HIV is the English acronym for the human immunodeficiency virus. Being the cause of AIDS, HIV attacks the immune system, responsible for defending the body from disease. Although AIDS emerged in the 1930s, the disease was only identified in 1981, and until today scholars are looking for a cure, which is already very close.
As with other diseases, AIDS gained a month of awareness, in this case, to remind everyone how important it is to prevent HIV, the cause of AIDS. The chosen month was then called Red December.
The HIV virus is transmitted during sexual intercourse without using a condom and through the exchange of bodily fluids. The contagion can also happen during pregnancy and childbirth (passing from the pregnant mother to the baby), in blood transfusions, organ transplants, breastfeeding, and sharing contaminated needles.
Currently, there is still no vaccine against AIDS, although there is tri-therapy, a combination of drugs that considerably reduces the level of virus in the body, and therefore prevents further damage. The fact is, after nearly 40 years of being recognized as a disease, AIDS is finally close to being cured.
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With several studies in progress around the world, Brazilian research carried out at the Federal University of São Paulo (Unifesp) is highlighted. The research is coordinated by Dr. Ricardo Sobhie Diaz, which intends to start a new phase of clinical trials this year with the treatment that eliminated HIV from a person living in São Paulo. This is the third time the virus has been cleared from a patient worldwide. This achievement was made possible by a combination of medications.
To better understand how this combination works in the body, it is important to know that when it enters the body, HIV remains "dormant" (called by doctors latent), staying there forever. Based on this principle, one of the great challenges of science is to reduce the damage caused by the virus, together with the greatest desire of scholars, which is a cure.
The fact is, it has been discovered that the way to lessen the damage caused by the virus is the same as the cure. As studies have pointed out in the past, the concept that a cure is possible has been proven. This happens because the virus is preserved in places where it is possible to eliminate it from the body. This concept has been proven through the marrow transplant strategy, where the patient's cells are killed and replaced by new cells. Therefore, it is understood that in the same way, it is also possible to achieve a cure for HIV.
In the study carried out by Brazilians, the objective is to set up a cocktail for HIV treatment that is even stronger than the existing one, the drug itself may eliminate the virus along with the cells responsible for storing HIV. In addition, there is also the study of cell therapy, which is a vaccine through which it is possible to eliminate the virus that is stored in your body.
How did AIDS start?
AIDS arose from a virus found in the immune system of African green monkeys and chimpanzees, this virus is called SIV (Simian Immunodeficiency Virus). Scientists believe the virus would have been transmitted to humans in the 1930s, but the first death caused by AIDS would have occurred in the late 1950s. The victim would have been a male resident of Kinshasa, in the former Belgian Congo.
In 1981, AIDS was recognized as a disease. At the same time, it was noted that many of those infected were homosexuals, which, in addition to contributing to the prejudice that already existed in society, opened the door to call them a "risk group". Despite this, another group contributed to the spread of AIDS: injecting drug users. Drug users can be men or women, regardless of their sexual orientation, and with this, it was found that there is no risk group, but risk behaviors for the disease.
Still in the 80s, the test that identifies the presence of antibodies in the body, and with it the acronym HIV, appeared. In 1987, AZT was created, the first drug created to help treat AIDS. Over the years, the number of drugs for such treatment has only increased, and today there are more than 20 types included in cocktails. Such drugs are classified into:
- Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors;
- Non-Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors;
- Protease Inhibitors;
- Fusion Inhibitors;
- Integrase inhibitors;
- Entry Inhibitors;
- Drug combinations.
It is noteworthy that AIDS is not the same as HIV. AIDS is a chronic disease caused by HIV. AIDS also facilitates the occurrence of some types of cancer, such as Kaposi's sarcoma and lymphoma, in addition to causing weight loss and diarrhea. Although there is still no cure for the disease, there are currently retroviral treatments capable of increasing the life expectancy of HIV-positive people.
Red December Campaign
It all started in October 1987, when the World Health Assembly, with support from the United Nations (UN), instituted December 1st as World Day to Fight AIDS.
The use of the red ribbon emerged in 1991, out of the need to create a meaningful symbol at the height of the AIDS crisis - to show support and compassion for people with AIDS and their caregivers. The red color was chosen for its connection with blood and the idea of passion. You can find out more about the creation of this symbol in our article "Red December: month to fight AIDS".