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Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks cells that help the body fight infection. There's no cure, but it is treatable with medicine.

What Is HIV?

HIV ( human immunodeficiency virus ) is a virus that attacks cells that help the body fight infection, making a person more vulnerable to other infections and diseases. It is spread by contact with certain bodily fluids of a person with HIV, most commonly during unprotected sex (sex without a condom or HIV medicine to prevent or treat HIV), or through sharing injection drug equipment.

If left untreated, HIV can lead to the disease AIDS ( acquired immunodeficiency syndrome ).

The human body can’t get rid of HIV and no effective HIV cure exists. So, once you have HIV, you have it for life. Luckily, however, effective treatment with HIV medicine (called antiretroviral therapy or ART) is available. If taken as prescribed, HIV medicine can reduce the amount of HIV in the blood (also called the viral load) to a very low level. This is called viral suppression. If a person’s viral load is so low that a standard lab can’t detect it, this is called having an undetectable viral load. People with HIV who take HIV medicine as prescribed and get and keep an undetectable viral load can live long and healthy lives and will not transmit HIV to their HIV-negative partners through sex .

In addition, there are effective methods to prevent getting HIV through sex or drug use, including pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) , medicine people at risk for HIV take to prevent getting HIV from sex or injection drug use, and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) , HIV medicine taken within 72 hours after a possible exposure to prevent the virus from taking hold. Learn about other ways to prevent getting or transmitting HIV .

What Is AIDS?

AIDS is the late stage of HIV infection that occurs when the body’s immune system is badly damaged because of the virus.

In the U.S., most people with HIV do not develop AIDS because taking HIV medicine as prescribed stops the progression of the disease.

A person with HIV is considered to have progressed to AIDS when:

  • the number of their CD4 cells falls below 200 cells per cubic millimeter of blood (200 cells/mm3). (In someone with a healthy immune system, CD4 counts are between 500 and 1,600 cells/mm3.) OR
  • they develop one or more opportunistic infections regardless of their CD4 count.

Without HIV medicine, people with AIDS typically survive about 3 years. Once someone has a dangerous opportunistic illness, life expectancy without treatment falls to about 1 year. HIV medicine can still help people at this stage of HIV infection, and it can even be lifesaving. But people who start HIV medicine soon after they get HIV experience more benefits—that’s why HIV testing is so important.

How Do I Know If I Have HIV?

The only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested . Testing is relatively simple. You can ask your health care provider for an HIV test. Many medical clinics, substance abuse programs, community health centers, and hospitals offer them too. If you test positive, you can be connected to HIV care to start treatment as soon as possible. If you test negative, you have the information you need to take steps to prevent getting HIV in the future.

To find an HIV testing location near you, use the HIV Services Locator .

HIV self-testing is also an option. Self-testing allows people to take an HIV test and find out their result in their own home or other private location. With an HIV self-test, you can get your test results within 20 minutes. You can buy an HIV self-test kit at a pharmacy or online. Some health departments or community-based organizations also provide HIV self-test kits for a reduced cost or for free. You can call your local health department or use the HIV Testing and Care Services Locator to find organizations that offer HIV self-test kits near you. (Contact the organization for eligibility requirements.)

Note: State laws regarding self-testing vary and may limit availability. Check with a health care provider or health department Exit Disclaimer for additional testing options.

Learn more about HIV self-testing and which test might be right for you .

Related HIV.gov Blogs

  • HIV Testing Day National HIV Testing Day
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Essay About HIV/AIDS


Human Immunodeficiency Virus, abbreviated as HIV, attacks the body’s immune system, and if left untreated, it can cause AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). HIV is a retroviral disease transmitted through unprotected sexual activity, from mother to child, blood transfusion, contact with infected body fluids, or hypodermic needles (Melhuish & Lewthwaite, 2018). The disease originated from a zoonotic animal, a chimpanzee in Central Africa. The virus version in chimpanzees, Simian Immunodeficiency Virus, is thought to have been passed to humans during their hunting activities way back in 1800. The disease has further been spread across Africa over the decades and eventually into other parts of the world. Its existence in the United States occurred between the mid to late 1970s.

Disease Manifestation

HIV weakens the immune system through infection and destruction of the CD4+ T cells, leading to immunodeficiency at the later stages of the disease. The virus adheres to the CD4+ protein on its surface and other cells to gain entry into the body  ( Melhuish & Lewthwaite, 2018 ).  Other coreceptors such as CCR5 and CXCR4 are essential in enabling the virus to gain complete access and cause infection to the body cells. HIV infection undergoes three stages: acute illness, chronic infection, and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) (Velloza et al., 2020). The first stage usually develops between 2 to 4 weeks after initial exposure. The stage often goes unrecognized because of the occasionally mild and nonspecific symptoms. Some of the clinical manifestations observed in the first stage include typical rushes distributed on the face and trunk, although they may also appear in the palms and soles. Oral and genital mucocutaneous ulceration is also another clinical manifestation that can be experienced during the first stage. In this stage, gastrointestinal manifestation, facial nerve palsy, acute encephalopathy, and many other clinical symptoms may participate.

In the second stage of infection, the virus continues to multiply but at low levels. Infected individuals who are in this stage may not have any alarming symptoms. The stage can last for up to 10 to 15 years, although it may move so fast in some individuals c. AIDs infection occurs in the third stage. The infection may be manifested by symptoms such as rapid loss of weight, recurring fever, extreme tiredness, prolonged swelling of the lymph glands in the groin, armpits, or neck, sores in the mouth, diarrhea that lasts for more than a week, or memory loss and other neurologic disorder (Nasuuna et al., 2018). When infected individuals are not treated, they may develop severe diseases such as serious bacterial infections, cryptococcal meningitis, tuberculosis, and cancers like Kaposi’s sarcoma and lymphomas.

Diagnosis and Treatment

HIV diagnosis can be made by a rapid diagnostic test that provides results on the same day. Individuals may also test themselves using an HIV self-test kit, although a confirmatory test has to be done later on by a qualified health professional (Mayo Clinic, 2020). The diagnostic test works by detecting antibodies produced by a person as part of their immune response to fight the virus. When the results turn out positive, immediate treatment should be done to manage the virus (Mayo Clinic, 2020). A combination of three or more antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) or antiretroviral therapy (ART) may suppress the symptoms and viral replication within an individual hence allowing recovery of the immune system and regain the ability to protect the body from opportunistic infections.

The public health measures of HIV prevention can be divided into three categories; primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention. Primary prevention measures protect an individual from acquiring HIV infection. It involves strategies such as abstaining from sex, not sharing needles and sharp objects and using condoms when engaging in sexual activities. Prevention medicines such as PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) and PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) may also be used to protect yourself from the infection (Mayo Clinic, 2020). Secondary HIV prevention involves measures that should be directed to infected individuals to prevent transmission to negative people (Mayo Clinic, 2020). Strategies used in secondary prevention entails giving health education to those who are infected, supporting ART adherence efforts, providing ongoing risk assessment regarding substance use and sexual behavior, encouraging infected individuals to disclose their HIV status to their sexual and drug use partners, prescribing condoms for positive individuals and providing counseling to them (Mayo Clinic, 2020). Tertiary prevention measures ensure the improved treatment to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS disease and promote recovery. A tertiary prevention strategy aims at reducing complications that may be caused by HIV infection.

Surveillance measures

Local surveillance of HIV may be carried out using various reporting tools to fill HIV infection cases and later submitted to the local health departments for further analysis. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) plays a big role in collecting, analyzing, and disseminating data for national surveillance on HIV/AIDS. The CDC’s National surveillance system monitors HIV trends in the U.S (CDC, 2020). Moreover, the World Health organization can conduct international surveillance of HIV/AIDS, which surveys on HIV sentinel, STDs, and behavior.

Prevalence and Incidence

According to WHO (2020), the global prevalence of HIV is estimated to be over 37.7 million people, including 1.7 million children. The percentage prevalence in adults is 0.7%. Additionally, the incidence of HIV infection was 1.5 million (WHO, 2020). Most people living with HIV live in low and middle-income countries, with East and Southern Africa being the most affected region globally. In 2020, there were 670,000 new cases which amounted to 20.6 million infected individuals in East and Southern Africa.

Interesting facts

According to the WHO, some of the current interesting facts about HIV/AIDS is that it has claimed over 36.3 million people since its emergence; hence, it is still a major public health concern (WHO, 2021). Additionally, over 37.7 million were HIV positive in 2020, whereby 25.4 million were in the WHO African region. WHO also reports that over 680 thousand individuals succumbed to HIV-related infections, and over 1.5 million people acquired HIV/AIDS.

CDC. (2020, June 19).  Tracking AIDS Trends . Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/statistics/surveillance/index.html

Eisinger, R. W., & Fauci, A. S. (2018). Ending the HIV/AIDS pandemic.  Emerging infectious diseases ,  24 (3), 413.

Mayo Clinic. (2020, February 13).  HIV/AIDS – Symptoms and causes . https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hiv-aids/symptoms-causes/syc-20373524

Melhuish, A., & Lewthwaite, P. (2018). Natural history of HIV and AIDS.  Medicine ,  46 (6), 356-361.

Nasuuna, E., Kigozi, J., Babirye, L., Muganzi, A., Sewankambo, N. K., & Nakanjako, D. (2018). Low HIV viral suppression rates following the intensive adherence counseling (IAC) program for children and adolescents with viral failure in public health facilities in Uganda.  BMC Public Health ,  18 (1), 1-9.

Velloza, J., Kemp, C. G., Aunon, F. M., Ramaiya, M. K., Creegan, E., & Simoni, J. M. (2020). Alcohol use and antiretroviral therapy non-adherence among adults living with HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa: a systematic review and meta-analysis.  AIDS and Behavior ,  24 (6), 1727-1742.

WHO. (2021, June 9).  HIV/AIDS . WHO | World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/hiv-aids

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Essay on AIDS for Students and Children

500+ words essay on aids.

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or better known as AIDS is a life-threatening disease. It is one of the most dreaded diseases of the 20 th century. AIDS is caused by HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus, which attacks the immune system of the human body. It has, so far, ended more than twenty-nine million lives all over the world. Since its discovery, AIDS has spread around the world like a wildfire. It is due to the continuous efforts of the Government and non-government organizations; AIDS awareness has been spread to the masses.

essay on aids

AIDS – Causes and Spread

The cause of AIDS is primarily HIV or the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This virus replicates itself into the human body by inserting a copy of its DNA into the human host cells. Due to such property and capability of the virus, it is also known as a retrovirus. The host cells in which the HIV resides are the WBCs (White Blood Cells) that are the part of the Human Immune system.

HIV destroys the WBCs and weakens the human immune system. The weakening of the immune system affects an individual’s ability to fight diseases in time. For example, a cut or a wound takes much more time to heal or the blood to clot. In some cases, the wound never heals.

HIV majorly transmits in one of the three ways – Blood, Pre-natal and Sexual transmission. Transfusion of HIV through blood has been very common during the initial time of its spread. But nowadays all the developed and developing countries have stringent measures to check the blood for infection before transfusing. Usage of shared needles also transmits HIV from an infected person to a healthy individual.

As part of sexual transmission, HIV transfers through body fluids while performing sexual activity. HIV can easily be spread from an infected person to a healthy person if they perform unprotective sexual intercourse through oral, genital or rectal parts.

Pre-natal transmission implies that an HIV infected mother can easily pass the virus to her child during pregnancy, breastfeeding or even during delivery of the baby.

AIDS – Symptoms

Since HIV attacks and infects the WBCs of the human body, it lowers the overall immune system of the human body and resulting in the infected individual, vulnerable to any other disease or minor infection. The incubation period for AIDS is much longer as compared to other diseases. It takes around 0-12 years for the symptoms to appear promptly.

Few of the common symptoms of AIDS include fever , fatigue, loss of weight, dysentery, swollen nodes, yeast infection, and herpes zoster. Due to weakened immunity, the infectious person falls prey to some of the uncommon infections namely persistent fever, night sweating, skin rashes, lesions in mouth and more.

Get the huge list of more than 500 Essay Topics and Ideas

AIDS – Treatment, and Prevention

Till date, no treatment or cure is available for curing AIDS, and as a result, it is a life-threatening disease. As a practice by medical practitioners, the best way to curb its spread is antiretroviral therapy or ART. It is a drug therapy which prevents HIV from replicating and hence slows down its progress. It is always advisable to start the treatment at the earliest to minimize the damage to the immune system. But again, it is just a measure and doesn’t guarantee the cure of AIDS.

AIDS prevention lies in the process of curbing its spread. One should regularly and routinely get tested for HIV. It is important for an individual to know his/her own and partner’s HIV status, before performing any sexual intercourse activity. One should always practice safe sex. Use of condoms by males during sexual intercourse is a must and also one should restrict oneself on the number of partners he/she is having sex with.

One should not addict himself/herself to banned substances and drugs. One should keep away from the non-sterilized needles or razors.  Multiple awareness drives by the UN, local government bodies and various nonprofit organizations have reduced the risk of spread by making the people aware of the AIDS – spread and prevention.

Life for an individual becomes hell after being tested positive for AIDS. It is not only the disease but also the social stigma and discrimination, felling of being not loved and being hated acts as a slow poison. We need to instill the belief among them, through our love and care, that the HIV positive patients can still lead a long and healthy life.

Though AIDS is a disease, which cannot be cured or eradicated from society, the only solution to AIDS lies in its prevention and awareness. We must have our regular and periodical health checkup so that we don’t fall prey to such deadly diseases. We must also encourage and educate others to do the same. With the widespread awareness about the disease, much fewer adults and children are dying of AIDS. The only way to fight the AIDS disease is through creating awareness.

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HIV Overview

Hiv and aids: the basics.

  • The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the virus that causes HIV infection. If untreated, HIV may cause acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) , the most advanced stage of HIV infection.
  • People with HIV who are not on medication and do not have consistent control of their HIV can transmit HIV through vaginal or anal sex, sharing of needles, pregnancy, and/or breastfeeding. If HIV is controlled, the risk of transmission is close to zero.
  • Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is the use of HIV medicines that reduce the level of HIV in the blood (called viral load). ART is recommended for everyone who has HIV. ART cannot cure HIV infection, but HIV medicines help people with HIV have about the same life expectancy as people without HIV.
  • HIV medicines (ART) can eliminate the risk of HIV transmission . For parents with HIV that want to breastfeed, the risk of transmitting HIV through breast milk is less than 1% with the consistent use of HIV medicine (ART) and an undetectable viral load.
  • People on ART take a combination of HIV medicines (called an HIV treatment regimen ) every day (pills) or by schedule (injections). In many cases oral medicines may be combined into a single pill or capsule. There are newer long-acting medicines given by an injection every 2 months that may be used in some people.

What is HIV and AIDS?

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus , which is the virus that causes HIV infection. The abbreviation “HIV” can refer to the virus or to HIV infection.

AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome . AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV infection.

HIV attacks and destroys the infection-fighting CD4 cells ( CD4 T lymphocyte ) of the  immune system . The loss of CD4 cells makes it difficult for the body to fight off infections, illnesses, and certain cancers. Without treatment, HIV can gradually destroy the immune system, causing health decline and the onset of AIDS. With treatment, the immune system can recover.

HIV versus AIDS: Years without HIV medicines. Graphic of HIV progression: before infection, acute HIV infection, chronic HIV infection, and AIDS.

How is HIV transmitted?

HIV can be transmitted from one person to another when certain bodily fluids are shared between people. Bodily fluids that can transmit HIV include blood, semen (“cum”), pre-seminal fluid (“pre-cum”), vaginal fluids, rectal fluids, and breastmilk. HIV can be transmitted during vaginal or anal sex, through sharing needles for injecting drugs or tattooing, by getting stuck with a needle that has the blood of someone with HIV on it, through pregnancy, and through breastfeeding.

The transmission of HIV from a birthing parent with HIV to their child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding is called perinatal transmission of HIV. For more information on perinatal transmission, read the HIVinfo fact sheet on  Preventing Perinatal Transmission of HIV .

You cannot get HIV by shaking hands or hugging a person who has HIV. You also cannot get HIV from contact with objects, such as dishes, toilet seats, or doorknobs, used by a person with HIV. HIV is not spread through the air or water or by mosquitoes, ticks, or other insects. Use the HIVinfo You Can Safely Share…With Someone With HIV  infographic to spread this message.

What is the treatment for HIV?

Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is the use of HIV medicines to treat HIV infection. People on ART take a combination of HIV medicines (called an HIV treatment regimen ) every day (pills) or by schedule (injections). In many cases oral medicines may be combined into a single pill or capsule. There are newer long-acting medicines given by an injection every 2 months that may be used in some people.

ART is recommended for everyone who has HIV. ART prevents HIV from multiplying, which reduces the amount of HIV in the body (called the  viral load ). Having less HIV in the body protects the immune system and prevents HIV infection from advancing to AIDS. ART cannot cure HIV, but HIV medicines can help people with HIV live long, healthy lives.

How can a person reduce the risk of transmitting HIV?

ART reduces the risk of HIV transmission. ART can reduce a person’s viral load to an undetectable level. An  undetectable viral load  means that the level of HIV in the blood is too low to be detected by a viral load test . People with HIV who maintain an undetectable viral load have no risk of transmitting HIV to their HIV-negative partner through sex.

HIV medicines taken during pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding can also reduce the risk of perinatal (parent to infant) transmission of HIV. Previously, replacement feeding (properly prepared formula or pasteurized donor human milk from a milk bank) was recommended instead of breastfeeding since the risk of HIV transmission was considered high. Now, there is evidence that the risk of transmission through the breastmilk of someone consistently using ART and maintaining an undetectable viral load is low (less than 1%). Pregnant people with HIV can speak with their health care provider to determine what method of feeding their baby is right for them.

How can a person reduce the risk of getting HIV?

For people without HIV, there are several ways to reduce the risk of acquiring (getting) HIV infection.  Using condoms correctly with every sexual encounter, particularly with partners that are HIV positive with a detectable viral load or with partners whose HIV status is unknown, can reduce the risk of acquiring HIV. Reducing HIV risk also involves limiting and reducing sexual partners, and avoiding sharing needles.

Persons who do not have HIV should talk to their health care provider about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) . PrEP is an HIV prevention option for people who do not have HIV but who are at risk of becoming infected with HIV. PrEP involves taking a specific HIV medicine every day or a long-acting injection. For more information, read the HIVinfo fact sheet on Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) .

What are the symptoms of HIV and AIDS?

Within 2 to 4 weeks after infection with HIV, some people may have flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, or rash. The symptoms may last for a few days to several weeks. Other possible symptoms of HIV include night sweats, muscle aches, sore throat, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, and mouth ulcers. Having these symptoms does not mean you have HIV. Other illnesses can cause the same symptoms. Some people may not feel sick during early HIV infection (called acute HIV ). During this earliest stage of HIV infection, the virus multiplies rapidly. After the initial stage of infection, HIV continues to multiply but at lower levels.

More severe symptoms of HIV infection for persons not on ART may not appear for many years until HIV has developed into AIDS. People with AIDS have weakened immune systems that make them prone to opportunistic infections. Opportunistic infections are infections and infection-related cancers that occur more frequently or are more severe in people with weakened immune systems than in people with healthy immune systems.

Without treatment, HIV transmission is possible at any stage of HIV infection—even if a person with HIV has no symptoms of HIV.

How is AIDS diagnosed?

Symptoms such as fever, weakness, and weight loss may be a sign that a person’s HIV has advanced to AIDS. However, a diagnosis of AIDS is based on the following criteria:

  • A drop in CD4 count to less than 200 cells/mm 3 . A CD4 count measures the number of CD4 cells ( CD4 T lymphocyte ) in a sample of blood. OR
  • The presence of certain opportunistic infections.

Although an AIDS diagnosis indicates severe damage to the immune system, HIV medicines can still help people at this stage of HIV infection.

This fact sheet is based on information from the following sources:

From Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • AIDS and Opportunistic Infections
  • HIV and Perinatal Transmission

From the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS):

  • Introduction
  • Infant Feeding for Individuals with HIV in the United States

From the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID):

Also see the  HIV Source  collection of HIV links and resources.


Introduction: HIV and AIDS

By John Pickrell

4 September 2006

New Scientist Default Image

An AIDS patient in hospital (Image: Burger/Phanie/Rex Features

AIDS has now surpassed the Black Death on its course to become the worst pandemic in human history. At the end of 2004, 20 million people had been killed by it, and twice that number are currently infected with HIV. Barring a medical breakthrough , it could claim the lives of some 60 million people by 2015. AIDS exerts a terrible toll on societies , crippling their economies, decimating their labour forces and orphaning their children.

Nine out of 10 people living with HIV are in the developing world; 60 to 70% of those are in Sub-Saharan Africa. But the disease is spreading in every region, with fierce epidemics threatening to tear through countries such as India , China , Russia and the islands of the Caribbean. The statistics are sobering – in some Southern African towns 44% of pregnant women are HIV positive, in Botswana 37% of people carry the virus.

Immune assassin

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a retrovirus – a virus built of RNA instead of more typical DNA. It attacks the very cells of the immune system that should be protecting the body against it – T lymphocytes and other white blood cells with CD4 receptors on their surfaces. The virus uses the CD4 receptor to bind with and thereby enter the lymphocyte. HIV then integrates itself into the cell’s own DNA, turning the cell into a virus-generating factory. The new viruses break free, destroying the cell, then move on to attack other lymphocytes.

HIV kills by slowly destroying the immune system . Several weeks after initial infection, flu-like symptoms are experienced. Then the immune system kicks-in, and the virus mostly retreats into hiding within lymph tissues. The untreated, infected individual usually remains healthy for 5 to 15, years, but the virus continues to replicate in the background, slowly obliterating the immune system.

Eventually the body is unable to defend itself and succumbs to overwhelming opportunistic infections that rarely affect healthy people. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is the name given to this final stage of HIV infection, and is characterised by multiple, life-threatening illnesses such as weight loss , chronic diarrhoea, rare cancers , pneumonia, fungal conditions and infections of the brain and eye. Tuberculosis has become especially prevalent in AIDS victims.

Natural born killer

Genetic analyses hint that ancestral primate HIV may have been born a million years ago when a chimpanzee virus hybridised with a related monkey variety. However researchers believe it was not until the 1930s that this jumped to humans eating chimp meat in Central Africa. That variety became HIV-1 – the most widespread type. A second type, HIV-2 , restricted to West Africa , was probably contracted in the 1960s from monkey meat.

Another theory was that the AIDS pandemic was accidentally started by doctors testing a polio vaccine in the 1950s – detailed in Edward Hooper’s book The River – but this has been severely criticised by other researchers.

AIDS must have been circulating in the US and Africa during the 1970s. But it was not recognised until 1981 when young gay men and injecting drug users, in New York and California , started to be diagnosed with both an unusual skin cancer called Kaposi’s sarcoma , and lethal pneumonias. By the end of that year 121 people in the US had died – that number would rise to 17,000 over the next six years.

Government scientists predicted that the mysterious immune-debilitating illness was due to an infectious agent. In 1984 that agent was identified as HIV by Luc Montagnier of the Pasteur Institute in Paris, France, and Robert Gallo of the National Cancer Institute in Washington DC, US.

Soon after the appearance of AIDS in the US, the disease was detected in Europe too and epidemics affecting heterosexual men and women sprang up at an alarming rate in Sub-Saharan Africa . Today one in five people in that region are living with the virus. AIDS epidemics also threaten to devastate the world’s most populous nations – India and China – and other Asian nations , if action is not taken to bring them under control.

Defensive measures

HIV is found in body fluids such as: blood , semen, vaginal fluids and breast milk . It can be passed on through penetrative sex , oral sex and sharing contaminated needles when injecting street drugs or in hospitals . It can also be transmitted from a mother to her baby during pregnancy , childbirth or breastfeeding – though many children escape infection. HIV cannot be passed on through kissing, coughing, mosquito bites or touching.

Health authorities are focusing on prevention as a key method to limit the spread of the epidemic. Educational programs preach abstinence from sex, monogamy and safer sex using condoms , as ways to protect against infection. Many countries give away free condoms and offer needle exchange programs to try and limit transmission among injecting drug users . Microbicides in the form of creams that prevent transmission of HIV may soon offer another method of protection.

A vaccine , as an alternative method to prevent HIV infection, may still be many years away . This is partly because the virus mutates so rapidly . A vaccine may not only have to prime antibodies to attack the virus (the way most vaccines work) but might also need to increase T-cell production . Vaccine trials have been undertaken in South Africa , Kenya , the US and Thailand – though most have yet to yield promising results. Controversial vaccines made from the blood of HIV carriers, have been tested in Nigeria and Thailand .

Anti-retroviral cocktails

There is no cure for AIDS, but a range of drugs – some of which have unpleasant side-effects – are available to slow its progress . Other drugs are used to treat opportunistic infections or AIDS symptoms . Even some herbal treatments have been investigated.

Most anti-HIV drugs aim at stalling viral replication. Nucleoside analogues such as AZT (zidovudine) and also non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs), attack the action of the viral enzyme reverse transcriptase. This prevents it from creating functional DNA which would otherwise integrate into the DNA of infected cells.

A third class block protease , an enzyme essential for generating functional virus particles . Protease inhibitors are the most effective of the three types of drugs, and AIDS mortality fell dramatically in the US when they were first licensed during the late 1990s. Fusion inhibitors are a newer type of drug that work by stopping HIV from binding with CD4 receptors that it uses to enter cells. Drugs that block another enzyme, integrase , are also under development.

AIDS drugs are often administered in combination cocktails cocktails of three or more kinds simultaneously, as this helps slow the rate at which HIV develops resistance to drugs . But the virus is able to evolve rapidly and can eventually outpace the drugs if treatment regimens are not followed rigorously.

Though drugs are widely available in western countries, their expense means they are unavailable to the vast majority of AIDS sufferers . International bodies are working towards widening access to treatment in the developing world. Some companies in countries such as India and Thailand are now producing cheap generic copies of drugs.

Staggering toll

The economic and social burden of AIDS exerts a great toll on developing nations in addition to that exerted by mortality itself. AIDS is hindering development and leading to negative population growth in some of the most seriously affected nations, such as Botswana.

This excessive AIDS mortality is causing a great demographic shift , wiping out young adults in the prime of their lives. This leaves children orphaned, and is destroying workforces and economies. Some predict that 50 million children in Sub-Saharan Africa will have been orphaned by 2010. The labour forces of 38 AIDS ravaged countries will be up to 35% smaller by 2020, because of AIDS.

The effect of AIDS on agricultural communities in Southern Africa is even leading to food shortages . Social stigma and discrimination is yet another problem for many AIDS sufferers, especially in Asian nations.

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AIDS and Behavior: An Integrated Approach (1994)

Chapter: 1 introduction, 1 introduction.

Since it appeared in the early 1980s, the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes it have wrought physical and social devastation around the world. The number of people afflicted by the illness has increased markedly, and the range of communities affected has expanded. In the United States, while AIDS was first considered a "gay" disease because of the predominance of cases among men who had sex with men, the reach of the epidemic now has expanded to intravenous drug users and their sexual partners, heterosexual partners of non-drug-using HIV-infected persons, infants born to mothers infected with HIV, and hemophiliacs and others exposed to blood products or blood transfusion.

