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Fact sheet N°360 November 2011
HIV is one of the world's leading infectious killers, claiming more than 25 million lives over the past three decades. There were approximately 34 million people living with HIV in 2010. HIV infection can be diagnosed through blood tests detecting presence or absence of antibodies and antigens. A cure for HIV infection has not been found but with effective treatment with antiretroviral drugs, patients can control the virus and enjoy healthy and productive lives. In 2010, around 6.6 million people living with HIV were receiving antiretroviral therapy in low- and middle-income countries, but over 7 million others are waiting for access to treatment. The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) targets the immune system and weakens people's surveillance and defence systems against infections and some types of cancer. As the virus destroys and impairs the function of immune cells, infected individuals gradually become immunodeficient. Immunodeficiency results in increased susceptibility to a wide range of infections and diseases that people with healthy immune systems can fight off. The most advanced stage of HIV infection is Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), which can take 10-15 years to develop. This stage is defined by the development of certain cancers, infections, or other severe clinical manifestations.
HIV is one of the world's leading infectious killers, claiming more than 25 million lives over the last 30 years. In 2010, there were approximately 34 million people living with HIV. Over 60% of people living with HIV are in sub-Saharan Africa.
Signs and symptoms
The symptoms of HIV vary depending on the stage of infection. Though people living with HIV tend to be most infectious in the first few months, many are unaware of their status until later stages. The first few weeks after initial infection, individuals may experience no symptoms or a flu-like illness including fever, headache, rash or sore throat. As the infection progressively weakens the person's immune system, the individual can develop other signs and symptoms such as swollen lymph nodes, weight loss, fever, diarrhoea and cough. Without treatment, they could also develop severe illnesses such as tuberculosis, cryptococcal meningitis, and cancers such as lymphomas and Kaposi's sarcoma, among others.
HIV can be transmitted via unprotected and close contact with a variety of body fluids of infected individuals, such as blood, breast milk, semen and vaginal secretions. Individuals cannot become infected through ordinary day-to-day contact such as kissing, hugging, shaking hands, or sharing personal objects, food or water. Examples of HIV transmission routes include: unprotected anal or vaginal sex with an HIV- infected partner; mother-to-child transmission during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding; transfusion with HIV-infected blood products; sharing of contaminated injection equipment, tattooing, skin-piercing tools and surgical equipment.
There are certain behaviours that put individuals at a greater risk for contracting HIV. These include: having unprotected anal or vaginal sex;
syringes and other infecting equipment and drug solutions for injecting drug use. herpes. blood transfusions. sharing contaminated needles. gonorrhoea. Of this. receiving unsafe injections. medical procedures that involve unsterile cutting or piercing. treatment and prevention measures as appropriate. This is a 16-fold increase in the number of people receiving ART in developing countries between 2003 and 2010. Treatment HIV can be suppressed by combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) consisting of three or more antiretroviral (ARV) drugs. Condom use Correct and consistent use of male and female condoms during vaginal or anal penetration can protect against the spread of sexually transmitted infections. HIV test results should be kept confidential. Evidence shows that male latex condoms have an 85% or greater protective effect against the sexual transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). . South. including HIV. including among health workers. chlamydia. People must agree to be tested for HIV and appropriate counselling should be provided. Diagnosis An HIV test reveals infection status by detecting the presence or absence of antibodies to HIV in the blood. and Southeast Asia Europe and Central Asia Coverage for ART in 2010 49% 63% 39% 23% Coverage for ART in 2009 41% 60% 33% 22% 9% 39% Coverage for more effective regimen for PMTCT 2010 50% 59% 16% 79% 4% 48% North Africa and Middle East 10% Total 47% Source: 2011 Report on global HIV/AIDS response Prevention Individuals can reduce the risk of HIV infection by limiting exposure to risk factors. Most people have a "window period" of 3 to 12 weeks during which antibodies to HIV are still being produced and are not yet detectable. an estimated 420 000–460 000 were children. An estimated 6. and bacterial vaginosis. Antibodies are produced by individuals' immune systems to fight off foreign pathogens. HIV-infected individuals can live healthy and productive lives. experiencing accidental needle stick injuries. Access to ART and prevention of mother-to-children transmission (PMTCT) services Region Sub-Saharan Africa Latin America and the Caribbean East. This early period of infection represents the time of greatest infectivity but transmission can occur during all stages of the infection.6 million people living with HIV in low. With ART. ART does not cure HIV infection but controls viral replication within a person's body and allows an individual's immune system to strengthen and regain the power to fight off infections. Retesting should be done after three months to confirm test results once sufficient time has passed for antibody production in infected individuals. and everyone should receive post-test counselling and follow-up care. having another sexually transmitted infection such as syphilis.and middle-income countries were receiving ART at the end of 2010. Key approaches for HIV prevention include: 1.
Elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (eMTCT) The transmission of HIV from an HIV-positive mother to her child during pregnancy. Post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV (PEP) This method includes immediate use of ARV drugs within the first 72 hours following accidental exposure to HIV in order to prevent infection. WHO is recommending ART as a key part of HIV prevention strategies. ART A new trial has confirmed if an HIV-positive person adheres to an effective antiretroviral therapy regimen. for each injection. MTCT can be fully prevented if both the mother and the child are provided with ART or antiretroviral drug prophylaxis throughout the stages when infection could occur. the risk of transmitting the virus to their uninfected sexual partner can be reduced by 96%. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV-negative partner Two trials have demonstrated that a daily dose of antiretroviral drugs tenofovir and tenofovir/emtricitabine taken by an HIV-negative partner is effective in preventing acquisition from an HIV-positive partner. 6. 8. including needles and syringes. tuberculosis and viral hepatiti . HIV treatment and care. administering of a 28-day course of antiretroviral drugs with follow-up care. and access to condoms and management of STIs. delivery or breastfeeding is called vertical or mother-to-child transmission. PEP is often recommended for health care workers exposed to needle stick injuries in the workplace. This is a key intervention in generalized epidemics with high HIV prevalence and low male circumcision rates. Male circumcision Male circumcision when safely provided by well-trained health professionals reduces the risk of heterosexually acquired HIV infection in men by approximately 60%. 5. first aid care. These results are being further investigated by WHO. A comprehensive package of HIV prevention and treatment. 3.2. labour. and depending on risk level. Harm reduction for injecting drug users People who inject drugs can take precautions against becoming infected with HIV by using sterile injecting equipment. HIV testing. Testing and counselling for HIV and STIs Testing for HIV and other STIs is strongly advised for all people exposed to any of the risk factors so that they can learn of their own infection status and access necessary prevention and treatment services without delay. PEP also includes counselling. In the absence of any interventions transmission rates are between 15-45%. 4. 7. particularly opioid substitution therapy for drug users includes drug dependence treatment HIV testing and counselling.
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