HIV Treatment in Annapolis, MD
HIV vs. AIDS
HIV stands for “human immunodeficiency virus”. The virus is passed on via the transfer of bodily fluids. Early flu-like symptoms (often classified as “acute HIV”) typically develop within the first two months of infection. Symptoms may last for a few weeks as the virus spreads rapidly. The next stage of development is called “chronic HIV” and can persist for over a decade if left untreated. This stage is characterized by swollen lymph nodes, diarrhea, weight loss’, fever and fatigue’. HIV can be transmitted via:
- Breast milk
HIV is typically transmitted via:
- Anal sex
- Blood transfusions
- Oral sex
- Needle sharing
- Vaginal sex
Once infected, HIV attacks immune cells (known as CD4 T cells). CD4 T cells are white blood cells that signal other immune cells to attack and kill potential threats. The virus binds to and replicates within healthy CD4 T cells. These cells die and the infection is spread. Once your T-cell count drops below 200, a person with HIV is diagnosed with AIDS. The earlier HIV is detected, the more it is possible to slow the death of healthy T cells. The number of healthy T cells typically increases with careful treatment and monitoring of HIV.
AIDS stands for “acquired immune deficiency syndrome.” In most cases, the progression to AIDS comes about 10 years after the initial infection. Symptoms of aids include fever, fatigue, weight loss, night sweats’, as well as, rashes or lesions. At this stage, the immune system is compromised to such a level that simple infections can cause catastrophic damage and be potentially life-threatening.
Understanding the History
There are two forms of HIV, HIV-1, and HIV-2. HIV-2 is less infectious, progresses more slowly and is found almost exclusively in West Africa. HIV-1 was passed to humans from chimpanzees. HIV-2 is naturally found in a Senegalese monkey known as the sooty mangabey.
One of the most commonly believed theories surrounding the spread of HIV is that hunters or poachers in Africa first came into contact with the virus. There is a practice in Africa (known as “bush meat”) in which animals are pulled from “the bush” (or jungle) and eaten for food. It is believed that a hunter cut himself when butchering an animal infected with HIV, coming into contact with the virus. The virus spread quickly throughout Africa. The virus was then believed to have spread to a group of frequent travelers, many of whom were having promiscuous sex. It is thought that one of those men was Gaёtan Dugas, a blond flight attendant who knowingly infected dozens of people after learning his condition. Although it may not be completely true, Dugas is commonly referred to as the “patient zero” of AIDS.
For a long time, medical science was unable to find the source or method of transmission of AIDS. Early on, it was referred to as “gay cancer” as many of the infected were gay men. This led to widespread homophobia and panic. This died down to some degree when heterosexual advocates began receiving more prominent media attention and, of course, when the actual cause of AIDS was discovered. While contracting HIV/AIDS has nothing to do with a person’s sexual orientation, gay men can be at a higher risk because anal sex can cause more tearing and bleeding.
HIV can be well managed and treated so you may prevent (or delay) the progression of the virus and onset of AIDS. Some treatment options can counteract the impact of the virus such that only a few infected cells remain. There are six major classes of medications approved fight HIV:
- Non-Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NNRTIs): Prevents HIV from replicating.
- Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTIs): Keeps DNA from latching onto healthy cells.
- Protease Inhibitors (PIs): Prevents creation of new viruses.
- Fusion Inhibitors: Prevent HIV from binding to a CD4 cell.
- CCR5 Antagonists (CCR5s): Prevents HIV from entering a cell.
- Integrase Strand Transfer Inhibitors (INSTIs): Blocks integrase (an HIV enzyme).
Most approaches to treating HIV/AIDS involves a medication “cocktail”. The cocktail is a mix of drugs, each attacking a different mutation of the virus. However, HIV/AIDS is an autoimmune disorder and can adapt to defend itself against these medications. If a medication searches for one form of the virus, HIV/AIDS can mutate to take on a different form. Drug cocktails can be incredibly effective in minimizing the spread of AIDS because they don’t give the virus a chance to mutate.
Some have advocated taking breaks from drug regiments. This has led to several deaths, as taking a break gives the virus the chance it needs to mutate and work around the cocktail. The impact and lethality of these mutations have shown to be significantly greater for those who previously followed a disciplined drug regimen.
Living With HIV & AIDS
There are some legal, moral, and ethical responsibilities involved in having HIV/AIDS. In most jurisdictions, failing to inform sexual partners of your condition limits their ability to give informed consent and can lead to serious prosecution. There are also some legal protections to prevent discrimination against those with AIDS in the context of insurance coverage and employment.
Some support groups and counseling resources are available to those with infected with HIV/AIDS. Medical treatment is available to reduce the symptoms and slow its progression. Request more information about HIV/AIDS today. Call (410) 567-0667 or contact Dr. Alan Stuart Weiss online.
Annapolis Integrative Medicine Clinic
Address1819 Bay Ridge Avenue
Annapolis, MD 21403
9:30 am - 6:30 pm
Tue: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Wed: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Thu: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Fri: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm