HIV/AIDS, Its Statistics and Health Disparities

Prominent Aspects of HIV/AIDS: Immune System Destruction

In the 1980s, when the first epidemic of HIV erupted, a positive test result implied an immediate death sentence (Worobey et al., 2016). In the 21st century, the situation has slightly changed, with innovative solutions for slowing down the effects of the disease, have emerged, yet the battle against HIV/AIDS is far from being over. Since the lack of awareness remains the primary factor for spreading HIV/AIDS among vulnerable demographics, programs aimed at raising awareness should be deemed as the key to the management of the problem.

By definition, HIV/AIDS is a disease that leads to a gradual yet irreversible drop in the efficacy of one’s immune system and the following development of multiple health complications that eventually lead to death (“About HIV/AIDS,” 2017). The HIV virus attacks and destroys CD4 cells, or glycoprotein, that sends signals to CD8 cells to activate the immune system (Serrano-Villar et al., 2104). As a result, a person infected with HIV becomes especially vulnerable to opportunistic diseases and various types of cancer (“About HIV/AIDS,” 2017).

Current Data and Statistics: HIV/AIDS in the 21st Century

Despite the efforts of healthcare organizations worldwide, HIV/AIDS remains incurable. As a result, even with the active promotion of health campaigns and other awareness-raising activities, HIV/AIDS remains one of the essential factors increasing mortality rates worldwide (“The global HIV/AIDS epidemic,” 2017). According to the UNAIDS official statistics, in 2016, 36.7 million people had AIDS (“Fact sheet – Latest statistics on the status of the AIDS epidemic,” 2017).

Moreover, 1.8 million new infections were registered in 2016 (“Fact sheet – Latest statistics on the status of the AIDS epidemic,” 2017). Although cancer is typical in HIV/AIDS patients as a result of the immune system failure, tuberculosis remains the leading cause of death (one in three cases). Although the percentage of deaths caused by AIDS has been reduced by 48% since 2005, the disease remains a consistent threat to the well-being of the global community (“Fact sheet – Latest statistics on the status of the AIDS epidemic,” 2017).

Health Disparities Related to the Issue

In the early 1980s, the start of the epidemics was witnessed in the LGBT community, which was later on attributed to the propensity toward unprotected sex among LGBT people (Worobey et al., 2016). However, since a significant number of people persist in their prejudices against the LGBT community, moralizing HIV/AIDS becomes very easy, hence the increase in stigmatizing vulnerable demographics (Logie et al., 2017). As a result, the members of the LGBT community suffer significantly from health disparities regarding HIV/AIDS (Logie et al., 2017).

Prevention Strategies: What Can Be Done to Avoid the Disease

Traditional: Antiretroviral

Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTIs) such as abacavir (Ziagen), didanosine (Videx), etc., are used to prevent an HIV virus to make copies of itself. Similarly, Non-Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NNRTIs) such as efavirenz (Sustiva) and Protease Inhibitors (PIs) such as atazanavir (Reyataz) are used for the same purpose. Fusion Inhibitors (e.g., enfuvirtide (Fuzeon)) do not allow HIV to enter CD4 cells. CCR5 Antagonists, Integrase Inhibitors, and Pharmacokinetic Enhancers are also used to prevent the HIV virus from spreading further and affecting a patient (Ghosh, Osswald, & Prato, 2016).

Complementary and Alternative

Apart from traditional tools for managing HIV/AIDS patients’ well-being, complementary and alternative techniques can be used. These include the use of relaxation techniques, body therapies, and consumption of herbal medications (“Alternative (complementary) therapies for HIV/AIDS: Entire lesson,” 2016). While the specified techniques do not allow reducing the impact of HIV on one’s immune system, they serve as the strategies for relieving stress and preventing the development of depression, which is a major threat to HIV/AIDS patients’ health (Earnshaw, Smith, Cunningham, & Copenhaver, 2015).

Pathophysiologic Effects of Stress: Analysis

Because of the stigma associated with AIDS and the absence of opportunities for being eventually cured, HIV/AIDS patients are prone to stress and depression. Oxidative stress is typically viewed as one of the key effects of the psychological pressure that HIV/AIDS patients experience (Sharma, 2014). Studies show that oxidative stress may reduce the chances for successful management of HIV/AIDS by enhancing viral replication and even causing cognitive impairment (Earnshaw, Lang, Lippitt, Jin, & Chaudoir, 2015). Thus, psychological interventions are also required for HIV/AIDS patients to develop coping mechanisms (Earnshaw et al., 2015).

Evidence-Based Stress Management Interventions

To help patients reduce the amount of pressure that they experience, one should consider enhancing social support that patients will receive from community members. The specified objective can be attained by designing a program for raising awareness among target demographics. For instance, social networks such as Facebook and Twitter can be used to encourage community members to abandon myths and prejudices against HIV/AIDS patients and encourage communication between the vulnerable population and the community. Furthermore, counseling services must be provided to patients with HIV/AIDS to give the latter the sense of security that they will require to develop confidence and fight psychological pressure. As a result, the instances of depression and similar mental disorders caused by stress can be avoided successfully.

References

About HIV/AIDS. (2017). Web.

Alternative (complementary) therapies for HIV/AIDS: Entire lesson. (2016). Web.

Earnshaw, V. A., Smith, L. R., Cunningham, C. O., & Copenhaver, M. M. (2015). Intersectionality of internalized HIV stigma and internalized substance use stigma: Implications for depressive symptoms. Journal of Health Psychology, 20(8), 1083-1089. Web.

Earnshaw, V. A., Lang, S. M., Lippitt, M., Jin, H., & Chaudoir, S. R. (2015). HIV stigma and physical health symptoms: Do social support, adaptive coping, and/or identity centrality act as resilience resources? AIDS and Behavior, 19(1), 41-49. Web.

Fact sheet – Latest statistics on the status of the AIDS epidemic. (2017). Web.

Ghosh, A. K., Osswald, H. L., & Prato, G. (2016). Recent progress in the development of HIV-1 protease inhibitors for the treatment of HIV/AIDS. Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, 59(11), 5172-5208. Web.

The global HIV/AIDS epidemic. (2017). Web.

Logie, C. H., Lacombe‐Duncan, A., Brien, N., Jones, N., Lee‐Foon, N., Levermore, K., … Newman, P. A. (2017). Barriers and facilitators to HIV testing among young men who have sex with men and transgender women in Kingston, Jamaica: A qualitative study. Journal of the International AIDS Society, 20(1), 21385. Web.

Serrano-Villar, S., Sainz, T., Lee, S. A., Hunt, P. W., Sinclair, E., Shacklett, B. L., …Van Natta, M. L. (2014). HIV-infected individuals with low CD4/CD8 ratio despite effective antiretroviral therapy exhibit altered T cell subsets, heightened CD8+ T cell activation, and increased risk of non-AIDS morbidity and mortality. PLoS Pathogens, 10(5), e1004078. Web.

Worobey, M., Watts, T. D., McKay, R. A., Suchard, M. A., Granade, T., Teuwen, D. E., … Jaffe, H. W. (2016). 1970s and ‘Patient 0’HIV-1 genomes illuminate early HIV/AIDS history in North America. Nature, 539(7627), 98-101. Web.