How to Prevent HIV Infection
Preventing HIV comes down to personal behaviors that interrupt the chain of infection. HIV can infect only through the exchange of body fluids, so the easiest prevention methods include barriers, disinfection, and personal choices.
- Male polyurethane condoms can limit the exposure of semen and vaginal fluids. Female condoms are to be used only when there are no other condoms available, as there are limited HIV protection studies for female condoms. Abstinence (no sex) is the only 100% guarantee against HIV transmission. Animal skin condoms do not reliably protect people against HIV. They do prevent pregnancy and some STIs that increase the likelihood of HIV infection.
- Take oral HIV medication regularly to reduce viral loads which reduces the likelihood of transmitting HIV to a partner.
- Mothers infected with HIV should consider using formula, rather than natural breast milk. Breast milk can transmit HIV to children.
- Clean and sterilize sex toys, and avoid sharing them.
- Two HIV infected people should not have unprotected sex. Consistent exposure to sexual fluids will increase viral loads, making each person sicker in the process, and it can lead to a co-infection of HIV-1 and HIV-2. In other cases, you may pass on a resistant strain. Condoms are a suggested alternative to unprotected sex.
- If a needle is used, discard it. Reused needles shared or otherwise, can deliver HIV through a puncture in the skin if there are contaminants on the tip.
- Cover wounds, sores, rashes, bruises, scratches or skin breaks with bandages. Wear gloves if you must touch an open wound, and remove them correctly. Wash your hands in the standard fashion before and after all contact with patients.
- Obtain STI vaccines. Diseases, such as chlamydia, can cause sores and lesions. Co-infection rates of hepatitis B are also not uncommon.
- When performing oral sex, it is ideal to use a dental dam barrier over the surface of the vagina for stimulation, or to use a condom on the male penis.
How HIV is Treated
The idea of highly active antiretroviral therapy is to use a combination of HIV drugs to attack components of the HIV virus, thus reducing viral replication capabilities. Treatment is usually for life (since HIV has no present cure). If early prophylaxis is used, HIV transmission odds are reduced greatly. In all likelihood HIV patients will receive a combination of drugs from among the following categories listed below (AIDS Meds, Treatment and Drug Information, 2014).
Nucleoside/Nucleotide Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTIs): This classification of drugs provide faulty nucleotides; when HIV uses these faulty nucleotides to convert RNA to DNA, it cannot complete the process due to the presence of bad genetic material. Drugs in this class include Combivir, Emtriva, Epivir, Epzicom, Retrovir Trizivir, Truvada, Videx, Viread, Zerit, Ziagen, Racivir, Amdoxovir, Apricitabine, and Elvucitabine.
Non-Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NNRTIs): NNRTIs prevent HIV enzymes from converting RNA to DNA by directly attaching "non-nucleotides." Brands include Atripla, Complera, Edurant, Intelence, Rescriptor, Sustiva, and Viramune.
Protease Inhibitors (PIs): CD4 cells, which are infected with HIV, are ordered to produce proteins, and HIV protease refines them into new HIV particles. These drugs interrupt enzyme conversion. Brands include Aptivus, Crixivan, Invirase, Kaletra, Lexiva, Norvir, Prezista, Reyataz, and Viracept.
Entry Inhibitors/Fusion Inhibitors: Entry inhibitors bind to the HIV proteins that are responsible for CD4 detection, in effect, preventing HIV from entering white blood cells. Drugs include Fuzeon, Selzentry, Vicriviroc, Ibalizumab, and PRO 140.
Integrase Inhibitors: These inhibitors help prevent viral replication, similar to NNRTIs, PIs and NRTIs, however, the main focus is to overcome HIV medication resistance. Drugs include Isentress, GSK-572, and Elvitegravir.
Maturation Inhibitors: This is an experimental class of drugs, which includes Bevirimat, a derivative of a Chinese herb called Syzigium claviflorum. This helps prevent the HIV virus particles from fully maturing.
Pharmacokinetic Enhancers: These enhance drug effectiveness (Norvir, Cobicstat, SPI-452).