The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

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Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) attacks the immune system that severely compromises a person’s ability to ward of infections and other diseases (1). When the virus has progressed to a stage where the body is no longer able to fight the infection, the individual will be diagnosed with Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Transmission occurs through the person to person contact, more specifically in cases where the virus is transmitted into the recipient’s bloodstream. Vertical transmission, or mother to child transmission, presents a unique route of infection where the mechanisms differ to horizontal transmission (all other forms of HIV transmission). In mother to child transmission, HIV can be acquired in utero when the virus crosses the placental barrier, during delivery, or through breastfeeding (2).

The development of Triple Action Therapy or Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART) happened in the late 1990’s (3,4). It uses multiple Antiretrovirals (ARVs) that individually target three steps in HIV replication (entry inhibitors, fusion inhibitors, reverse transcriptase inhibitors, integrase inhibitors, protease inhibitors, and multi-class combination products) (2). The concept was first introduced in 1996, during the international conference on AIDS in Vancouver, British Columbia. This development of a multi-drug therapy was able to significantly reduce the progression of the virus as well as decrease the death rate (4).

In the US, the current cost of HAART treatment is around ten to twelve thousand dollars annually (4). There are generic drugs available to some countries as well as organizations that supply these drugs at minimal to no cost in some contexts, yet millions of people in Sub Saharan Africa are s...

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