While great progress has been made in preventing and treating HIV and AIDS, it continues to be a problem for countries around the world. It is a global pandemic causing suffering and millions of death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2019), approximately 1.1 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV and about 15 percent of them are not aware that they are infected. An estimated 38,700 Americans became newly infected in 2016 (CDC, 2019). HIV is a virus which is spread through body fluids such as breast milk, blood, semen, anal fluids, and vaginal secretions. The virus attacks the body’s CD4 cells and overtime, it can destroy many of the cells that the body cannot fight off infections and diseases. This paves way for opportunistic infections such as cancer to take advantage of the body’s weak immune system and signal that the person has AIDS. This paper will focus on examining the known description of HIV and AIDS, how conventional and alternative medicine understands its cause and treatment, treatment, and research articles on the success of treating HIV and AIDS.
Known Description of HIV and AIDS
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a type of virus which attacks the CD4 and the immune cells which are a type of T cell. When HIV attacks and infiltrates the CD4 cells it reduces the body’s ability to fight other diseases. It is a sexually transmitted infection and can also be spread by contact with infected blood, or from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breast feeding (Low & Broutet, 2017). HIV is a life-long infection and a person can carry it without experiencing symptom for a long period of time. However, when an infected individual receives treatment and manages the disease effectively, HIV can be prevented from reaching a severe level. This reduces the risk of the infected person transmitting the virus.
There is no cure for HIV. However, great development has been done through research. Hence, there are medications that can be administered to an infected person to slow down its progression. These drugs have been instrumental in reducing the rate of HIV related deaths.
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a chronic and potentially life-threatening condition which is the most advanced stage of HIV infection. HIV infection develops into AIDS as the body’s immune system gradually wears down which is as a result of lack of treatment for HIV. Thus, if proper care is not taken, it can lead to untimely death of the infected patient.
Symptoms of HIV and AIDS
Acute HIV (Primary HIV)
This is the initial period following the contraction of HIV. At this stage, individuals infected with HIV develop a flu-like illness within a month or two after the virus enters the body. This illness may last for a few weeks. The possible signs and symptoms which can be so mild that one may not notice them include fever, rash, headache, sore throat and painful mouth sores, and swollen lymph glands mainly on the neck.
Chronic HIV (Clinical latency, asymptomatic HIV)
During this stage, the persistent swelling of the lymph nodes occurs in some infected people. HIV remains in the infected white blood cells and this stage generally lasts around 10 years if one is not receiving antiretroviral therapy. However, when one receives the therapy, it may last for decades.
Symptomatic HIV Infection
At this stage the virus continues to multiply and destroy a person’s immune cells. The infected individual may develop mild infections or chronic signs and symptoms such as weight loss, diarrhea, fatigue, fever, swollen lymph nodes, oral yeast infection and shingles. Thus, these may progress into serious illnesses that may lead to death.
Progression to AIDS
Untreated HIV develops into AIDS in about 10 years when the body’s immune system has been severely damaged. At this stage, an individual is more likely to develop opportunistic infections and diseases which would not trouble a person with a healthy immune system. The signs and symptoms include chronic diarrhea, recurring fever, soaking night sweats, weight loss, skin rashes or bumps, persistent unexplained fatigue, and persistent white spots or unusual lesions on an individual’s tongue, or in his or her mouth.
How Conventional Medicine understands the Cause and Treatment of HIV and AIDS
HIV is caused by Human immunodeficiency virus. It is spread by engaging in unprotected sex including anal sex with an infected person, sharing hypodermic needles with infected people, contaminated blood transfusions, from mother to the child during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding. Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) develops within ten years as a result of the absence of specific treatment by the person infected with HIV. This means that an individual’s CD4 T cell count is below 200 (Ying, Granich, Gupta, & Williams, 2016). Thus, he or she has heightened chances of losing the body’s immune system.
Today, there is no known medication that could facilitate the eradication of HIV or AIDS among the affected patients. However, treatments can stop the progression of the condition and allow the infected people to live long and relatively healthy lives (Cohen, 2019). Below are some of the treatments that can be used to suppress HIV and AIDS.
Emergency HIV Pills (post-exposure prophylaxis)
The anti-HIV medication namely post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is taken by an individual who has been exposed to the virus within the last 3 days. This medication may be able to stop the infection. It is taken as soon as possible after potential contact with the HIV. It is a treatment which lasts for 28 days.
Antiretroviral medications fight the HIV infection and slow down the spread of the virus in the human body. The individuals living with HIV take a combination of medications called highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) or combination antiretroviral therapy (cART). These provide an opportunity to reduce the effects of the virus on the immune system.
Subgroups of Antiretroviral
HIV needs integrase enzyme to infect the T cells. Therefore, these inhibitors are administered to block the integrase. This is the first line of treatment because it is effective and has limited side effects to most people infected with HIV.
Protease is an enzyme that HIV needs to replicate. Thus, this medication is administered with the aim of the inhibitors binding to the enzyme and inhibiting this action, thereby preventing HIV from making copies of itself. Examples of protease inhibitors include atazanavir/cobicistat (Evotaz), lapinavir/ritonavir (Kaletra) and darunavir/cobicistat (Prezcobix).
Nucleoside/Nucleotide Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTIs)
These drugs are also referred to as “nukes” since they interfere with HIV as it tries to replicate. The Nucleoside or nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors are faulty versions of the building blocks that HIV needs to make copies of itself. They include abacavir (Ziagen), lamivudine/zidovudine (Combivir), emtricitabine (Emtriva), and tenofovir disproxil (Viread).
Non-nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NNRTIs)
These drugs turn off a protein that is needed by HIV to make copies of itself. They include nevirapine (Viramune), efavirenz (Sustiva) and etravirine (Intelence).
How Alternative Medicine understands the Cause and Treatment of HIV
HIV is caused by a virus that can spread through sexual contact, blood, or from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. HIV becomes AIDS when the virus destroys the CD4 T cells- white blood cells that help the body fight disease and weakens the immune system because the CD4 T cell count falls below 200. This leads to body’s lack of the ability to fight off infections.
The Spread of HIV
Sharing equipment for injectable illicit drugs, hormones, and steroids with a person who is carrying Human immunodeficiency virus leads to the spread of HIV. Additionally, by having unprotected anal or virginal intercourse with an infected person whose blood, vaginal secretions or, semen enters your body can lead to contracting the virus. A woman living with HIV and pregnant or has recently given birth might transfer the disease to her child during childbirth or breast feeding. Furthermore, HIV may be transmitted through blood transfusions when there is no proper screening of the blood supply for HIV antibodies.
Alternative medicine is holistic in approach since it connects the spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental in the process of treatment (Kelso-Chichetto et al., 2016). The purpose of alternative medicine is to strengthen the immune system, provide relief from symptoms, and improve the quality of life. In most cases, it instigates the achievement of positive health outcomes among the affected patients.
Alternative Medical Systems
This is an individualized treatment in which natural substances such as minerals, vitamins, and herbs are used basing on the principle that they can cure HIV when given in small doses.
This is an alternative medicine that involves the application of pseudoscientific or the non-invasive practices in the promotion of self-healing. This form of alternative medicine uses natural healing forces within the body to help it heal and stay healthy.
It is associated with Indian subcontinent and emphasizes on the use of the body, mind, and spirit to prevent and treat diseases. Additionally, meditation can be used by an infected person to reduce his or her anxiety and stress levels. Many people living with HIV have higher anxiety and stress levels compared to the general population. They develop fear and become more reactive because of the stigma that comes with being infected. Thus, they may lead a vicious cycle of worry and anxiety. Therefore, by practicing meditation, one observes a drug free solution which can help them in alleviating some of the anxiety associated with HIV. Meditation changes the brain structure and function in a healthy and productive way since it reverses the damage caused by anxiety. It is useful in breaking anxious thought patterns by reducing rumination, decreasing the tendency to worry, and improving an infected person’s control over random unwanted thoughts.
Physical therapy helps the infected person to improve movement, relax, and alleviate stress. Because the people living with HIV have a higher rate of depression, anxiety, and mental health issues, their quality of lives need to be improved through getting a massage. Massage therapy involves touching or rubbing the body tissues to reduce pain and improve the flow of blood. This is with the aim of promoting relaxation. Hence, it reduces stress and anxiety that is associated with HIV.
Acupuncture is an activity which involves inserting very thin needles into specific points of the body for the purpose of releasing pressure from these points. When done on person living with human immunodeficiency virus, it may help the body in producing chemicals to reduce pain. Another way to effect physical therapy is by using yoga. It is an ancient system which involves breathing and stretching exercises, medication, and postures. This practice helps reduce depression and improve CD4 counts in people carrying human immunodeficiency virus and who receive antiretroviral therapy.
The infected people who have access to medical marijuana can use it to improve their appetite, alleviate pain, and reduce nausea associated with HIV medications. Medical marijuana is attributed to binding to the endocannabinoid system. This results in modulation of the immune system, promotion of neuroplasticity, and the emotional and cognitive modulation.