The number of AIDS cases reported in the United States has grown rapidly, surpassing 100,000 in 1988, 200,000 in 1990, and 300,000 in 1992. The rate of increase is alarming: the first 100,000 reported cases occurred in an eight-year period, while the second 100,000 cases occurred in only a two-year period. The demographic makeup of the epidemic has seen rapid changes as well. Although men continue to constitute over 85 percent of the adults diagnosed with AIDS, the proportion of women is increasing: from 9 percent among the first 100,000 cases to 15 percent among the third. The proportion of cases among African Americans and Hispanic/Latino Americans has also increased, from 42 percent in

1988 to 48 percent in 1990 (CDC, 1992a). By the end of 1992, AIDS had become the leading cause of death for men aged 25–44 years and the fourth leading cause of death for women in the same age group. By the end of 1993, over 200,000 people in the United States had died of complications related to AIDS (CDC, 1994).

Reported AIDS cases tell only a piece of the story: the prevalence and incidence of HIV infection—the precursor to AIDS—is even more telling. However, truly accurate data are unavailable because not everyone is tested for HIV and not all results from those who are tested are reported. Available data show that the epidemic initially spread rapidly among fairly large, tightly knit, geographically concentrated networks of gay men and injection drug users, but now is expanding outward. Aside from hemophiliacs, the highest seroprevalence rates documented have been among drug users in the New York metropolitan area. As early as 1984, studies reported a rate of infection as high as 50 percent among this group (Marmor et al., 1987). However, alarming HIV seroprevalence rates also have recently been observed among other groups, including female Job Corps students, young gay men, alcoholics in treatment, and psychiatric patients.

Despite extensive efforts to develop effective treatments as well as a vaccine for HIV/AIDS, a fully effective treatment, cure, vaccine or other medical intervention appears to be years away. In conjunction with such developments, efforts to prevent the transmission of HIV through the cessation of behaviors that contribute to it must be expanded. This requires a commitment to understanding and intervening in human behavior.

Much of the AIDS research supported by the institutes under review here (NIAAA, NIDA, and NIMH), is dedicated to developing and implementing (and to a lesser extent, evaluating) HIV prevention interventions within various populations. These interventions should be driven by basic behavioral and social science research on the determinants of behavior and behavior change, and to a great extent they are. Yet much of this basic research is still in its early stages, its development inhibited by a political climate during the first decade of the epidemic that made it difficult, at times impossible, to conduct research on the very behaviors in question: drug use and sex. For example, although numerous scientific and policy reports called for a federally sponsored national survey of sexual behavior to help determine the nature and level of risk for HIV transmission in the general population, federal and congressional restrictions have not allowed it.

The absence of information about the specific sexual behaviors in which people are engaging has hampered AIDS prevention efforts. Now, although the current climate is more supportive of such research, basic behavioral and social science research is having to catch up. Moreover, much-needed efforts to integrate this research with basic biomedical research to obtain a more complete understanding of the complex factors that contribute to the transmission, disease progression, and prevention of HIV/AIDS among different people are still just beginning.

An overview of the extent of knowledge about the range and contexts of sexual and substance-using behaviors by which HIV is transmitted is presented in Chapter 2 . Although attempts to conduct large-scale projects on the specific behaviors involved has been hampered, significant contributions to the knowledge base have come from individual studies using the methods of qualitative, social science research and behavioral epidemiology.

As the state of knowledge about the psychological and social determinants of HIV-related behavior improves, it will become increasingly important to investigate how these determinants interact with neurobiological factors to influence the specific behaviors of individuals in social contexts. Even though basic neurobiological, psychological, and social data about the determinants of risk behavior remain to be gathered, behavioral and social science-based AIDS prevention interventions have been developed and employed by NIAAA-, NIDA-, and NIMH-supported researchers, and they are yielding some important findings. Chief among these is the fact that behavior can be changed, even among people perceived as being especially hard to reach, such as injection drug users and homeless and runaway youths. At least, research has found that behavior can be changed for the short term; more research is necessary to determine if behavior change can be maintained over time. Additionally, assessing the relationship between behavior change and actual avoidance of HIV infection is an important component of AIDS prevention research that has been relatively underexplored to date. These issues are the focus of Chapter 3 .

While preventing the initial transmission of HIV is the top priority from a public health perspective, it is equally important to develop effective treatment interventions for people who are already infected. This requires knowledge about disease progression and how it might differ among individuals and populations. Although major advances have been made in understanding the basic biological mechanisms of the virus in the body, the issue of

how the virus relates to the brain and to behavior is just beginning to be explored. Recent and current research suggests a bidirectional relationship: that is, the virus may affect the brain (e.g., infected cells produce neuropathology, such as dementia) and the brain may in turn effect the virus (e.g., psychosocial coping strategies boost immune system functioning). Unlocking some of the remaining mysteries about the complicated relationship between HIV, the brain, and behavior requires cross-disciplinary research, research at the intersection of biology and behavior. Ultimately, this should lead to the development of appropriate interventions, pharmacological, psychosocial, and social-structural. These issues are addressed in Chapter 4 .

After highlighting some of the significant developments and outstanding gaps in AIDS-related behavior, mental health, and substance abuse research, the report moves in Part II to a discussion of the context in which this research has been supported. Chapter 5 describes the general context within which the NIAAA, NIDA, and NIMH AIDS programs have been operating. The most salient elements of that context are: (1) the recent reorganization of the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration (ADAMHA); (2) the new budget and program authority of the Office of AIDS Research (OAR) at NIH; (3) the budget process; and (4) the grant review process. A discussion of these elements makes evident the level of complexity and uncertainty at the institutes while they were part of ADAMHA and as they were being transferred to NIH.

The committee was asked to assess the balance between biomedical and behavioral AIDS research in the portfolios of NIAAA, NIDA, and NIMH (notwithstanding this fluctuating context). The committee began by examining the programs and priorities for AIDS research as articulated in various planning and reporting documents produced by the institutes. In addition, the committee engaged in a grant-by-grant analysis of the three institutes' AIDS programs. Together, these efforts yielded some interesting findings. In particular, the committee determined that the very act of counterpoising these two categories of "biomedical" and "behavioral" research—while common in health science policy discussions—not only is inadequate for describing the nature of research supported by the institutes, but also undermines the possibilities of advancing the very sort of cross-disciplinary research needed to address the AIDS epidemic. In order to address the spirit of the question, but to more adequately describe the institute programs, the committee developed its own simple scheme

for categorizing research approaches, which is presented in Chapter 6 .

In the course of its analysis, the committee discovered that cross-disciplinary research that traverses the biomedical-behavioral boundaries to examine the relationships among the brain, behavior, and HIV is underway at NIAAA, NIDA, and NIMH. However, although increased attention is being paid to links between the biological and the psychological aspects of HIV/AIDS on the individual level, very little research has been conducted on the social factors and context in which individuals contract, transmit, and experience the disease. Chapter 6 elucidates this analysis of the balance among research perspectives in the three institutes' portfolios. The management of the AIDS programs of the institutes is also discussed, with respect to specific budgets for AIDS and non-AIDS research and the organizational structure of each institute's AIDS program.

Finally, in Chapter 7 , the relationship between the AIDS research programs of NIAAA, NIDA, and NIMH and the services programs formerly at ADAMHA and now at SAMHSA (as well as relevant programs elsewhere in PHS) is discussed. With respect to AIDS prevention and intervention, it is very important to disseminate research findings to the field as quickly and as effectively as possible. At the same time, service providers often are in a unique position to discover new, researchable questions. How these two worlds of researchers and service providers interact—including how the federal agencies responsible for research and service programs coordinate their activities—is of great concern to all those involved.

This report presents both an overview of salient research on mental health, substance abuse, and other behavioral factors associated with AIDS, and an analysis of the context in which that research has taken place. It aims to provide a critical assessment—and an appreciation—of the efforts of the federal research enterprise to respond to and anticipate new directions in an epidemic that has burst quickly upon the scene and has already wreaked havoc on individuals, families, and communities around the world.

HIV is spreading rapidly, and effective treatments continue to elude science. Preventive interventions are now our best defense against the epidemic—but they require a clear understanding of the behavioral and mental health aspects of HIV infection and AIDS.

AIDS and Behavior provides an update of what investigators in the biobehavioral, psychological, and social sciences have discovered recently about those aspects of the disease and offers specific recommendations for research directions and priorities.

This volume candidly discusses the sexual and drug-use behaviors that promote transmission of HIV and reports on the latest efforts to monitor the epidemic in its social contexts. The committee reviews new findings on how and why risky behaviors occur and efforts to develop strategies for changing such behaviors. The volume presents findings on the disease's progression and on the psychosocial impacts of HIV and AIDS, with a view toward intervention and improved caregiving.

AIDS and Behavior also evaluates the status of behavioral and prevention aspects of AIDS research at the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

The volume presents background on the three institutes; their recent reorganization; their research budgets, programs, and priorities; and other important details. The committee offers specific recommendations for the institutes concerning the balance between biomedical and behavioral investigations, adequacy of administrative structures, and other research management issues.

Anyone interested in the continuing quest for new knowledge on preventing HIV and AIDS will want to own this book: policymakers, researchers, research administrators, public health professionals, psychologists, AIDS advocates and service providers, faculty, and students.

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Introduction to HIV

What are HIV and AIDS? How AIDS Works in the Body HIV Treatment Who Should be Tested for HIV? HIV Contraction Common Misconceptions About Contraction The Importance of HIV Testing and Diagnosis How Does HIV Testing Work? Test Counseling Conclusion

What are HIV and AIDS?

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus, which is commonly called HIV, is a virus that directly attacks certain human organs, such as the brain, heart, and kidneys, as well as the human immune system. The immune system is made up of special cells, which are involved in protecting the body from infections and some cancers. The primary cells attacked by HIV are the CD4+ lymphocytes, which help direct immune function in the body. Since CD4+ cells are required for proper immune system function, when enough CD4+ lymphocytes have been destroyed by HIV, the immune system barely works. Many of the problems experienced by people infected with HIV result from a failure of the immune system to protect them from certain opportunistic infections (OIs) and cancers.

Defining the terms

People infected with HIV are broadly classified into those with HIV disease and those with Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, or AIDS. A person with HIV disease has HIV but does not yet have any symptoms or related problems, and still has a relatively intact immune system (that is, a CD4+ lymphocyte count greater than 200 cells/mm3). A person with AIDS, on the other hand, has very advanced HIV disease and his or her immune system has incurred significant damage. As a result, people with AIDS are at very high risk for a number of OIs, cancers, and other AIDS-related complications. The Centers for Disease Control have defined the conditions that mark a progression from HIV disease to AIDS. They are: certain infections, such as repetitive pneumonias, Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), and cryptococcal meningitis certain cancers, such as cervical cancer, Kaposi's sarcoma, and central nervous system lymphoma CD4+ count less than 200 cells/mm3 or 14 percent of lymphocytes

How AIDS Works in the Body

Before highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) became available, most people who contracted HIV eventually progressed to AIDS and had some AIDS-related complication, such as:

  • a deterioration of immune system function and an increased risk of infections and cancers
  • brain damage that may cause dementia or memory loss
  • heart problems that can cause heart failure and symptoms such as shortness of breath, fatigue, and swelling of the abdomen and legs
  • severe kidney damage requiring dialysis
  • an inability to perform activities of daily living such as balancing a checkbook or driving a car
  • metabolic changes that may cause significant weight loss or diarrhea

Due to these potential problems, a person with AIDS is at very high risk of becoming very ill, and, if some action is not taken to protect the person from these infections or reverse the damage done by HIV, he or she is at risk of dying.

The speed of progression to AIDS The damage caused by HIV occurs more quickly in some people than in others, but generally an untreated HIV-infected person can expect that they will progress to AIDS within 10 years of their infection. During the time the person is infected with HIV, a war rages between the person's immune system and HIV , with HIV slowly wearing the immune system out.

A slow progress: A number of factors can affect how rapidly HIV progresses, some that can be controlled, and some that can't. Some people have certain genes that slow HIV progression, or they are infected with a weak strain of HIV that their immune system is more able to control. In general, taking better care of yourself and following your doctor's advice also slows the progression of HIV disease to AIDS.

A more rapid progress: Factors that may cause a more rapid progression to AIDS are: infection by a virulent strain of HIV, having a high viral load setpoint (a certain level of HIV replication that varies from person to person), older age, and the abuse of drugs or alcohol .

HIV Treatment

In the time between initial infection and AIDS, the infected person may feel relatively normal, despite the constant attack by HIV. People living with HIV have to understand, however, that despite feeling well on the outside, significant damage can be occurring on the inside. Fortunately, over the past five years, significant progress has been made regarding the treatment of HIV and prevention of some of the infections and cancers that may be caused by it. Antiretroviral medications can directly attack HIV and stop it from reproducing and causing further damage. For most people, the biggest factor in preventing progression to AIDS is adherence to HAART, which can suppress HIV replication to very low levels and not allow it to continue to attack the body.

Prophylactic medications In addition to HAART, other steps can be taken to prevent illness in people living with HIV and AIDS. Certain antibiotics, called prophylactic medications, can effectively prevent opportunistic infections. A physician can help to assess the appropriateness of these medications in a particular treatment program, and which ones to use, but it is important that they be taken as prescribed so that infections can be prevented. With careful monitoring, OIs and certain cancers can be detected in their early stages before they have spread, and the antibiotics can work more effectively to ward off further serious complications. I recommend that every person living with HIV or AIDS see a physician for appropriate monitoring and treatment.

