HIV and its derived illness AIDS had become a health and social nightmare in the last century. From the beginning, it was linked to features and ways of life then widely considered as negative, and people were terrified of it since they didn't know how they could catch it. HIV-possitive people were stigmatized and left aside, and many died of the many complications caused by this infection.
However, time went by, and information spread about this virus, how to catch it, how to prevent new infections, and how to treat HIV. Now, people talk less about dying of AIDS and more about living with HIV, and there are communitites which provide support, information and help to HIV-possitive people and their families. However, living with HIV is still a big challenge, and a struggle to find a job and establish relationships, and the constant need of medical following and checkouts.
HIV causes a syndrome called AIDS, which often appears some months or years after the retrovirus has gotten to the bloodstream. AIDS affects the immune system, so the body's capacity to response to other infections and get cured from them is weakened. For this reason, people with AIDS are more likely to catch other infections and diseases, and to have complications from them.
This is a quite newly discovered disease, identified in the 1980's as a variation from the already known hepatitis A and B. This is a virus that is transmitted through infected blood, and mostly affects the liver - hence the name. However, hepatitis C may affect other organs, including your skin, your digestive system and/or your brain, and eventually lead you to your death.
Hepatitis C infections have two stages. The first one is asymptomatic and it's called "accute infection". Here the virus is already in your system but you haven't undergone any damage yet. Months or even years later, 4 out of 5 infected people develop the second stage, or "chronic infection" with symptoms such as liver damage of faliure, depression, pain, skin problems, fatigue and insomnia. 1 in 5 can naturally cure themselves from the infection.
Click on the following link to find more Hepatitis C information.
A recent study carried out by Bristol University reviewed current literature on HIV and Hepatitis C (HCV) co-morbidity - meaning, being infected with both diseases at the time - and found a global trend of having the two viruses together. The reasons are many and have yet to be fully explored, but it might have a lot to do with the fact that they are both transmitted in similar ways: sexual contact and sharing syringes both carry the risk of catching these viruses. As a matter of fact, the prevalence - amount of cases - of both infections was higher between people who injected drugs, who usually have little to no hygienic care when doing so.
People with HIV are more likely to catch HCV because they are more vulnerable to all infections, and the risk of getting complications because of hepatitis is increased in their case. The results of the research suggest that more combined care and testing for HIV and HCV should be provided, especially in populations and areas that are at higher risk. If you want to find more about their findings, you can read the research here..
These two infections have many things in common: they are transmitted in similar ways, they are chronic and might be a threat for your life, and they start out silent, with no symptoms. If you feel nothing is wrong with your body, or you have symptoms that could easily be atributed to something else - like many of HCV - you aren't likely to find out that you are infected and maybe even infecting other people. For this reason, it is important that you get routine screenings, especially if you are at an increased risk of catching any of these infections: you inject drugs, you have multiple sexual parters, you are a man who has sex with other men, and so forth.
Being tested is much cheaper and easier than you think thanks to the technology of home screenin. There is a website called GSST Sexual Health (www.gsttsexualhealth.org.uk) that provides this service. Tests are purchased and paid online and all supplies to get samples are mailed to your home. Taking samples is as easy as collecting your urine or a swab of your vagina. You then send back those samples in a pre-paid envelope and get the results securely and confidentially in your computer or smartphone. It is so easy and so private that you no longer have real reasons why not to get tested and potentially save your life - or someone else's.
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