Research Articles on the Success of Treating HIV
Cohen (2019) states that when timely identification of HIV infected people is done and the provision of effective treatment is prompt, this may lead to near normal health, lifespan, and virtual elimination of the risk of HIV transmission. The following are the factors which compromise human immunodeficiency virus treatment. It may be difficult for some people to get tested for HIV, find access to proper healthcare because of stigma, or fear and homophobia. Additionally, the diagnosis of HIV infection is difficult in the early stages of infection when transmission is very efficient. Antiretroviral drugs can prevent HIV through treatment this is because studies have been done to make the drugs more effective, reliable, easier to take, durable, well tolerated, and less expensive for the infected people (Cohen, 2019). Thus, there are ways in which the spread of HIV can be mitigated.
According to Cohen et al. (2012), antiretroviral reduces the rate of transmission by about 25 times. This reduction is much higher than any other form of intervention. They argue that if people would be started on antiretroviral therapy as soon as possible, that is after they become infected with Human immunodeficiency virus, then the ways of detecting individuals in the primary or acute phase of the HIV infection would increase the impact of treatment as prevention (Cohen et al., 2012). As such, this would lead to positive health leanings.
According to Lacob, Lacob, and Jugulete (2017), the advent of antiretroviral therapy has changed the course of HIV pandemic and saved millions of lives because it has transformed HIV infection into a treatable chronic disease. Through research, there has been the development of new types of potent antiretroviral and their combinations which include “once daily” treatment (Lacob, Lacob, & Jugulete, 2017). This has been instrumental in in simplifying the regimens and diminishing the side effects.
BMJ Open made a publication of a controversial analysis and accompanying clinical practice guideline on antiretroviral therapy in HIV positive women which concluded with low certainty evidence that tenofovir/emtricitabine is likely to increase a stillbirth and early premature delivery compared with zidovudine/ lamivudine (Siemieniuk et al., 2017). However, Siemieniuk et al. (2017) interpreted the data and stated that the evidence for a likely increase of early premature delivery and neonatal mortality with tenofovir and emtricitabine comes mostly from a single study. Hence, the researchers did not consider this evidence to be sufficient in informing recommendations.
While conventional anti-HIV treatment cannot cure HIV, they may relieve symptoms and improve a person’s quality of life. Hence, the infected person may live a longer healthier life, and the risk of HIV transmission would be reduced. Alternative medicine can complement conventional medicine, especially when treating HIV. Even though they cannot cure, they help a patient in managing pain, relax, and improve their physical and mental health.
Are you looking for someone to help with your academic papers? SmartWritingService – professional essay writing service will write a custom paper on any AIDS and HIV related topic for you.
CDC (2019). Estimated HIV incidence and prevalence in the United States, 2010-2016. HIV Surveillance Supplemental Report, 4(1).
Cohen, M. (2019). Successful treatment of HIV eliminates sexual transmission. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0160-6736(19)30701-9
Cohen, M., Dye, C., Fraser, C., Miller, W., Powers, K., & Williams, B. (2012). HIV Treatment as Prevention: Debate and Commentary—Will Early Infection Compromise Treatment-as-Prevention Strategies? Plos Medicine, 9(7), e1001232. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001232
Kelso-Chichetto, N., Okafor, C., Harman, J., Canidate, S., Cook, C., & Cook, R. (2016). Complementary and alternative medicine use for HIV management in the state of florida: medical monitoring project. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 22(11), 880-886. doi: 10.1089/acm.2016.0190
Lacob, S., Lacob, D., & Jugulete, G. (2017). Improving adherence to antiretroviral therapy, a difficult but essential task for a successful HIV treatment-clinical points of view and practical considerations. Frontiers Pharmacology, 8:831. Doi: 10.3389/fphar.2017.00831
Low, N., & Broutet, N. (2017). Sexually transmitted infections—Research priorities for new challenges. PLOS Medicine, 14(12), e1002481. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002481
Siemieniuk, R., Lytvyn, L., Mah Ming, J., Mullen, R., Anam, F., & Otieno, T. et al. (2017). Antiretroviral therapy in pregnant women living with HIV: A clinical practice guideline. BMJ, j3961. doi: 10.1136/bmj.j3961
Ying, R., Granich, R., Gupta, S., & Williams, B. (2016). CD4 cell count: Declining value for antiretroviral therapy eligibility. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 62(8), 1022-1028. doi: 10.1093/cid/civ1224