By Elizabeth Meier

June is AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) awareness month in the United States – a month to create awareness of the virus that has taken the lives of more than 25 million people since 1981. Education and awareness has given way to improved care, and a higher survival rate, however, AIDS remains a critical world health issue and is a major cause of morbidity and mortality, states the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI).

The pulmonary complications of HIV/AIDS are a common issue adding “significantly to patient morbidity and mortality. Imaging plays a vital role in the diagnosis and management of lung of complications associated with HIV. Accurate diagnosis is based on an understanding of the pathogenesis of the processes involved and their imaging findings. Imaging also plays an important role in selection of the most appropriate site for tissue sampling, staging of disease and follow-ups… Almost 70% of the patients suffer at least one respiratory complication during the course of their illness” (NCBI). Diagnostic imaging can help doctors and/or radiologists differentiate between the specific infections that HIV/AIDS patients commonly acquire, making treatment more specific and effective.

Last year, TIME Magazine reported on a new drug treatment, approved by the U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration,) that will actually prevent infection in healthy people. “The drug, called Truvada, which is already approved for the treatment of HIV in infected patients, works by lowering the amount of virus circulating in people’s blood. But clinical trials show that it can also protect uninfected high-risk people from acquiring the virus, if they take the drug daily before and after exposure.” While it cannot cure AIDS, “the drug can thwart HIV’s ability to take hold in healthy cells and start an infection, by blocking the activity of an enzyme that the virus needs to replicate.” This is in addition to treatment methods already being used, including “highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART), medications that must be used together—often called a drug cocktail, which doctors use to fight HIV infection. These medications attack HIV at multiple points in its growth cycle and are more effective in suppressing the virus. Combining drugs also limits the risk that HIV will become resistant to these medications.” (MSN HealthyLiving)

Still, this issue is not one that will disappear overnight or anytime soon. The best hope we have is to educate the population and create awareness of this horrible epidemic to help lower the frightening statistics. With advancing technology and increased awareness, there is hope that one day that the number of people suffering from this virus can be exponentially decreased and even one day that the virus can be eradicated. Until that time, educate yourself, and your friends and family, on the facts about HIV/AIDS.

Information from the CDC – Center for Disease Control:

HIV is the human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that can lead to acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS. AIDS is the late stage of HIV infection, when a person’s immune system is severely damaged and has difficulty fighting diseases and certain cancers. Before the development of certain medications, people with HIV could progress to AIDS in just a few years. Currently, people can live much longer – even decades – with HIV before they develop AIDS. This is because of “highly active” combinations of medications that were introduced in the mid-1990s.

HIV is spread primarily by:
• Not using a condom when having sex with a person who has HIV. All unprotected sex with someone who has HIV contains some risk. However:
o Unprotected anal sex is riskier than unprotected vaginal sex.
o Among men who have sex with other men, unprotected receptive anal sex is riskier than unprotected insertive anal sex.
• Having multiple sex partners or the presence of other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can increase the risk of infection during sex. Unprotected oral sex can also be a risk for HIV transmission, but it is a much lower risk than anal or vaginal sex.
• Sharing needles, syringes, rinse water, or other equipment used to prepare illicit drugs for injection.
• Being born to an infected mother—HIV can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy, birth, or breast-feeding.
HIV cannot reproduce outside the human body. It is NOT spread by:
• Air or water.
• Insects, including mosquitoes. Studies conducted by CDC researchers and others have shown no evidence of HIV transmission from insects.
• Saliva, tears, or sweat. There is no documented case of HIV being transmitted by spitting.
• Casual contact like shaking hands or sharing dishes.
• Closed-mouth or “social” kissing.

If you or someone you know is in need of affordable diagnostic imaging for their HIV/AIDS related pulmonary and/or respiratory issues, please visit MRI Scan Group’s website at http://mriscangroup.com/ for a list of imaging centers nationwide that can provide the care you need at a price you can afford.

June 27th is National HIV/AIDS Testing Day, and was established in 2005 as an annual observance to promote HIV testing. For more information on testing locations and how you can get involved, go to http://aids.gov/news-and-events/awareness-days/hiv-testing-day/.