HIV/AIDS 101: The Basics (Jess Abraham)
(HIV) Human Immunodeficiency Virus
affecting the white blood cell count ( lowers it )
↳What is HIV & how does it work in the body?:
HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system.
It infects White Blood Cells (also called CD4, Host Cell, T4 Helper Cell, T Cell( and makes copies of itself
These cells usually help to protect us from diseases & infections.
There is no cure for HIV. Once a person is infected, the virus will always be in their system.
Medications help to keep the number of the copies low, and keep the body strong.
↳ Initial Infection (primary), When a person is first infected with HIV:
-Virus multiples rapidly, May or may not know HIV status, Higher possibility of transmission to others
- Many people will not experience any symptoms
-Approximately 4 weeks after becoming infected a person may feel ill with flu-like symptoms
called “seroconversion illness”. A rash may even happen.
-After a couple of months, person may not see any symptoms, may even feel well for years
-Even if no physical signs of infection, CD4 counts decrease in numbers
-Important to get medical care and begin monitoring the immune system, May or May not start
medication (depends on your status- in particularly the U.S, where health is not covered)
↳ Tests that monitor the Immune System:
Hiv viral load test- how much virus is in their system, you want a low number, you may
but it does not mean HIV is gone, it just means its low
CD4 count test- looking at the immune system, to see if your immune system is good and health
In Canada, greater than 500 T-cells is considered normal, Between 200-500 indicates
immunodeficiency , less is severe immunodeficiency
- One result does not say much, the trend over time gives a sense of immune health.
- Symptoms develop as the immune system declines
-Opportunistic infections develop (infection that takes the opportunity with a weaker immune system to
jump in there.
-Sometimes the immune system doesn’t decline for decades.
( AIDS) Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome
↳AIDS is a diagnosis based on a number of factors that differs depending on place and time (not
necessarily through a blood test) Lower CD4 (less than 200), low immune system, and an opportunistic
↳ Some factors that determine whether someone will develop AIDS are a) Access to medication b. Social
determinents of health (someone living in poverty will have a different course than someone who isn’t)
↳ The main treatment for HIV are Antiretrovirals (ARVs), This is sometimes called Highly Active
Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART), when more than one ARV is taken in combination.
They work by preventing HIV from multiplying. ARVs often come with side effects- from mild to severe
(weight loss, diharea, intense dreams), Also, there are many complementary therapies that can also
help (to manage side-effects of medications), and vitamins/supplements.
↳ARVs are very expensive and are not covered by OHIP, there are programs which can help cover HIV
medication such as the Trillium Drug program, and the Ontario Drug Benefit Program. HIV Transmission:
↳ 3 Conditions must be met for HIV transmission to occur:
1.HIV must be present
2. There must be su**
↳ HIV cannot be transmitted from an infected person to another through:
saliva, tears, sweat, feces, vomit, & urine.
↳ Sexual (unprotected anal, vaginal or oral contact-but barely with someone who has the virus)
Direct Access to the Blood Stream (sharing needles or needle stick injury, or sharing tattooing and
To Fetus/Baby (during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding)
*HIV does not live long outside the body. It is only transmitted through direct contact, in needles it can
last a little longer because needles are warmer and inside the body so keeps the HIV alive due to its
↳ Does not happen through insect bites, and casual contact (sharing food etc) does not happen
STI & HIV & Connections: