in their general health and quality of life, which has led to the plummeting of HIV-associated morbidity and mortality.[109][110][111] In the absence of HAART, progression from HIV infection to AIDS occurs at a median of between nine to ten years and the median survival time after developing AIDS is only 9.2 months.[36] HAART is thought to increase survival time by between 4 and 12 years.[112][113]

For some patients, which can be more than fifty percent of patients, HAART achieves far less than optimal results, due to medication intolerance/side effects, prior ineffective antiretroviral therapy and infection with a drug-resistant strain of HIV. Non-adherence and non-persistence with therapy are the major reasons why some people do not benefit from HAART.[114] The reasons for non-adherence and non-persistence are varied. Major psychosocial issues include poor access to medical care, inadequate social supports, psychiatric disease and drug abuse. HAART regimens can also be complex and thus hard to follow, with large numbers of pills taken frequently.[115][116][117] Side effects can also deter people from persisting with HAART, these include lipodystrophy, dyslipidaemia, diarrhoea, insulin resistance, an increase in cardiovascular risks and birth defects.[118] Anti-retroviral drugs are expensive, and the majority of the world's infected individuals do not have access to medications and treatments for HIV and AIDS.