Who Should be Tested for HIV?

In the early 1980s, when HIV infections were first starting to appear, HIV was associated primarily with gay men. Then it became associated with intravenous drug users and hemophiliacs. During the past 20 years, however, HIV has become a disease that can affect almost anyone who is not monogamous with an uninfected person .

HIV contraction

HIV is contracted through an exchange of bodily fluids, such as blood, semen, or vaginal secretions. As a result, the most common ways of acquiring HIV are sharing needles while doing intravenous drugs, and sex, especially anal intercourse. While the highest risk of HIV transmission is associated with anal intercourse, vaginal intercourse is becoming a common means of spreading HIV. Vaginal intercourse is the most rapidly growing risk factor for acquiring HIV infection in the United States and in the developing world it is the most common method of HIV transmission. Everyone must take appropriate steps to prevent the spread of HIV : Safer sex with condoms and dental dams and not sharing needles can help prevent the spread of HIV.

Common misconceptions about HIV contraction

People are often concerned that HIV can be contracted through common contacts with an HIV-infected person, such as shaking hands or sharing glasses or eating utensils. These are not risk factors for contracting HIV. There is no evidence that HIV can be spread through these means, and people should not be afraid to be around people who have HIV or to use a glass, eating utensils, or plate that an HIV-infected person has used, or to have other common contacts.

Those who should consider being tested for HIV include :

  • people who received a blood transfusion or blood product at any time, but especially in the late 1970s or 1980s
  • homosexuals and heterosexuals who have a history of unprotected sex with potentially infected persons
  • people who have had multiple sex partners
  • people who have had a sexually transmitted disease such as syphilis or gonorrhea
  • people who are intravenous drug users
  • pregnant women

The importance of testing and diagnosis

The importance of HIV testing and diagnosis has increased over the past five years. Before the improvements in antiretroviral therapies, many people believed that there was little that could be done to prevent the progression of HIV and so they did not get tested. While these people were right about the ineffectiveness of the antiretroviral therapy available at that time, they failed to recognize that medicines had been discovered that could prevent many of the common infections that afflict AIDS patients. Thus, many people were diagnosed with HIV only after they were admitted to the hospital with severe infections, especially PCP. Some died needlessly because they had not sought appropriate medical care and did not receive one of the medications that could have prevented PCP from occurring.

Now, there are even more reasons to seek HIV testing and medical care. Within the past five years, the medicines to prevent infections have been significantly improved and effective antiretroviral therapies have been developed that can not only halt the progression of HIV, but can also reverse much of the damage that has already been done. Therefore, it is important that HIV is diagnosed while the person is relatively healthy and before a major, potentially life-threatening OI occurs, such as PCP or cerebral toxoplasmosis. With HIV, what you don't know can hurt you.

If you think you are at even slight risk of having HIV-if you have had numerous sex partners or if you have had sex with someone who might have been bisexual or had a history of intravenous drug use-you should be tested. If you test positive , you can then receive medical care necessary to keep you healthy and prevent the diseases that occur in untreated AIDS patients. If, on the other hand, you wait until you feel sick before you are tested, you may already have progressed to AIDS and your immune system may already have incurred significant damage that may not be reversible.

Pregnant women Recent advances in therapy have also led to effective methods of preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Virtually every pregnant woman, especially those who have a history of intravenous drug use, have had sex with someone in a high-risk group, or who have had numerous sexual partners, should be tested for HIV. HIV-infected mothers should consider taking antiretrovirals, which can effectively prevent transmission to the infant. Since breast-feeding can also cause transmission of HIV to the infant, HIV-infected mothers should not breast-feed their infants if there is an available alternative. Many states also require testing of the infant at birth, so that appropriate treatment can be provided.

Testing is voluntary and confidential Under most circumstances, HIV testing is voluntary. Unless there are special circumstances, most states require a person to give specific permission, called informed consent, before he or she can be tested for HIV. Privacy and confidentiality are legitimate concerns for people who are being tested for HIV. Most people do not want other people or organizations , such as their employer, to know they are HIV-infected and most don't even want them to know that they are being tested. Most states have laws that protect the confidentiality of HIV testing and the diagnosis of infection. While accidental disclosure of a person being HIV positive can occur, in my experience it is extremely rare. It's a mistake to avoid testing because of fear of accidental disclosure.

Also, there are other options including anonymous testing in a clinic or at home (for example, Home AccessR), where you are identified by a number, not by name, and no one but you knows your number. The cost of testing is generally between $30 and $100, and some groups, including many health departments, provide testing free of charge.

How Does HIV Testing Work?

HIV is usually diagnosed by a blood test , but newer tests can be done on saliva or urine. If you're squeamish about getting blood drawn, there are alternatives you can discuss with your doctor. Generally, the purpose of the test is to search for antibodies to the virus. The initial test is an enzyme-linked immunoabsorbent assay (ELISA) and is confirmed using a test called the Western Blot. The antibody tests are very reliable, but may not be able to detect an infection during the first six months after an exposure. There is also a test that can test for the presence of the virus itself, and this test is called an HIV PCR. HIV PCR is used to test for HIV after a potential HIV exposure, but before antibodies have developed. Because infants may have their mother's antibodies in their blood confounding the HIV antibody test, HIV PCR is also useful for them. However, HIV PCR may not be reliable in detecting HIV in all infected patients, especially those with a low viral load.

How long do the results take?

It used to take several days to a week to get test results back. Now there are rapid detection methods that allow reliable results in less than an hour. As a result, HIV testing can be completed while you are still in your doctor's office.

Test counseling

Pre-test and post-test counseling and education are important parts of HIV testing. Counseling gives people who test negative for HIV an opportunity to learn more about HIV and how to avoid becoming infected . For those who test positive for HIV, counseling gives them a chance to learn about the importance of being medically evaluated and, if appropriate, treated so as to prevent disease progression or OIs. These counseling sessions take about 15 minutes, including time for questions. They are a very valuable part of the testing process, regardless of the test results.

HIV disease is a chronic disease that used to be fatal for virtually everyone who got it. Now, things have changed and effective treatments are available to treat HIV and, in most cases, these treatments can prevent HIV from doing further damage and can keep the person healthy. In order to take advantage of these treatments, you must be tested and diagnosed with HIV. All persons who may have been infected with HIV and virtually all pregnant women should be tested as soon as possible.

Brian Boyle, MD, JD, is an Attending Physician at the New York Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center and Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Department of International Medicine and Infectious Diseases at Weill Medical College of Cornell University. Dr. Boyle has authored and co-authored more than 100 publications and abstracts relating to the treatment of HIV and hepatitis. In addition, he has lectured across the country on the latest advances in the treatment of HIV, Hepatitis C Virus and Hepatitis B Virus as well as many other HIV/AIDS and hepatitis related topics.

next: HIV, AIDS, and Older Adults

APA Reference Staff, H. (2021, December 23). Introduction to HIV, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, February 23 from https://www.healthyplace.com/sex/diseases/introduction-to-hiv

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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  • Essay on AIDS


HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is an infection that causes cells in the body that help it fight infections, making a person more susceptible to other infections and diseases. Interaction with certain bodily secretions of an HIV-positive individual, most commonly during unprotected intercourse (sex without the use of a condom or HIV treatment to prevent or treat HIV), or sharing injection drug equipment spreads the virus.

If HIV is not treated, it can progress to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). HIV cannot be eradicated by the human body, and there is no effective HIV cure. As a result, whether you have HIV, you will have it for the rest of your life.

Long and Short AIDS Essay in English

There are many diseases causing microorganisms, like bacteria, viruses, fungi etc. The symptoms of the diseases depend on the type of microorganism that is spreading it. It can vary from mild to severe. AIDS which stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome is a viral disease that is rampant in growth. It was only in the last century that this viral disease has proved to be lethal and fatal, taking away about twenty million lives globally. The awareness about the disease and the virus causing it which is HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus is more now compared to earlier. In this HIV AIDS essay, we can go through the important information about it and burst some myths.

Below are different ways to write an AIDS essay in English. The essay on HIV AIDS can be of 2 formats, a long essay on HIV AIDS or a short AIDS essay.

Short Essay on Aids

This AIDS essay is a brief one and will cover the important notes about the disease and the ways one can prevent it.

The way of occurrence of this disease is in the name itself, AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. The disease is acquired via the virus which is called Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is not an auto-immune disease in the early stages of infection where the immune system in the body fights off infection to protect the body from diseases that go against itself. The virus enters from an outside source and destroys the efficiency of our immune system.

AIDS is transmitted through contact. The contact with infected blood of the HIV OR AIDS patient in any form can easily transfer this viral disease. It can also be transmitted through contact with semen or vaginal fluids of the infected person. This occurs in the case when one is sexually exposed to a person with HIV.

HIV once enters the body, invades and conquers the immune system making the body susceptible to other diseases. It is then very easy for the simple flu or cold infection to be severe as the immune system is no longer fit to fight it.

When detected in the early period can be battled with, but more often than not people assume the symptoms to not be AIDS so it spreads and kills the individual. To be protected when having sex and not sharing any form of toiletries with others is the way to prevent and keep this deadly virus at bay.

Long Essay on AIDS

This is the long format of an essay on HIV AIDS where its workings, causes and effects and remedies are discussed.

There are some diseases that have been borne by the living in this world which has created a ruckus in human history and the struggle to find a permanent cure still exists. AIDS is one such disease. Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome is the name of the disease which is also shortened as AIDS.

It has since only the 20 th century affected the human race and many people lost their lives, more than 20 million of them. The virus that aids in the transmission of this disease is Human Immunodeficiency Virus or also called HIV. Due to the same property of immunodeficiency, it is referred to as HIV/AIDS.

Since it affects the immune system severely, the cells and the workings of it in our body must be clearly understood. The immune system’s role in the body is that of a soldier wherein it identifies any sort of anomalies that enters or infiltrates the body and prepares antibodies against it. And kills them in order to prevent infection that has the probability of causing a harmful disease.

Since the cells of the immune system have already created the antibodies, the cell memory is activated when the entry occurs again and the immune system fights and destroys such foreign and harmful matter.

What Happens when HIV Enters the Body?

When a person is infected with the Human immunodeficiency virus, it directly attacks the immune system making the cells weak and incapable of creating antibodies for this particular virus. As they become weak their function to perform the task of defending against other microorganism entrants is also weakened.

When the fighter in our bodies becomes weak, we are more likely to fall ill. The illness can be a simple flu or an allergy and our body cannot fight any further. The symptoms once infected will start to appear within the first two weeks. The symptoms are very flu-like for instance, one will be more tired than usual and fatigue will be more frequent and regular. Other symptoms include sore throat and fever. The risk of opportunistic infections like tuberculosis and herpes also increases. Some people however remain asymptomatic even for longer periods after being infected with the virus.

Cause of HIV/AIDS

The main and only cause of this dreadful disease is the contact through blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, vaginal fluids, rectal fluids and breast milk. The semen and vaginal fluids are transferred through sex and rectal fluids through anal sex. When people have multiple partners, and they have unprotected sex the transmission is highly likely. The contact through blood can also be via the unhygienic practice of sharing an infected person’s razors, blades. Even unsterilized syringes while taking drugs or even a tattoo parlor where they use unsterilized machines on the body can transmit the virus easily. The transmission means are endless so one must proceed with utmost caution to keep themselves safe either way.

What is the Life Expectancy for the Patients Carrying HIV or AIDs with Them?

Many factors can affect the life expectancy of people living with HIV. Depending on these factors there are many differences in the outcomes between people, and other factors. The factors on which life expectancy depend are:

Access to effective HIV treatment and quality health care.

Start HIV treatment as soon as possible after HIV infection, before your CD4 cell count drops to a low level. The sooner you are diagnosed and start HIV treatment, the better your long-term chances are.

Having serious HIV-related illnesses in the past. This may occur before HIV is diagnosed and/or before HIV treatment is started. These diseases have a detrimental effect on life expectancy.

Results one year after starting HIV treatment. Studies show that life expectancy is better for people who respond well within a year of starting treatment than people who do not respond. In particular, people with a CD4 count of at least 350 and an undetectable viral load during the year have a much better chance long-term.

Year of Diagnosis - HIV treatment and medical care have improved over the years. People who have been diagnosed in recent years are expected to live longer than people who were diagnosed long ago.

Heart diseases, liver diseases, cancer and other health conditions are more likely to be the cause of death than HIV or AIDs.

Injecting drug use - Life expectancy is short for people with HIV who inject drugs, due to drug overdose and viral infections.

Social and Economic Conditions - there are significant differences in life expectancy depending on where you grew up, your income, education, social status and more.

Gender – Men are supposed to live for a shorter period of time than women.

Genetics - you may have certain conditions if close relatives have.

Mental and Emotional Well-being - high levels of stress are associated with reduced life expectancy.

Lifestyle - longevity for people who eat a balanced diet, are physically active, maintain a healthy weight, avoid alcohol abuse or use drugs, and stay in touch with the community. Avoiding smoking is very important in life.

There are a few myths surrounding this disease. It is believed earlier that AIDS can spread even through contact or touch without any exchange of fluids. Like through a hug or just by being near the infected person. That myth has been debunked and it is absolutely untrue. One can freely hug an AIDS patient without worry.

The other one was when kissing, there is an exchange of saliva which is also a fluid and AIDS can spread through kissing, which also proved to be untrue. And HIV always means AIDS that is fatal was another rumor or myth, and this myth is proven wrong where many people have lived longer with HIV by medication and taking care of their health.

