To speak on HIV is always a big deal and responsibility until it keeps spreading and still has not a remedy found against. Humanity is yet to come to the point where all the efforts and methods taken to fight the HIV and AIDS would show any viable results.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a retrovirus that in the majority of cases leads to the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). The latter condition causes the failure of the human immune system and the person’s life gets threatened by the variety of infections that affect the weakened body. Today, two major types of HIV virus have been identified – HIV-1, transmitted mostly through the sexual intercourse, and HIV-2, coming to the person’s body through the penetration into the blood. HIV infection in humans is now pandemic (since it was first recognized in 1981, it killed 25 million people).
Usually the virus attacks the most vital cells in the human immune system: helper T cells (specifically CD4+ T cells), macrophages and dendritic cells.
The advanced stages of HIV infection are usually recognized as AIDS. The official criteria for the definition of AIDS includes all HIV-infected people who have fewer than 350 CD4 T cells per cubic millimetre of blood (1,000 or more in healthy people) and a RNA viral load of greater than 1,000. There is also the list of 26 opportunistic infections (hepatitis C, cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex and herpes zoster, lymphoma, toxoplasmosis etc.) that affect patients with the advanced HIV disease.
The symptoms and latent period of HIV vary from person to person and the only and best way to find the infection is to get tested.
The warning signs that may notify of the virus’ presence in the body are rapid weight loss, dry cough, profound and unexplained fatigue, recurring fever or profuse night sweats, swollen lymph glands in the armpits, groin or neck, white spots or unusual blemishes on the tongue, in the mouth or in the throat, red, brown, pink or purplish blotches on or under the skin or inside the mouth, nose or eyelids, pneumonia, memory loss, depression and other neurological disorders.
These symptoms are likely to appear during 2-4 weeks post-exposure. Clinical latency can vary between two weeks and 20 years. During this early phase of infection, HIV is active within lymphoid organs, where the virus becomes trapped in the follicular dendritic cells (FDC) network. And only when CD4+ T cell numbers decline below a critical level, cell-mediated immunity is lost, and the variety of opportunistic infections appear.
The four major routes of HIV transmission include unprotected sexual intercourse, contaminated needles, and transmission from an infected mother to her baby at birth, or through breast milk. At low concentrations the virus has been found in the saliva, tears and urine of infected individuals, but there are no potential cases of infection by these secretions.
Contraception is the defining factor in protection of the HIV transmission. Using latex condoms greatly increases the risk of getting the infection, while spermicide, used alone or with vaginal contraceptives like a diaphragm, actually increases the male to female transmission rate due to inflammation of the vagina.
Antiretroviral medications are targeted at reducing of both the mortality and the morbidity of HIV infection, but, unfortunately, routine access to this kind of treatment is not available in all countries. As a rule, the treatment of HIV and AIDS is the complex therapy that includes using drugs to suppress virus, treating the conditions that appear as the result of virus, and providing emotional and psychological support for the person affected.
The herbs with antiviral properties serve as the supporting therapies for the patients with HIV. These herbs show an anti-HIV activity in test tubes.
The Epigallocatechin-3-gallate element in green tea, for example, inhibits the replication of the virus thus providing the antiviral actions. Similar actions are noted with the chemicals in olive leaves.
Ginseng is maintaining the CD4+ T cell counts in HIV-1 infected patients and some studies have shown that it has a potential to increase them, too.
Viola yedoensis, andrographis paniculata, lithospermum erythrorhizon, and alternanthera philoxeroides are also beneficial in reducing the percentage of infected cells. Trichosanthin (TCS) is an active protein component isolated from Tian-Hua-Fen. It has been shown to inhibit HIV infection and has been used in the clinical treatment of AIDS, too.
The virus-related conditions are handled with the herbs of corresponding properties: ginkgo is used for the HIV-related dementia, greater celandine – for Kaposi’s sarcoma, aloe vera – for skin problems, and lemon balm solves the problems with herpes simplex and insomnia.