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New HIV vaccine coming soon: 5 ways to prevent the condition till then

Untreated HIV infection can develop into deadliest AIDS. © Shutterstock

Are you at higher risk of getting HIV infection? Don't worry. The HIV vaccine is on its way. But till the vaccine arrives, here are some ways to keep the condition at bay.

Around 37.9 million people were suffering from HIV/AIDS in the year 2018, says WHO. This international body also states that among these, 7,70,000 people lost their lives due to the condition, the same year. The data is concerning enough. And it is quite natural to be scared of the problem. But, how about us, telling you to relax? In a ray of hope for people at risk of getting HIV infection, scientists have developed a vaccine that may potentially help prevent the onset of the condition. The trials are going on. We may get the good news soon.

HIV VACCINE IS ON THE WAY: EXPERTS

Researchers have developed an HIV vaccine, that was found to be effective in protecting around 66 per cent of nonhuman primates against the HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) infection. According to scientists, making a vaccine against HIV is different than making those for other diseases. Here, there are genetic complications. HIV is known to have more genetic diversity than any other virus. Notably, HIV replicates quickly and survives even after making frequent mistakes and without correcting them. Also, there are various subtypes of HIV in different parts of the world. This means that there are several strains of virus to be addressed to, while preparing an effective vaccine.

Now that researchers have developed the vaccine and its pre-trials have already been completed, human trials will be happening soon. The study team are planning to enroll around 3,800 healthy subjects from all across the high-risk countries. Also, the participants will be chosen from the group of people at increased likelihood of getting the infection. They will be given four vaccinations in one year. Notably, during the lab study, the vaccine was found to stop around 90 per cent of HIV strains from infecting human cells. Scientists believe that no vaccine is 100 per cent effective and in fact they do not need to. Even 70 per cent effectiveness of the vaccine would do good and prevent new infections. While we wait for the vaccine to come in use, let's throw some light on the HIV infection and possible preventive measures.

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WHAT IS HIV?

It is a virus that is known to alter your immune system. It increases your likelihood of getting various diseases and conditions easily than those without the infection. The virus actually damages your body's immune system by targeting the immune cells called T cell (white blood cells responsible for detecting infections and faults in cells) and interferes with its ability to fight against the foreign elements.

The symptoms of the infection depend on its phase. If you have got the infection a month ago, signs like fever, headache, muscle ache, sore throat, swollen lymph will be visible. However, they will be extremely mild to get your attention. If you haven't been through diagnosis and treatment, you will experience persistent swelling of the lymph nodes. Later on, you can also go through extreme weight loss, shingles, diarrhea, perpetual tiredness etc.

In around 10 years, the untreated HIV infection can develop into deadliest AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). This is the most advanced stage, when your immune system becomes severely damaged. At this stage, you may experience symptoms like recurring fever, skin rashes, chronic diarrhea, soaking night sweats, persistent fatigue etc.

The HIV virus can spread through blood transfusion, sexual contact, by sharing needles, or/and from mother to fetus. Certain factors like having unprotected sex, having STI, using intravenous drugs etc. can increase your risk of getting HIV infection. As far as its diagnosis is concerned, your doctor will perform a blood or saliva test to see the presence of antibodies to the virus. As there is no vaccination available till now, it is better to avoid the condition as much as you can.

HOW TO PREVENT an HIV INFECTION

There are many ways to protect yourself from HIV. Here, we take you through some of them.

Use protection during sex

Don't forget to use a condom every time you indulge in sex. During anal sex also, you must use it. Notably, protection for women are also available in the market. You can explore them at any medical shop. In case, you are using lubricant to make the act smooth, make sure the lubricant is water-based and not oil-based. The latter can actually weaken condoms and cause them to break. If you wish to indulge in oral sex, try nonlubricated condom or a dental dam (made of latex).

Avoid intravenous drugs

Use of intravenous drugs is one of the major reasons behind transmission of HIV infection. Also, sharing needles can put you at risk of getting the infection. Before you choose a needle, make sure it is unused, clean and unshared.

Don't expose yourself to body fluids of others

By body fluid, we mean blood and semen. If you are getting blood from a person, make sure it is not infected. Also, don't indulge in sex without using protection to avoid contact with semen. During oral sex as well, you must use the protection.

Limit the number of partners

With an increase in the number of sexual partners, your probability of getting the infection also increases. This hold true especially in area where HIV is quite common. If you can't resist yourself from doing so, every time you indulge in sex with a new partner, make sure he/she is not infected with HIV. Additionally, you can use condoms to reduce your chances of getting HIV.

Keep a check on your medical condition during pregnancy

If you are already infected with HIV virus, there are strong chances that you transmit the virus to your little baby. To avoid such condition, it is best to receive treatment during gestation. Having antibiotic drugs may help.

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