There is no permanent cure yet for treating HIV/AIDS, so it is our responsibility to look out for ourselves. The way one can first prevent themselves from being infected is by getting vaccinated. It is important to get tested in your adult life if you have multiple sexual partners and also get your partner tested for the same. The other way is being monogamous. The most used form of prevention is having protected and safe sex and using condoms that creates a barrier for transmission. Do check for sterilized needles in case you decide to get a tattoo or injected.  Lessen the use of alcohol and drugs as that is anyway weakening and altering the immune system.

According to the estimates of the Indian government  2.40 million Indians are living with HIV wherein, the infected ones fall in the age group of 15-49, and 39 %of them that is 9,30,00 of them are women. The numbers are alarming and the rate of increase is not slowing down anytime soon. We as a country must break the traditions and conversations about sex should be open and safe. It is high time we lose our lives to this disease which can be prevented.


FAQs on Essay on AIDS

1. Is AIDS an Autoimmune Disease?

In the early stages of HIV infection that leads to AIDS, the immune system only weakens so it is not an auto-immune disease. But during the later and final stages, the workings of the immune system are similar to that of an auto-immune system where it works against itself. And in such cases, the body of the individual is susceptible to many more diseases. AIDS, a disease found in immune deficiency disorder, is caused by HIV and weakens the human immune system. Autoimmune diseases, on the other hand, are where the immune system turns, attacking healthy cells.

2. Does one die from HIV Infection?

The HIV infection results in many symptoms that make the body weaker day by day. But some do not even suffer those symptoms and they may live longer than the ones showing severe symptoms. In any case, it is important to take medications that are prescribed to reduce the severity of symptoms and live a little longer. The best way is to keep healthy and lead an active lifestyle as much as possible. Although the death toll from AIDS has dropped dramatically around the world, this situation increases the risk of contracting a fatal disease — potentially leading to death. No treatment or cure is present for HIV.

3. What method was adopted by the hospitals to report HIV or AIDs cases?

The doctors took the active initiative for the reporting and diagnosis of HIV or AIDs cases all over the world. The methods that all the French hospital wards were known for, for their role in controlling HIV infection, were asked to report the 2000 deaths among HIV-positive adults. The causes of death were recorded using a standard questionnaire. The Mortality 2000 study was launched to explain the distribution of the leading causes of death of HIV-positive people at the national level in France in the year 2000.

4. What is the way of determining the root cause of death in AIDs patients?

Following the International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision (ICD-10) to death, the information contained in the questionnaire was used to determine the single cause of death. The causes of AIDS were categorized as one cause of death, followed by definitions of AIDS-related diseases. If a standard questionnaire was lost, summarized quarter notices were used to determine the underlying cause of death, if possible. Determination of the AIDs cases was set to the most important things in the list, which was done from the abstracted quarterly notifications from the questionnaires.

5. Is Vedantu a reliable website for knowing about AIDs disease?

Vedantu is the most reliable website for referring to information about AIDs disease. Being one of the most dangerous diseases in the world with no proper treatment or cure, the world's physicians are still under pressure to decipher the way to save a person from this disease. The Vedantu website contains authentic or updated information about this disease and thus the readers and viewers can rely on this source of information for perfect knowledge about the disease and its prevention also.

259 HIV Essay Topic Ideas & Examples

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Institute of Medicine (US) Committee to Study HIV Transmission Through Blood and Blood Products; Leveton LB, Sox HC Jr., Stoto MA, editors. HIV And The Blood Supply: An Analysis Of Crisis Decisionmaking. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1995.

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HIV And The Blood Supply: An Analysis Of Crisis Decisionmaking.

  • Hardcopy Version at National Academies Press

8 Conclusions and Recommendations

The HIV epidemic has taught scientists, clinicians, public health officials, and the public that new infectious agents can still emerge. The nation must be prepared to deal with a fatal illness whose cause is initially unknown but whose epidemiology suggests it is an infectious disease. The AIDS epidemic has also taught us another powerful and tragic lesson: that the nation's blood supply—because it is derived from humans—is highly vulnerable to contamination with an infectious agent. A nation's blood supply is a unique, essential, life-giving resource. Whole blood and many blood products are lifesaving for many people. As a whole, our nation's system works effectively to supply the nation with necessary blood and blood products and its quality control mechanisms check most human safety threats. The events of the early 1980s, however, revealed an important weakness in the system—in its ability to deal with a new threat that was characterized by substantial uncertainty. The potential for recurring threats to the blood supply led this Committee to reappraise the processes, policies, and resources through which our society attempts to preserve its supply of safe blood and blood products.

  • General Conclusions

The events and decisions that the Committee has analyzed underscore the difficulty of decisionmaking when the stakes are high, when decisionmakers may have personal or institutional biases, and when knowledge is imprecise and incomplete. The Committee attempted to understand the complexities of the decisionmaking process during the period analyzed in this report and develop lessons to protect the blood supply in the future. In retrospect, the system was not dealing well with contemporaneous blood safety issues such as hepatitis, and was not prepared to deal with the far greater challenge of AIDS .

By January 1983, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) had accumulated enough epidemiological evidence to conclude that the agent causing AIDS was almost certainly transmitted through blood and blood products and could be sexually transmitted to sexual partners. The conclusion that the AIDS agent was blood-borne rested on two findings. First, AIDS was occurring in transfusion recipients and individuals with hemophilia who had received AHF concentrate; these AIDS patients did not belong to any other known high-risk group for contracting AIDS. Second, the epidemiologic pattern of AIDS was similar to hepatitis B, another blood-borne disease. However, the magnitude and consequences of the risk for transfusion and blood product recipients was not known at this time. Furthermore, the epidemiological pattern of the new disease was difficult to interpret because, unlike most infectious diseases, there seemed to be several years between exposure leading to infection and the development of symptoms. As a result, physicians and public health officials underestimated the large number of infectious people who had no symptoms of AIDS but could transmit the disease to others and therefore substantially understated the risk of infection.

Compared to the pace of many regulatory and public health decision processes, the federal government responded relatively swiftly to the early warnings that AIDS might be transmitted through blood and blood products. Public and private sector officials considered a range of clinical and public health interventions for reducing the risk of AIDS transmission through blood and blood products. This period, however, was characterized by a great deal of scientific uncertainty about the risks of HIV infection through blood and blood products and about the costs and benefits of the available options. The result, the Committee found, was a pattern of responses which, while not in conflict with the available scientific information, was very cautious and exposed the decisionmakers and their organizations to a minimum of criticism. This limited response can be seen in the refusal of blood banks in 1983 and 1984 to screen for and defer homosexuals or use surrogate tests ( Chapter 5 ), in the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) cautious and inadequate regulatory approach to the recall of potentially contaminated AHF concentrate ( Chapter 6 ), and in the failure of physicians and the National Hemophilia Foundation to disclose completely the risks of using AHF concentrate and the alternatives to its use ( Chapter 7 ).

Blood safety is a shared responsibility of many diverse organizations. They include U.S. Public Health Service agencies such as the CDC, the FDA, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and private-sector organizations such as community blood banks and the American Red Cross, blood and plasma collection agencies, blood product manufacturers, groups such as the National Hemophilia Foundation (NHF), and others. The problems the Committee found were inadequate leadership and inadequate institutional decisionmaking processes in 1983 and 1984. No person or agency was able to coordinate all of the organizations sharing the public health responsibility for achieving a safe blood supply.

Decisionmaking Under Uncertainty

The management of a public health risk requires an evolving process of decisionmaking under uncertainty. It includes interpretive judgment in the presence of scientific uncertainty and disagreement about values. Public health officials must characterize and estimate the magnitude of the risk, which involves considering both the likelihood that infection might occur in various circumstances, and the costs and benefits associated with each of the possible uncertain outcomes. They must also develop and test public health and clinical care strategies, and communicate with the public about the risk and strategies for reducing it. When confronted with a poorly understood and anomalous public health threat, inertia often influences decisions. It is often easier to maintain the status quo than to make a change. In fact, regulatory policymakers, health scientists, and medical experts often require substantial scientific evidence before informing the public and adopting remedial action. Lack of scientific consensus becomes a kind of amplifier for the usual discord and conflict that can be expected whenever an important science-based public policy decision—one profoundly affecting lives and economic interests—must be made. First, uncertainty creates opportunities for advocates of self-interested and ideological viewpoints to advance plausible arguments that favor their desired outcome. Second, uncertainty intensifies bureaucrat cautiousness.

In the course of its investigations, the Committee learned several lessons about decisionmaking under uncertainty. These are set out here both as general lessons and to provide a framework for the recommendations that follow.

Risk Perception

Risk perception is shaped by social tensions, and cultural, political, and economic biases (Douglas 1985). It is important to understand the different contexts in which risk is perceived and the complex system of beliefs, values, and ideals that shape risk perception (Nelkin 1989). There are several other factors that influence risk perception, including locus of control, the type of risk posed by the threat, and the time interval involved in evaluating the risk. For example, people tend to underestimate risks that they perceive to be under their control, risks associated with a familiar situation, and low probability events (Douglas 1985). People have difficulty accepting estimates of a risk that is involuntary, uncertain, unfamiliar, and potentially catastrophic (Fischoff 1987). The epidemic caused by HIV in the blood supply illustrates these patterns of perception and behavior with respect to risk.

Risk Assessment Versus Risk Management

A central precept of risk management is to separate the assessment of risk from the management of its consequences (NRC 1983). Otherwise, risk managers tend to bias their estimates of the magnitude of the risk in favor of their preconceived notions about appropriate or desirable policy choices. The events that the Committee studied provide examples of what can happen when this precept is not followed. When there is uncertainty, it may be necessary to assess risk by making subjective estimates rather than by obtaining objective measures. Such was the case in 1983 when, as part of implicit risk-benefit calculations about donor screening and deferral, blood banks and blood product manufacturers had to make judgments about the risk that their products could transmit AIDS (see Chapter 5 ). Anticipating the consequences of taking action, which is in the domain of risk management, may bias risk estimates toward values that support risk-averse action. When blood bank officials estimated the risk of transmitting AIDS as ''one per million" transfusions, they chose a rate that was low enough to justify their reluctance to take further action. Despite mounting evidence that the risk was much higher, they maintained their original estimate throughout 1983. If the CDC had made numeric estimates of the risk, and the blood banks, blood product manufacturers, or the FDA had used these estimates in a formal analysis of the decision problem, they might have reached different conclusions about, for example, surrogate testing for AIDS.

Consider the Full Range of Possibilities

When there is uncertainty about the facts that will determine the consequences of a decision, a systematic approach is usually best (NRC 1994). One important principle is to consider the full range of assumptions and alternative actions, not only worst-case scenarios. In the events studied by the Committee, systematic denial of worst-case scenarios was a recurring theme, as can be seen in the way that the NHF and the FDA discussed the CDC's warnings in 1982 and early 1983. The plasma fractionators introduced a worst case scenario of their own at the July 1983 Blood Products Advisory Committee (BPAC) meeting, when they estimated that three or four suspect donors and an automatic recall policy could lead to recall of all of the nation's supply of AHF concentrate ( Chapter 6 ). A closely related principle is to scrutinize the evidence to ascertain what is based on fact, what is a "best-guess" estimate, and what is simply untested conventional wisdom.

One approach to such an analysis would be to use a formal group process to systematically sample expert opinion on relevant factors such as the probability of infection and the economic and noneconomic costs and benefits of each of the possible outcomes. Often these officials should use decision analysis, which takes into account the likelihood of events and the magnitude of their outcomes, as a tool to compare the expected value of the outcome of the policy alternatives under consideration. Two somewhat analogous models to consider include those used in Institute of Medicine studies to establish priorities for the development of new vaccines (IOM 1985) and to evaluate the artificial heart program of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (IOM 1991). The book Acceptable Risk (Fischoff, et al. 1981) also offers sensible approaches to dealing with this kind of situation.

Risk Reduction Versus Zero Risk

Decisionmakers tend to seek zero-risk solutions even when they are unattainable or unrealistically costly (NRC 1994). In doing so, they may run the risk of failing to implement solutions that are less effective but are certain to reduce illness. The failure to adopt risk-reduction strategies can be seen in the resistance of blood banks to screening for homosexual activity or using surrogate tests for AIDS ( Chapter 5 ) and in FDA's limited approach to product recall decisions ( Chapter 6 ). Chapter 7 also points out that many risk-reduction strategies for individuals with hemophilia were available but not fully disclosed or recommended. The perfect should not be the enemy of the good.

Risk Communication

Risk communication is a sensitive area because of its influence on the perceptions and behaviors of health professionals and consumers, regulatory policies, and public decisionmaking (Nelkin 1989). Many public health officials and physicians wish to appear in command and infallible. When uncertain, they remain silent rather than disclose their ambivalence (NRC 1989). In the Committee's view, however, the greater the uncertainty, the greater the need for communication. The Committee's analysis of physician–patient communications at the beginning of the AIDS era illustrates the tragedies that can accompany silence about risks ( Chapter 7 ). Risk-communication skills are equally important when presenting information to the general public. The blood banks' reluctance to acknowledge the risk of transfusion-associated AIDS ( Chapter 5 ) seems to have been due in part to the difficulties that they foresaw in presenting this information to potential donors and recipients.

Other important principles of risk communication are that the source of the information must be credible, the process should be open and two-way, and the message should be balanced and accurate (NRC 1989). When there was no other sources of information for physicians treating people with hemophilia and for their patients, the NHF and its Medical and Scientific Advisory Council (MASAC) took on an important risk-communication role—providing what would now be called "clinical practice guidelines." The NHF's credibility in this area was eventually seriously compromised by its financial connections to the plasma fractionation industry.

Bureaucratic Management of Potential Crises

Federal agencies had the primary responsibility for dealing with the national emergency posed by the AIDS epidemic. The Committee scrutinized bureaucratic function closely, and came to the following conclusions about the management of potential crises.

