Student situation: Are We Getting Closer To Curing HIV?

(Originally published on The Student Situation)

Less than 40 years after its initial discovery, we may already be close to a cure for HIV. Human Immunodeficiency Virus is well known for its terminal status, and the virus can spread in many different ways throughout the body. For some people, they will not know they’ve got it until years after.

The most common way to get HIV is through unprotected sex. More common in gay males, it is feared to the extent that any gay male wishing to donate blood must wait a year without sex, in order to take all the precautions of the virus showing.

Progress has meant that each year we are getting closer to finding a cure for HIV. The latest medication, PEPs, works similarly to the morning after pill, except it’s 2-3 times a day for a month, rather than just a single tablet. The drug works by reducing the spread of virus within your body, and must be taken within 72 hours of contracting it. Post-Exposure Prophylaxis gives a lot of people bad side effects, meaning that it’s difficult to complete the whole cycle of drugs, however it’s the most recent and arguably most significant development to beating the virus.

PEPs are not meant as long term solutions, and they should be taken in conjunction with PREPs (Pre Exposure Prophylaxis) and sterile injection use. They’re good if you’ve been repeatedly exposed to HIV, but are not recommended for multiple uses.

Generally, the chance of catching HIV through other methods aside sex is very low. Only 1 in 100 people will become HIV positive from the other well known examples – sharing a needle, sharing saliva or getting other bodily fluids from a positive person.

This new progress of treatment comes at the same time as Russian HIV cases hit record numbers. Between a million and 1.5 million people in the country are now HIV positive, with numbers growing all the time. This means that Russia has the highest number of sufferers in Europe, except for Estonia. In contrast, the UK has about 100,000 HIV positive citizens.

Tinder has also considered the rise in HIV by adding a matching aspect to the app. It was well considered that the rise of apps like Tinder and Grindr would lead to a rise in STIs, and the app has countered this by adding a feature which matches users to their local testing clinic.

Dr Jessica Carbino, Lead Sociologist at Tinder, said to PinkNews: “Tinder is proud to empower millions of users to create relationships”.

“An important aspect of any healthy relationship – whether formed on Tinder or otherwise – is ensuring sexual health and safety. We’d be delighted to see other major social networks follow in our footsteps in educating the public.”

Other common HIV medications include Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors, which stop the virus entering and multiplying in your cells, and Protease inhibitors, which disables the enzyme needed to create viral cells.

HIV sufferers are likely to live on average 9-11 years after diagnosis without treatment, but the number of sufferers living long, and relatively easy lives is increasing every year with medication. If HIV turns into AIDs (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) the immune system slowly weakens, allowing the body to accept cancers and infections a lot easier.

The latest discovery of drugs to help or cure HIV are in injection form – a single dose of antibodies which reduces the presence the virus for around 28 days. These are a much better alternative to your usual methods, which include treatment every day for the rest of your life. There is hope, after so much recent progress, that we are growing nearer to finding a cure every year, and hopefully soon we will be on our way to treating and lowering the number of HIV positive people around the world.

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