To avoid this disease, it is best to know its transmission mechanisms and, if in doubt, undergo an HIV test because an early diagnosis always improves the prognosis of AIDS.
AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is the advanced stage of the disease caused by HIV (HIV), which is transmitted from person to person through bodily fluids such as blood, semen, and seminal fluid, vaginal and rectal secretions, as long as these fluids come into contact with mucous membranes or the bloodstream (for example, through a wound).
HIV progressively destroys the immune system of the person who has contracted it; specifically, it affects cells called T4 lymphocytes (also called T helper lymphocytes, or CD4). A person infected with HIV is called seropositive (HIV positive) when the virus is in his body but has no overt symptoms and develops AIDS when the T4 lymphocyte count is less than 200 cells per cubic milliliter of blood (the normal count for a healthy person ranges from 500–1500 cells per cubic milliliter) and has clinical manifestations of the disease.
Diseases associated with HIV infection
This causes the body to remain unprotected against opportunistic infections, which are those that would not occur in a healthy individual because, in their case, their immune system is capable of fighting against the organisms that cause them.
In addition, as the CD4 cell count decreases, the risk of the patient developing diseases such as herpes simplex, herpes zoster, tuberculosis, pneumonia, candidiasis, neurological pathologies, eye and digestive disorders, kidney or heart problems, etc., as well as various types of cancer such as Kaposi’s sarcoma or lymphoma.
All people who have the virus in their body, whether HIV-positive or have evolved to AIDS, are carriers and can transmit the virus. Although curing this disease is not yet possible, there have been great advances in antiretroviral treatment, which have facilitated adherence to it, and have increased both the quality of life and the longevity of patients. Without treatment, AIDS is fatal.
HIV infection prevalence
According to UNAIDS data, at the end of 2019, 75.7 million people have contracted HIV infection since the beginning of the epidemic. There are currently 38 million people with HIV worldwide, of which 26 million (up to the end of 2019) have access to antiretroviral therapy.
The annual report published by the Ministry of Health in November 2020 indicated that 2,698 new diagnoses had been reported in 2019, equivalent to a rate of 5.94 / 100,000 inhabitants, slightly lower than the data provided for 2018
How is AIDS spread?
HIV is spread through semen, blood, vaginal secretions, and breast milk. These are the body fluids that have a concentration of the virus sufficient to infect a person.
Therefore, there are three ways in which the AIDS virus is spread :
- Sexual route: through sexual contact, whether vaginal, anal, or oral; being anal sex presents a greater risk due to the delicacy of the tissues and the ease with which injuries can occur.
- Blood route: it is produced by sharing any material in contact with the blood of an infected person, which may later come into contact with the blood of a healthy person. It can be syringes, needles, and all the material used for piercing, tattoos, or acupuncture sessions and has not been previously sterilized. The risk of transmission through blood transfusions is currently very low, thanks to the extensive controls carried out on donated blood.
- Vertical route (mother-child): when the mother is seropositive, the transmission of the virus can occur during pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding.
Groups most at risk of contagion of AIDS
Based on this, there are a series of groups that present a greater risk of contracting HIV:
- Newborns of mothers with HIV who did not receive any type of therapy during pregnancy.
- Drug addicts who share needles inject drugs intravenously.
- People who have sex without a condom.
- People who received blood transfusions or blood products between 1977 and 1985 (at this time, screening for the disease in blood donations was not a mandatory protocol).
In other fluids such as tears, saliva, or sweat, the virus is present but in insufficient quantity to infect another person. So you can maintain a close relationship with an HIV-positive person without risk of contagion, as long as a series of precautions are taken.
How AIDS is not spread
To infect the body, HIV needs to enter the bloodstream (see Prevention of AIDS ), and for this, it requires a route of entry, either through recent wounds or by directly affecting the mucous membranes of the vagina, anus or rectum, penis, mouth, nose, and eyes. Otherwise, it is not possible to contract the virus. Therefore AIDS is not transmitted in the following cases :
- Sharing dishes (glasses, cups, plates, glasses), kitchen utensils and cutlery, clothing, or food. HIV is not transmitted through saliva or the air. Therefore there is no danger when living with infected people, not even in sharing objects, clothes, and food with them. Nor is there any danger from hugging and kissing a sick person or staying close when he or she coughs or sneezes.
- Through domestic animals. HIV cannot be transmitted from humans to animals, or vice versa. Animals can be carriers of other viruses that affect their species, also causing them immune deficiencies. Still, they are not carriers of HIV, and, therefore, there is no risk that humans will be infected by living with them.
- By having contact with saliva, sweat, feces, urine, or tears.
- From insect bites. The case of mosquitoes, which suck blood, can create confusion, but the mosquito does not inject a person’s blood (infected with HIV or not) into its next victim. Furthermore, the virus can only live in human cells. The parasites of malaria, a disease transmitted by mosquitoes, reproduce in the insect’s body, which is not the case with HIV.
- Donating blood, semen, or organs. The needles and material used during any donation are sterilized. Therefore there is no risk for the donor. It could be a risk to the recipient if the necessary tests, which are mandatory, are not followed.
- Going to swimming pools, sports venues, bathrooms, shopping centers, cinemas, restaurants, or any other public place, frequented by infected people.