Coordination and Leadership

A crisis calls for extraordinary leadership. Legal and competitive concerns may inhibit effective action by agencies of the federal government. Similarly, when policymaking occurs against a backdrop of a great deal of scientific uncertainty, bureaucratic standard operating procedures designed for routine circumstances seem to take over unless there is a clear-cut decisionmaking hierarchy. An effective leader will insist upon coordinated planning and execution. Focusing efforts and responsibilities, setting timetables and agendas, and assuming accountability for expeditious action cannot be left to ordinary standard operating procedures. These actions are the responsibilities of the highest levels of the public health establishment.

The Public Health Service failed to bring these leadership functions to bear when CDC scientists raised concerns about the blood supply at the January 4, 1983 meeting but received no public support from the director of the CDC or the office of the Assistant Secretary for Health. Similarly, the record does not indicate that the highest levels of the FDA or the PHS were involved in responding to advice from the BPAC regarding donor deferral or product recall. Part of this leadership problem may stem from major changes in the PHS leadership that took place during this period: the leadership of the FDA, the CDC, and the NIH, and the person serving as the Assistant Secretary for Health all changed between 1982 and 1984.

Advisory Mechanisms

In the early 1980s, the FDA and other agencies did not have a systematic approach to conducting advisory committee proceedings. Such an approach requires that agencies tell their advisory committees what is expected of them, keep attention focused on high-priority topics, and independently evaluate the advice offered. No regulatory process should have its information base effectively controlled by an advisory panel. Public agencies must be able to generate and analyze the information that they need to assure that decisions serve the needs of the public. The FDA failed to observe this principle when it allowed statements and recommendations of the BPAC to go unchallenged, apparently because it could not independently analyze the information ( Chapter 6 ).

Because mistakes will always be made and opportunities sometimes missed, regulatory structures must be organized and managed to assure both the reality and the continuous appearance of propriety. The prominence of representatives from blood banks and blood product manufacturers on the BPAC, with no balancing influence from consumers and no process within the FDA to evaluate its recommendations ( Chapter 6 ), is a failure of advisory committee management. Perhaps advisory committees should contain fewer topical experts and more members with expertise in principles of good decisionmaking and the evaluation of evidence. A committee so constituted might run a reduced risk of standing accused of having conflicts of interest.

Analytic Capability and Long-Range Vision

Leadership passes to the organization that has access to information and the ability to analyze it. Federal agencies should avoid exclusive reliance upon the entities which they regulate for analysis of data and modeling of decision problems. The FDA should have had some independent capacity to analyze the information presented at the July 1983 BPAC meeting that suggested that with only three or four suspect donors, an automatic recall policy would completely deplete the nation's supply of AHF concentrate ( Chapter 6 ). In addition, there did not seem to be any focus within the Public Health Service prepared to, or charged to, analyze the options, costs, and benefits of the options for protecting the blood supply that were discussed at the January 4, 1983, meeting convened by CDC.

In addition, agencies need to monitor more systematically the long-term outcomes of blood transfusion and blood product infusion and to think far ahead to anticipate both new technologies and new threats to the safety of the blood supply. Because new pathogens can enter the blood supply and be propagated very rapidly through it, a low level of suspicion about a threat should trigger high-level consideration of how to manage and monitor the problem.

Through its fact-finding interviews and through written documents, the Committee found little evidence that the PHS agency heads and the Assistant Secretary for Health were involved in making decisions about protecting the blood supply in 1983 and 1984 when HIV was becoming increasing apparent as a threat. Most decisions and interagency communication seems to have occurred several levels below the top.

Presumptive Regulatory and Public Health Triggers

The Committee believes that the Public Health Service should prepare for future threats to the blood supply by specifying in advance the types of actions that should occur once the level of concern passes a threshold. In the face of scientific uncertainty, the PHS needs a series of criteria or triggers for taking regulatory or other public health actions to protect the safety of blood and blood products. The Committee favors a series of triggers in which the response is proportional to the magnitude of the risk and the quality of the information on which the risk estimate is based. Not all triggers should lead to drastic or irrevocable actions; some merely require careful consideration of the options or developing new information. This general principle is detailed by examples in each of the Committee's four areas of inquiry. Table 8.1 summarizes these triggers and corresponding actions.

Table 8.1.. Triggers for Taking Actions in Response to Uncertain.

Triggers for Taking Actions in Response to Uncertain.

Product Treatment

Whenever they propose new methods of protecting the safety of the blood supply, blood regulatory agencies must perform cost-utility or cost-benefit analyses to evaluate whether the intervention will advance the public health at reasonable costs. If manufacturers do not have market incentives, resources, or access to data to test promising methods, public agencies should create incentives or provide resources or access to data. In this case, the trigger is a new proposal to increase safety, and the action is for the public sector to assume responsibility for thorough analysis and development, or to create incentives for industry to do so.

When performing a cost-effectiveness analysis of new treatments for blood products, the potential to protect against other threats should always be a part of the analysis. Here, the trigger is the initiation of a cost-effectiveness analysis, and the action is to ensure that the analysis takes into account secondary benefits.

Donor Screening

Whenever epidemiologists identify a high-risk donor group, the FDA should immediately tell blood banks to create a way to defer that group and tell collection agencies to segregate and separately treat supplies obtained from those populations. Concerns about stigmatizing subpopulations and maintaining the supply of blood products should influence the means of taking actions, not whether to take action. In this case, the trigger to action is the identification of a high-risk population, and the action is deferral and segregation of lots.

Whenever any segment of the industry institutes a donor screening program, the FDA should require all segments of the industry to follow suit with actions that they believe will be at least as effective in promoting safety. Public regulators have a responsibility to monitor these efforts and to forge consensus or to impose the most effective methods as information concerning efficacy becomes available. Here, the trigger is one company's action to take an additional safety measure, and the response is for all companies to follow suit, or to be held accountable when they do not.

Blood banks should use a partially effective intervention that has little or no risk unless they can show that a better method will rapidly supersede it. In this case the trigger is the availability of an inherently risk-free, partially effective intervention, and the response to use that test/intervention unless it is certain to become redundant prior to realizing its full benefits.

When a test or treatment makes a product safer, manufacturers should withdraw all stocks of untested or untreated product as quickly as possible. Where immediate complete withdrawal might injure the public health, withdrawals should be partial or staged. Here, the trigger is the implementation of a new test or treatment process, and the action is to recall untested or untreated products as expeditiously as possible, given other considerations of public health.

A limited, staged, or selective recall places responsibility on public regulatory agencies to establish criteria for selecting lots for recall, to provide processes to permit effective implementation of the recall by industry, and to monitor the recall to assure that removal of the products occurs in the prescribed manner. In this case the trigger is the initiation of a recall action, and the response is to provide clear guidance and monitoring.

Communication to Patients and Providers

Whenever new information triggers inquiry into a possible threat to the blood supply, both patients and their physicians should have access to the information. Public officials should presume that candid statements and rigorous actions will enhance rather than erode public confidence and that persons using blood or blood products have the right to understand fully the risks and benefits of using these products. In this case, the trigger is new information relevant to the public health, and the action is to tell affected individuals what they need to make an informed choice: the facts, the gaps in knowledge, and the implications thereof.

  • Recommendations

The Committee's charge was to learn from the events of the early 1980s the lessons that would help the nation prepare for future threats to the blood supply. The Committee identified potential problems with the system in place at that time (as summarized earlier in this chapter) and proposes changes that, if implemented in the early 1980s, might have moderated some of the effects of the AIDS epidemic on recipients of blood and blood products. This analysis has led the Committee to the following recommendations for Public Health Service agencies, for the blood and plasma fractionation industry, and for health care providers and the public. These recommendations address both public health options and individual clinical options.

The Committee is mindful of several caveats. First, the Committee is acutely aware of the difficulties of retrospective analysis, as described in Chapter 1 . Second, the Committee has not considered its recommendations from perspectives other than blood safety. Finally, the Committee tried to identify opportunities for institutional change that would respond to the problems that the Committee diagnosed. The Committee based its recommendations on the institutions as they functioned in the early 1980s, not as they exist now. The organizations responsible for blood safety and public health will have to evaluate their current policies and procedures to see if they fully address the issues raised by our recommendations.

The Public Health Service

Several federal agencies necessarily play important, often different roles in managing a public health crisis such as the contamination of blood and blood products by the AIDS virus. The National Blood Policy of 1973 charged the Public Health Service (including the CDC, the FDA, and the NIH) with responsibility for protecting the nation's blood supply.

The Committee has come to believe that a failure of leadership contributed to delay in taking effective action, at least during the period from 1982 to 1984. This failure led to incomplete donor screening policies, weak regulatory actions, and insufficient communication to patients about the risks of AIDS .

In the event of a threat to the blood supply, the PHS must, as in any public health crisis, insist upon coordinated action. The Secretary of Health and Human Services is responsible for all the agencies of the Public Health Service, 1 and therefore the Committee makes

Recommendation 1: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should designate a Blood Safety Director, at the level of a deputy assistant secretary or higher, to be responsible for the federal government's efforts to maintain the safety of the nation's blood supply.

Choosing a "lead person" is important because it is in the nature of federal agencies and their leaders to be at once competitive and protective. This condition is healthy in reasonable measure and in normal times. However, a serious threat to public health requires that agencies communicate, cooperate, and learn to view the world through each other's lenses. Once there is an action plan, the Secretary of Health and Human Services must hold the agency leaders accountable for enforcing cooperation in implementing the plan.

To be effective in coordinating the various agencies of the PHS, the Blood Safety Director should be at the level of a deputy assistant secretary or higher, and should not be a representative of any single PHS agency. When a threat does arise, the Blood Safety Director should create a crisis management team.

One such action was to establish, in July 1982, the Committee on Opportunistic Infections in Hemophiliacs (see Chapter 3 ). This group seems to have been organized by the CDC, but there is no record of its operations after August of that year.

Blood Safety Council

The AIDS crisis revealed that the institutions in place to ensure blood safety, both public and private, were unable to work cooperatively toward a common goal of a safe blood supply. The institutions were not accountable to anyone but themselves, and they failed to cooperate, to coordinate their activities, and to communicate effectively with physicians and the public. The Committee has become convinced that the nation needs a far more responsive and integrated process to detect, evaluate, and respond to emerging threats to the blood supply. To this end the Committee makes

Recommendation 2: The PHS should establish a Blood Safety Council to assess current and potential future threats to the blood supply, to propose strategies for overcoming these threats, to evaluate the response of the PHS to these proposals, and to monitor the implementation of these strategies. The Council should report to the Blood Safety Director (see Recommendation 1). The Council should also serve to alert scientists about the needs and opportunities for research to maximize the safety of blood and blood products. The Blood Safety Council should take the lead to ensure the education of public health officials, clinicians, and the public about the nature of threats to our nation's blood supply and the public health strategies for dealing with these threats.

Supplying safe blood and blood products to the nation—a public good—requires the cooperation of public and private institutions. The Blood Safety Council would give voice to the public's interest in having these institutions cooperate and would provide opportunities for them to do so.

The lessons of HIV transmission through blood and blood products show the need for an advisory council with a significantly greater level of diversity, responsibility, and authority than the current Blood Products Advisory Committee of the FDA. The BPAC is limited by the regulatory mission of the FDA which it advises, and there is no other body primarily concerned with blood safety as a whole. Representatives from governmental agencies, academia, the blood bank community, industry, and the public all have relevant expertise and perspectives and should be involved in the Blood Safety Council. A broad-based range of expertise in areas of hematology, infectious diseases, epidemiology, blood product manufacturing, blood collection and delivery, risk assessment, consumer advocacy, and cost-benefit analysis is essential.

The proposed Blood Safety Council would facilitate the timely transmission of information, assessment of risk, and initiation of appropriate action both during times of stability and during a crisis. The Council should report to the Blood Safety Director (see Recommendation 1). The Council would not replace the PHS agencies responsible for blood safety but would complement them by providing a forum for them to work together and with private organizations. The PHS agencies would be represented on the Council (see below and Figure 8.1 ). The Council would not have its own surveillance capability, but would work with CDC and FDA to interpret the information that those organizations can provide. It would not carry out or fund research itself, but would work with those at NIH and in the private sector to identify priorities for blood safety research. The Council would not have regulatory power, but would inform FDA actions from a blood safety rather than a product-specific perspective.

Figure 8.1.

Blood Safety Council relationships.

The organizations and groups that should be included in the Blood Safety Council, and the reasons for including them, are as follows:

  • The FDA can provide a direct link between itself, the essential regulatory agency responsible for the safety of blood and blood products, and important sources of information, scientific support, and disease surveillance findings.
  • The CDC can provide expertise in epidemiology, infectious diseases, and immunology as well as communicate the results of ongoing disease surveillance studies. The CDC's newly established emerging infectious disease program would also provide valuable information.
  • The NIH can provide scientific expertise and the means to communicate information about essential research needs to the appropriate institutes for support of research.
  • Representatives from academia can bring independent scientific and medical expertise, especially in hematology, infectious diseases, epidemiology, risk assessment, and cost-effectiveness analysis.
  • Representatives from the volunteer blood collection community can bring experience with blood safety concerns and the knowledge of blood bank operations that is necessary to evaluate proposed change.
  • Representatives from the private-sector blood product manufacturers and biotechnology companies can bring both experience with blood safety concerns and knowledge of plasma fractionation operations.
  • Representatives of the general public (who may in the future require blood transfusions) and individuals who currently require frequent use of blood products, such as hemophilia patients, bring important perspectives on the trade-offs that must be considered in evaluating response options.

