What is the HIV Test in New York?
Getting screening tests for HIV is recommended for all individuals within the age groups of 15-65, especially the people in the high-risk group, pregnant women, and individuals who are diagnosed with any other sexually transmitted disease.
Initial HIV testing is performed with ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay). This test will detect the presence of antibodies against HIV in the blood. If the antibodies are not detected, this means the blood sample is HIV negative; however, in the case of a positive HIV test, it is confirmed with more sensitive and accurate tests such as western blot or IFA (immunofluorescence assay). The samples that are repeatedly positive with ELISA and IFA or western blot are considered HIV-infected. Some nucleic acid tests like viral RNA or proviral DNA amplification are also available; however, they are less commonly executed.
In the United States currently, two states i.e. New York and Nebraska have a law that mandates HIV testing. Being tested for HIV in New York is pretty convenient. Department of Health and Mental Hygiene The New York City gives a list of free-of-cost, confidential and private clinics that have facilities to test for HIV and other related sexually transmitted diseases. These clinics are available throughout New York City and situated at convenient locations. Some of these clinics in New York City are Manhattan STD Clinics located in Central Harlem and Manhattanville, Bronx STD Clinics in Morrisania, and Brooklyn STD Clinics in Crown Heights and Ft. Greene. Further details about clinics and their addresses can be found on the website of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
What is HIV?
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a pathogenic virus that causes AIDS or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome in humans. As it could be understood from the word immunodeficiency that once an individual is infected with HIV, it produces a significant weakness in the body’s defense system known as an immune system to protect the body against different disease-causing agents. HIV directly affects the immune system by infecting the T-cells, macrophages, and dendritic cells. These cells are responsible for defending the human body against disease-producing bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens.
HIV is a subtype of the Retroviridae family and belongs to the genus Lentivirus. HIV was first discovered in chimpanzees in West African countries like Cameroon and Senegal. It has RNA as its genome. Once HIV infects an immune cell, it converts its RNA to DNA and this DNA then becomes part of the host cell’s DNA. This is called the latent phase. In this phase, HIV remains inactive and cannot be detected. After some time, the virus becomes active and starts producing its RNA and proteins that get packed into new viral cells and are released out of the host cell after destroying it and these newly produced viruses start infecting other cells, hence killing the host every immune cell they infect. There are two subtypes of HIV termed HIV-1 and HIV-2. HIV-1 was discovered first and it is the more aggressive of the two in infecting immune cells and is believed to be the cause of the majority of HIV infections throughout the world.
Transmission of HIV into the human body is through unprotected sexual contact with an already infected partner, mother to child during pregnancy, and exposure to body fluids of infected individuals. The most frequent mode of transmission is through unprotected sexual intercourse both vaginal and anal, as well as oral sex. Individuals involved in high-risk sexual activities like having sex with different partners and not using protection are most at risk. IV (intravenous) drug users are also at high risk of being infected with HIV. The most unfortunate route of transmission is an infected mother giving birth to a child, who will get the HIV infection from the mother.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of HIV?
As discussed above, the disease caused by HIV infection is known as AIDS. Very few people develop symptoms when they initially get infected with HIV. The latent or silent period usually lasts around 10 years before developing AIDS. The initial symptoms of HIV infection usually include swollen glands located in the armpits, groin, and throat, fatigue, headache, fever, and mild flu-like symptoms.
With the progress of infection and an increasing number of infected immune cells, the immune system gets considerably weak. The infected individual starts getting infections from such pathogens that fail to produce any disease in a normal individual with a potent immune system. These infections are known as opportunistic infections.
The common symptoms of advanced HIV/AIDS include extreme tiredness, lightheadedness, headache, dizziness, weight loss, skin bruising, frequent diarrheas, swelling of glands, persistent dry cough, a white coating of the tongue and mouth called thrush, unexplained growths on the skin with bleeding, bleeding from mouth, anus, vagina or mouth, loss of sensation in the arms and legs, confusion and decreased mental ability.
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Dr. Gafanovich is performing STD testing as a part of her annual check up .
What is the Treatment of HIV?
Unfortunately, there is no vaccine or curative treatment available for HIV to date. Currently, HIV/AIDS treatment is done with HAART (high active antiretroviral therapy) also called cocktails. The most commonly used cocktail includes two drugs AZT (zidovudine) or TDF (tenofovir) and 3TC (lamivudine) or FTC (emtricitabine). Sometimes, a protease inhibitor is also used to make the above combination more effective. According to WHO criteria, starting the treatment early can decrease the risk of death from HIV/AIDS. Ask Dr. Gafanovich for more treatment information.
Significant emphasis is placed on adapting different strategies to control opportunistic infections; which is a very common problem with HIV-infected individuals because of their weakened immune systems. It is highly recommended for people who are in the high-risk group should be vaccinated for hepatitis A and B before they get infected, but even after they get infected, these vaccinations can be administered to reduce the chances of hepatitis occurrence. Prophylactic therapies for toxoplasmosis and meningitis are also highly recommended in these immunocompromised individuals.
According to the World Health Organization (W.H.O), close to 35 million people have HIV throughout the world and 2.3 million people get infected every year. In 2008, 1.2 million people in the United States were living with HIV and 17,500 deaths occurred due to HIV.
Many HIV/AIDS-infected individuals also use alternative medicine treatments; however, the effectiveness of these therapies is yet to be established at a scientific or research level. There is some evidence that dietary supplements with micronutrients and multivitamins prove to be effective to strengthen the immune system and overall wellbeing of an HIV/AIDS individual; however, WHO also recommends that the use of vitamin A, zinc, and iron can be detrimental in HIV positive adults. As far as herbal medications are concerned, there is not enough scientific data available to support their use.
Read about the flu for people infected by HIV on the CDC website.