The Blood Safety Council should consider the following activities and issues:

Surveillance. Although the FDA and the CDC keep track of events in blood and blood product recipients, their surveillance systems are passive and incomplete. The Blood Safety Council should work with the CDC to design a system of active surveillance for adverse reactions in blood recipients, as described in Recommendation 5 below. If such a system is established, the Council would benefit from its results and should participate in its governance.

Expert Panel on Best Practices . Drawing on its members' knowledge about blood and blood product safety concerns, and about clinical alternatives, the Blood Safety Council could establish a panel of experts to provide the public and providers of care with information about risks and benefits, alternatives to using blood products, and recommended best practices, as described in more detail in Recommendation 13 below.

Investigate Methods to Make Blood Products Safer. The Council should evaluate new methods to make blood and blood products safer. One promising approach is double inactivation in the preparation of blood products, which minimizes the risk of transmission of infectious pathogens in the blood of the donor pool. At present, the FDA requires only a single inactivation process (usually solvent detergent or heat treatment) for most blood products manufactured in the United States. With the goal of maximizing the safety of the blood supply at minimal added cost, the Blood Safety Council should encourage the FDA to evaluate double inactivation methods and expeditiously relicense products manufactured by the improved technologies, if appropriate. The Blood Safety Council should also consider, at least yearly, in a public forum, opportunities to maximize the safety of the blood supply.

Another promising approach is to reconsider minimum pool size requirements in plasma product manufacturing. The FDA currently requires a large number of donors to be included in plasma pools used in the manufacture of plasma products in order to ensure a wide range of antibodies in preparations of intravenous gamma globulin. Pooling of plasma obtained from numerous donors, although permitting some economy of scale, also increases the risk that a large fraction of manufactured blood products will be contaminated by a single infected donor. The Blood Safety Council should consider this issue and address the safety and efficiency trade-offs in changing the minimum pool size.

The Blood Safety Council would provide information relevant to the decisions that individuals as well as public and private decisionmakers need to make. The forum would not have direct regulatory or other authority, but would function as a forum for holding the organizations with authority responsible for blood safety. In short, the Blood Safety Council could advocate the public's need for a responsible process for decisionmaking about public health policy. The following examples illustrate how regular public discussions of blood safety issues, in the presence of representatives from the relevant organizations' perspectives, could provide an opportunity to hold the organizations with authority accountable for blood safety.

If it had existed in the 1970s, for instance, the Blood Safety Council might have called for the development of heat-treated AHF concentrate to reduce the risk of hepatitis, which would have also reduced the risk of HIV transmission. It would have been able to do so if the NIH and blood products industry representatives on the Council had been called upon to make periodic reports to the Council during the 1970s about their efforts to deal with the hepatitis problem. These representatives would have fed the discussions of the Council back into their own organizations' decisionmaking.

In 1983, the Council could have provided a forum for CDC to present its concerns about HIV in the blood supply and held the FDA, the NHF, and the blood banks and fractionators accountable for responding constructively. CDC created a forum on its own by convening the January 4, 1983, meeting in Atlanta, but as the Committee's analysis indicates, the follow-up on this meeting was insufficient. If a standing Blood Safety Council had existed, the CDC scientists who had concerns about the safety of blood and blood products would have had an opportunity to hold blood collection organizations accountable for their decisions regarding donor deferral and surrogate testing. It would also provide an opportunity to hold plasma fractionators and the FDA accountable for its decisions with regard to heat-treated AHF.

Later that year, the Council could have provided a mechanism to evaluate the claims that automatic recall of AHF would have virtually eliminated the supply of AHF. As the analysis in Chapter 6 indicates, neither the BPAC nor the FDA staff had the capacity to analyze claims that a automatic recall would have such an effect. The Blood Safety Council could have insisted that the FDA commission a formal decision analysis of the options for surrogate testing, or the Council might have performed such an analysis itself. The FDA would retain its regulatory authority, and continue to get advice from the BPAC, but the Council would have provided critical information relevant to the agency's decision.

Finally, if the Council had established an expert panel on best practices as described above and in Recommendation 13, hemophilia patients and their physicians would have had a more credible source of information about the risks of HIV infection and their clinical options than the NHF was able to provide. The operations of such a panel are described below under Recommendation 13.

Compensation Policy

When a product or service provided for the public good has inherent risks, the common law tort system fails to protect the rightful interests of patients who suffer harm resulting from the use of those products or services. Each claim requires extended, costly, and complex adjudicative procedures to establish liability. The results are erratic and unpredictable, and therefore inequitable (IOM 1985).

The doctrine of strict liability holds manufacturers accountable for injuries that are incurred from products that are inherently dangerous because diligence cannot fully eliminate their risks. The public health imperative of assuring enough vaccine for widespread use argues for limits on the strict liability doctrine for vaccine-related injuries. The chief concern is that fear of liability will discourage manufacturers from producing a vital public good. To vitate this concern, a federal compensation system has removed vaccine-related injuries from the scope of strict liability laws (Mariner 1992). The federal government established a mechanism for compensating individuals suffering harm from vaccine-related complications. Its rationale is that consent to undergo vaccination confers benefits to the entire community.

Blood -product-related injuries have also been removed from the scope of strict liability law by blood shield laws, which are in force in most states, and which protect society's interests in having an adequate blood supply. The blood shield laws serve to protect providers and manufacturers of blood and blood products from liability claims in instances where they take all due care to ensure the safety of the product. These laws, however, are unique in the manner in which they limit liability. The shield laws have made it difficult, and often impossible, to obtain compensation for HIV infection acquired from blood or blood products. To address this asymmetry between the protection that blood shield laws offer for manufacturers and adequate protection of individual rights, the Committee makes

Recommendation 3: The federal government should consider establishing a no-fault compensation system for individuals who suffer adverse consequences from the use of blood or blood products. 2

An effective no-fault system requires prospective standards and procedures to guide its operations. In a no-fault system, individual plaintiffs would not have to prove that their adverse outcome was a result of negligence related to manufacture of a blood product. Therefore, there needs to be an objective, science-based process to establish which categories of adverse outcomes are caused by blood-borne pathogens and which individual cases deserve compensation. As with vaccines, a tax or fee paid by all manufacturers or by the recipients of blood products could finance a compensation system. Rather than attempt to allocate blame for HIV infections through blood and blood products, some countries have established such no-fault compensation programs for individuals infected with HIV as a result of their use of blood and blood products. Countries fund these programs in a variety of ways, including direct government support and joint public/private resources.

Making recommendations about compensating affected individuals for damages incurred in the past is outside the Committee's mandate. However, had there been a no-fault compensation system in the early 1980s, it could have relieved much financial hardship suffered by many who became infected with HIV through blood and blood products in the United States. The no-fault principles outlined in this recommendation might serve to guide policymakers as they consider whether to implement a compensation system for those infected in the 1980s.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The CDC has an indispensable role to play in protecting our nation's health: to detect potential public health risks and sound the alert. Because of its expertise in detecting and evaluating possible infectious disease outbreaks, the Committee believes that the CDC should take responsibility for a surveillance system to detect adverse outcomes from blood and blood products. The following two recommendations embody an important principle: separating the assessment of risk from the management of the consequences of risk. The FDA, in its role as guarantor of the safety of the blood supply, has the responsibility for managing threats to the blood supply. The CDC should detect potential threats and assess the magnitude of the danger.

Early Warning Systems

A nation needs individuals and organizations that identify problems and raise concerns that may be difficult to confront. The CDC plays this role in the Public Health Service. The CDC appears to have been prescient in raising the possibility that the blood supply was contaminated early in the AIDS epidemic, but it was relatively ineffective in convincing other agencies of the potential gravity of the situation. In order to improve CDC's efficacy in this critical role, the Committee makes

Recommendation 4: Other federal agencies must understand, support, and respond to the CDC's responsibility to serve as the nation's early warning system for threats to the health of the public.

Officials in the government, scientists, and physicians in the private sector seem to have discounted the CDC warnings about the transmissibility of AIDS through blood and blood products because the swine flu episode in the 1970s had cost the agency considerable credibility. If, in 1983, the involved public and private organizations had the attitude called for in this recommendation, CDC's recommendations regarding donor screening and surrogate testing might have led to earlier, more effective screening and donor deferral policies.

Consistent with the precept of separating risk assessment and risk management as described above, CDC's role is to characterize and assess risks, and communicate this to others. The FDA and other organizations have the responsibility to manage the risks through regulation, clinical practice guidelines, and other means. The Committee believes that CDC should be able to play its designated role without fearing loss of credibility if it sometimes proves to be wrong. Implementing this recommendation may be difficult. As a start, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should insist that an agency that wishes to disregard a CDC alert should support its position with evidence that meets the same standard as that used by the CDC in raising the alert.


In order to carry out its early warning responsibility effectively, the CDC needs good surveillance systems. Because blood products are derived from human beings and may contain harmful biologic agents that were present in the blood of a donor, blood products are inherently risky, a principle long recognized by blood shield laws. The Committee, believing that the degree of surveillance should be proportional to the level of risk, makes

Recommendation 5: The PHS should establish a surveillance system, lodged in the CDC, that will detect, monitor, and warn of adverse effects in the recipients of blood and blood products.

If such a system had existed in 1982, data about the risks of HIV transmission through blood and blood products might have been available sooner and might have been more definitive. In dealing with newly approved pharmaceuticals, the FDA increasingly demands careful post-approval study of potential adverse effects (the so-called ''Phase IV Trial"). Two existing systems for vaccine adverse events—the CDC/FDA Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) and the CDC's Large-Linked Database (LLDB)—might be useful models (Institute of Medicine 1994).

The Food and Drug Administration

The FDA has legal authority to protect the safety of the nation's blood supply. Accordingly, it is the lead federal agency in regulating blood-banking practice, the handling of source plasma, and the manufacture of blood products from plasma. The Committee found cause for concern when it evaluated the FDA's actions in protecting the public from HIV in the nation's blood supply during the 1980s. The record reveals many opportunities to improve the agency's capacity to deal with crises involving the blood supply, most notably with respect to the safety of AHF concentrate. In responding to these opportunities, the Committee's recommendations focus on decisionmaking and the role of advisory committees in formulating the FDA's response to crises.

Risk Reduction

In a crisis, decisionmakers may become so preoccupied with seeking solutions that will dramatically reduce danger that they will fail to implement solutions that are less effective but are likely to improve public safety to some degree. Partially effective risk-reducing improvements, as described herein, can save lives, pending the development of more efficacious safety measures. In order that the perfect not be the enemy of the good, the Committee makes

Recommendation 6: Where uncertainties or countervailing public health concerns preclude completely eliminating potential risks, the FDA should encourage, and where necessary require, the blood industry to implement partial solutions that have little risk of causing harm.

In the event of a future threat to the blood supply, the FDA should encourage small, low-risk solutions to large, difficult problems. The FDA's actions during the early 1980s are evidence that the agency should change its attitude toward regulation in order to adopt this proactive approach. Some examples from Chapter 6 illustrate how the FDA might have encouraged practices that would have reduced the risk faced by recipients of blood or a blood product.

Example: Destroy Unscreened Blood When Possible . When hospital blood banks first started to screen donors by questioning them for risk factors, there was a period of transition during which its stocks contained two classes of blood or plasma: blood from screened donors, which was relatively safe; and blood from unscreened donors, which had a higher probability of containing HIV. Within a few weeks of starting to screen donors, blood from unscreened donors would have been either used or discarded. In the instructions contained in its letter of March 24, 1983, the FDA could have recommended that blood banks adopt a policy of using blood from screened donors whenever possible during the transition period, a policy that some blood banks may have adopted on their own. Requiring all blood banks to adopt this policy would not have compromised the nation's blood supply, and it would have prevented at least a few instances in which a patient received an infected unit of blood.

Example: Destruction of Potentially Contaminated Cryoprecipitate . Blood banks store cryoprecipitate from a single unit of donated blood in the frozen state for up to one year. The FDA could have issued a directive that required the blood banks to check their inventory of frozen cryoprecipitate and destroy possibly contaminated units whenever they learned of a previous donor who had AIDS or was strongly suspected of having AIDS.

Example: Phased Recall. In July 1983, there was considerable reluctance to recall untreated Factor VIII concentrate at a time when much of the supply was almost certainly contaminated with HIV. The FDA apparently feared that the ensuing shortage of Factor VIII would have caused more harm than the HIV virus. A phased withdrawal would have been a compromise between no withdrawal and immediate total withdrawal. This middle path might have avoided a factor concentrate shortage and still reduced the number of hemophiliacs who became infected.

Example: Lookback. The FDA formally instituted a "lookback" policy in 1991, years after it was clear that AIDS had a long incubation period during which a patient could transmit HIV through sexual contact or contact with blood. Lookback required blood banks to contact recipients of blood from infected donors and notify them that they might be a HIV carrier and should be tested for HIV antibodies. Earlier action on lookback might have reduced secondary transmission of HIV.

Decision Processes

In all fields, decisionmaking under uncertainty requires an iterative process. As the knowledge base for a decision changes, the responsible agency should reexamine the facts and be prepared to change its decision. The agency should also assign specific responsibility for monitoring conditions and identifying opportunities for change. In order to implement these principles at the FDA, the Committee makes

Recommendation 7: The FDA should periodically review important decisions that it made when it was uncertain about the value of key decision variables.

An example illustrates the principle of iterative decisionmaking. During 1983, most blood bank officials opposed asking prospective male donors if they had ever had sex with a man. They were worried that regular donors might take offense and stop donating blood. They were also concerned about some gays would lie about their homosexuality and donate blood in reprisal for being singled out as the target of the questioning. Eventually, some blood collection centers began to ask questions about sexual preference. If the FDA had carefully monitored these experiments, it would have soon learned that the blood bank officials' fears were groundless. The FDA might then have revised its requirements for donor screening to include direct questions about high-risk sexual practices.

Regulatory Efforts

Although the FDA has a great deal of regulatory power over the blood products industry, the agency appears to regulate by expressing its will in subtle, understated directives. This informal approach to regulation is often necessary to permit a timely response and to preserve needed flexibility. The FDA used this approach, for example, in July 1983 when it issued recommendations to withdraw lots of AHF concentrate that plasma fractionators had identified as containing material from a donor that had AIDS . The language in the July 1983 communication failed to specify, however, whether the agency considered the recommendations to be binding on industry. While most regulated industries might have interpreted these letters as mandatory, that question should not have been left to the judgment of individual entities. Taking this into account, the Committee makes

Recommendation 8: Because regulators must rely heavily on the performance of the industry to accomplish blood safety goals, the FDA must articulate its requests or requirements in forms that are understandable and implementable by regulated entities. In particular, when issuing instructions to regulated entities, the FDA should specify clearly whether it is demanding specific compliance with legal requirements or is merely providing advice for careful consideration.

In 1983, the FDA chose a middle ground when faced with the decision to withdraw all AHF concentrate. The agency recommended that plasma fractionators withdraw individual lots of AHF concentrate when a donor was suspected of having AIDS . This decision was certainly defensible. However, the process for this "case-by-case" withdrawal was seriously compromised by the vagueness of the criteria specified for a recall. The agency failed to specify a process for deciding whether a donor may have had AIDS. The agency should have specified a process for reviewing donors who did not fully satisfy the diagnostic criteria for AIDS but who were suspected of having the disease. When deciding whether to withdraw a lot of AHF concentrate, the FDA asked plasma fractionators to take into account the time of the donation in relation to the diagnosis of AIDS and the effect of the recall on product availability. However, the FDA did not specify parameters for assessing either of these decision criteria. With greater forethought, the FDA could have avoided the potential for a seriously flawed implementation of a policy that otherwise appeared to balance benefits, risks, and harms.

Advisory Committees

The FDA made several decisions in 1983 that appear to have been influenced by the blood-industry-based (profit and nonprofit) members of the BPAC. The BPAC membership did not include individuals with expertise in the social, ethical, political, and economic aspects of the issues that BPAC was deliberating at the time. The FDA apparently did not seek independent analysis of the recommendations made by the members of the BPAC, some of whom were employed by the blood industry. In the early 1980s, the FDA appeared too reliant upon analyses provided by industry-based members of the BPAC and the BPAC. For example, see the discussion in Chapter 6 of the July 19, 1983, BPAC meeting which resulted in the decision for case-by-case rather than automatic recall of lots of AHF when one donor was suspected of having AIDs. Chapter 6 also contains a discussion of the December 15, 1983, BPAC meeting, which effectively curtailed actions on surrogate testing of blood for months. The Committee's analysis of the FDA's management of its advisory committee leads to the following three recommendations:

Recommendation 9: The FDA should ensure that the composition of the Blood Products Advisory Committee reflects a proper balance between members who are connected with the blood and blood products industry and members who are independent of industry.

The FDA should select some BPAC members because they can provide independent judgment, question the analyses provided by blood-industry-based BPAC members, and hold the FDA accountable for a high standard of public responsiveness. The BPAC should have at least one voting member who is a representative of consumer interests. BPAC members who vote to establish policy should have neither the appearance of a conflict of interest nor a true conflict of interest.

An agency that is practiced in orderly decisionmaking procedures will be able to respond to the much greater requirements of a crisis. The BPAC meetings cited before Recommendation 9 above provide examples to support this recommendation. Applying this principle to the use of advisory committees, the Committee makes

Recommendation 10: The FDA should tell its advisory committees what it expects from them and should independently evaluate their agendas and their performance.

The FDA staff and its advisory committees should structure their relationship so that they invigorate each other. The agency should hold an advisory committee accountable for its performance through periodic independent evaluation. By placing unresolved issues on future agendas, the committee can hold the FDA accountable for taking follow-up action between committee meetings. The IOM Committee to Study the Use of Advisory Committees by the Food and Drug Administration makes further recommendations to strengthen the FDA advisory committee system (IOM 1992).

Advisory committees provide scientific advice to the FDA; they do not make regulatory decisions for the agency (IOM 1992). As Chapter 6 indicates, the FDA in 1983 did not independently verify the estimates of the risk of blood-product-related HIV infection. The FDA did not analyze the public health implications of the BPAC's recommendation against automatic recall of AHF concentrate that contained plasma from donors suspected of having AIDS . The FDA's lack of independent information and its own analytic capacity meant that it had little choice but to incorporate the advice of the BPAC into its policy recommendations. To ensure the proper degree of independence between the FDA and the blood products industry, the Committee makes

Recommendation 11: The FDA should develop reliable sources of the information that it needs to make decisions about the blood supply. The FDA should have its own capacity to analyze this information and to predict the effects of regulatory decisions.

Communication to Physicians and Patients

One of the crucial elements of the system for collecting blood and distributing blood products to patients is the means by which to convey concern about the risks inherent in blood products. In today's practice of medicine, in contrast to that of the early 1980s, patients and physicians each accept a share of responsibility for making decisions. Patients' informed consent is required for risky procedures. From early 1983, it was clear that AHF concentrate was a risky product. The failure to tell hemophilia recipients of Factor VIII concentrate about the risks of this treatment and about alternative treatments seems especially serious in the light of present-day emphasis on the autonomy of patients in decisions involving their health.

Clinical Practice

One powerful lesson of the AIDS crisis is the importance of telling patients about the potential harms of the treatments that they are about to receive. The NHF dedicated itself to providing information to individuals with hemophilia and their physicians. Their strategy, however, was seriously flawed. As discussed in Chapter 7 , the NHF provided treatment advice, not the information on risks and alternatives that would enable physicians and patients to decide for themselves on a course of treatment. Hemophilia patients did not have the basis for informed choice about a difficult treatment decision.

Considerable scientific and medical uncertainties characterized the early years of the AIDS epidemic. For individuals medically dependent on the use of blood and blood products, these uncertainties created complex dilemmas about clinical options for their continued care. In instances of great uncertainty, it is crucial for patients to be fully apprised of the full range of options available to them and to become active participants in the evaluation of the relative risks and benefits of alternative treatments. As the case studies in Chapter 7 indicate, the failure to communicate adequately about these options prevented many hemophiliacs from making choices in which they accepted responsibility for balancing the risk of AIDS and the risks of bleeding. Ultimately the failure to communicate led to a powerful sense of betrayal that exacerbated the tragedy of the epidemic for many patients and their families. To encourage better communication, the Committee makes

Recommendation 12: When faced with a decision in which the options all carry risk, especially if the amount of risk is uncertain, physicians and patients should take extra care to discuss a wide range of options.

Medicine has many "gray areas" in which the correct course of action is not clear. Guidelines should identify these areas and spotlight the importance of full disclosure of risks, discussion of the broadest range of clinical options, and incorporation of the patient's preferences into an individualized recommendation. Given the inherent risks and uncertainties in all blood products, the public and the providers of care need expert, unbiased information about the blood supply. This information includes risks and benefits, alternatives to using blood products, and recommended best practices. As Chapter 7 indicates, the NHF (the only organization that stepped in to provide information to hemophiliacs and the physicians who were treating them) focused on practice recommendations rather than complete information on risks and options. In order to provide the public and providers of care with the information they need, the Committee makes

Recommendation 13: An expert panel should be created to inform the providers of care and the public about the risks associated with blood and blood products, about alternatives to using them, and about treatments that have the support of the scientific record.

One lesson of the AIDS crisis is that a well-established, orderly decisionmaking process is important for successfully managing a crisis. This applies as much to clinical decisionmaking as to the public health decision process addressed by the earlier recommendations. As the narrative indicates, there are both public health and clinical approaches to reducing the risk of blood-borne diseases. The Blood Safety Council called for in Recommendation 2 would deal primarily with risk assessment and in the public health domain, actions that would reduce the chance that blood products could be vectors of infectious agents. The primary responsibility of the expert panel on best practices called for in Recommendation 13 would be to provide the clinical information that physicians and their patients need to guide their individual health care choices. To be most effective, this panel should be lodged in the Blood Safety Council (see Recommendation 2) so that both bodies can interact and coordinate their activities in order to share information about emerging risks and clinical options.

Any organization that supplies this information must adhere to accepted norms for documenting evidence. The Committee believes that the public's interest would be best served by creating one publicly accountable source of this information. This function would build on the experience of the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, which has an established guideline development process and issues guidelines on topics such as the management of chronic pain, screening for AIDS , and management of urinary incontinence (El-Sadr, et al. 1994; Jacox, et al. 1994).

Experience in developing practice guidelines for hemophilia treatment and blood transfusion is an important element of preparedness for future threats to the blood supply. There are now well-established processes such as those recommended by the IOM Committee to Advise the Public Health Service on Practice Guidelines (IOM 1990, 1992) and used by the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (1989) uses another system process. Guideline developers should perform a thorough literature search, identify well-designed studies, describe fully the evidence on harms and benefits, and explain the connection between the evidence and the recommendations. They should seek critical evaluation from a wide spectrum of individuals and organizations and should periodically reexamine the recommendations in the light of changing knowledge.


During the early 1980s, in its role as the guardian of the interests of the hemophilia patient community, the NHF was the principal source of information about using blood products. The outcome of the NHF efforts was that individuals with hemophilia and their families lost faith in the NHF as the rightful steward of their interests. The reasons discussed in Chapter 7 include the NHF's unwavering recommendation to use AHF concentrate, its dependence on funds contributed by the plasma fractionation industry, and the composition of the NHF expert panel (MASAC) that formulated treatment recommendations (e.g., the panel's lack of infectious disease experts and decision analysts).

Toward the end of providing the highest-quality, most credible information to patients and providers, the Committee makes

Recommendation 14: Voluntary organizations that make recommendations about using commercial products must avoid conflicts of interest, maintain independent judgment, and otherwise act so as to earn the confidence of the public and patients.

One of the difficulties with using experts to give advice is the interconnections that experts accumulate during their careers. Organizations that regulate an industry may get advice from the same experts who advise the industries. Organizations that give treatment advice may rely on experts whose employer relies upon support from industry. As a result, an expert may have a history of relationships that raise concerns about whether he or she can be truly impartial when advising a course of action in a complex situation. The Committee believes that the best way to avoid these risks is to choose some panelists who are not expert in the subject of the panel's assignment but have a reputation for expertise in evaluating evidence, sound clinical judgment, and impartiality.

Financial conflicts of interest influence organizations as well as individuals. As indicated in Chapter 7 and above, the financial relationships between the NHF and the blood products industry seriously compromised the NHF's credibility. The standards for acknowledging conflicts of interest are higher than they were 12 years ago. Public health officials and the medical professions must uphold this new standard. Failure to do so will threaten the fabric of trust that holds our society together.

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  • Review Article
  • Published: 09 February 2024

Immune targeting of HIV-1 reservoir cells: a path to elimination strategies and cure

  • Marie Armani-Tourret   ORCID: orcid.org/0009-0008-8734-8400 1 , 2 ,
  • Benjamin Bone 1 , 2 ,
  • Toong Seng Tan 1 , 2 ,
  • Weiwei Sun 1 , 2 ,
  • Maxime Bellefroid   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0003-0019-9913 1 , 2 ,
  • Tine Struyve 3 ,
  • Michael Louella   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0003-4057-9494 4 , 5 ,
  • Xu G. Yu 1 , 2 &
  • Mathias Lichterfeld   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-9865-8350 1 , 2  

Nature Reviews Microbiology ( 2024 ) Cite this article

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  • HIV infections
  • Infectious diseases
  • Viral reservoirs
  • Virus–host interactions

Successful approaches for eradication or cure of HIV-1 infection are likely to include immunological mechanisms, but remarkably little is known about how human immune responses can recognize and interact with the few HIV-1-infected cells that harbour genome-intact viral DNA, persist long term despite antiretroviral therapy and represent the main barrier to a cure. For a long time regarded as being completely shielded from host immune responses due to viral latency, these cells do, on closer examination with single-cell analytic techniques, display discrete footprints of immune selection, implying that human immune responses may be able to effectively engage and target at least some of these cells. The failure to eliminate rebound-competent virally infected cells in the majority of persons likely reflects the evolution of a highly selected pool of reservoir cells that are effectively camouflaged from immune recognition or rely on sophisticated approaches for resisting immune-mediated killing. Understanding the fine-tuned interplay between host immune responses and viral reservoir cells will help to design improved interventions that exploit the immunological vulnerabilities of HIV-1 reservoir cells.

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M.L. is supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (grants AI117841, AI130005, HD107670, DK120387, AI152979, AI155233, AI135940, AI169768, AI176579, DA047034), the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) (#110181-69-RGCV) and the Campbell Foundation. X.G.Y. is supported by the NIH (grants AI155171, AI116228, AI078799, HL134539, DA047034), amfAR ARCHE (grant # 110393-72-RPRL) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (INV-002703). M.L. and X.G.Y. are members of the DARE, ERASE, PAVE and BEAT-HIV Martin Delaney Collaboratories (UM1 AI164560, AI164562, AI164566, AI164570). T.S. is supported by Fonds voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek Vlaanderen (1SA7123N).

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Marie Armani-Tourret, Benjamin Bone, Toong Seng Tan, Weiwei Sun, Maxime Bellefroid, Xu G. Yu & Mathias Lichterfeld

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Armani-Tourret, M., Bone, B., Tan, T.S. et al. Immune targeting of HIV-1 reservoir cells: a path to elimination strategies and cure. Nat Rev Microbiol (2024). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41579-024-01010-8

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