It would be a huge leap to avoid its transmission; the vaccine is in phase three, being tested in Mexico and seven countries. Contagion has advanced in women: one for every four infected men. December 1, World AIDS Day. The first great contemporary pandemic has become chronic and is celebrating its 40th anniversary. However, the United Nations is coordinating efforts to eliminate the transmission of the virus, which has claimed the lives of more than 35 million people worldwide, by 2030.

In Mexico, actions to combat the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) were making progress in meeting the 2020 and 2025 goals; however, COVID-19 broke in and the projects were delayed. However, the main goal is the elimination of transmission in less than a decade. This was stated by Roberto Vázquez Campuzano, an academic at UNAM's Faculty of Medicine (FM), who has three decades of experience in HIV epidemiological surveillance in Mexico, on the occasion of World AIDS Day, which is commemorated on December 1.

"HIV did not worsen with COVID-19. We now have 320,000 cases registered in Mexico; in 2020 there were just over 9,000 new cases, and so far in 2021 we have 6,500 more cases," he informed. A member of the Department of Emerging Diseases and Emergencies of the Institute of Epidemiological Diagnosis and Reference (InDRE), Roberto Vázquez reminded that in the world only 84 percent of the people who have contracted HIV know it. "We have to get tested, be aware that transmission occurs through sexual, blood, or perinatal routes, be aware of our risk. And if we test positive, we should request our access to retroviral treatment," he emphasized.

Vaccine

A member of the Committee of Experts for the Diagnosis of HIV, Vázquez Campuzano made it clear that the consolidation of the vaccine against this disease would be an enormous leap in the prevention of its transmission because with four decades living with this pandemic, all known strategies for the production of reagents have been tried and failed. "The Mosaic project, as the vaccine has been called, uses different antigens of the combined virus. It is a substance that is being tested in eight countries in the world, including Mexico. These phase three trials have to run for at least two or three years to see if there is any effect on the population," he said.

We had a long time without a phase three vaccine. The last one in this stage was approximately in 2009 and it did not work; now we are hopeful that this time it will be able to produce the immunity we expect. "It is a vaccine produced by a U.S. pharmaceutical company. Many strategies have been used before: non-human viral vectors, canary viruses, plant baculoviruses, and it has not been possible to consolidate, so this time it is very hopeful, although we have to wait for the results," he noted.

Children and women

Infection in children has decreased significantly, said the university researcher. He added that our country is committed to eliminating perinatal HIV transmission, and 97 percent of the goal has been met so far. "That remaining three percent is from the rural population that is farther from the reach of the health sector, which unfortunately does not have access to health services. Most of the cases occur in young children, newborns; we have just over 2,000 cases in infants between one and four years of age," she said.

In the case of Mexican women, the specialist explained, this pandemic originally affected seven men for every woman; currently, there are four men for every woman. Eighty percent of the infections occur in men and 18 to 19 percent in women. "The infection has rebounded in women, it has been gaining ground and it is also due to the type of transmission. When the virus was discovered, it was said that the risk factors were homosexuality, hemophilia, the use of injected drugs; however, sexual transmission between heterosexuals has gained a lot of ground again," he pointed out.

Finally, the university academic clarified that the fundamental difference between HIV and AIDS is that the first is an infection like those produced by any other virus that goes through several acute and chronic stages; and the second is the most advanced stage of the infection, where our immune system loses its capacity to respond and opportunistic infections occur. The first ones in Mexico were Herpes zoster and Tuberculosis.

Myth: Having HIV means you have AIDS

HIV and AIDS have constantly been heard as synonyms, however, it is important to clarify that they are not and a diagnosis of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus does not always mean condemnation for the person who has acquired it. The virus attacks the defense cells of the human body called CD4 T-lymphocytes, altering or nullifying their function. The infection causes a progressive deterioration of the immune system and when uncontrolled, evolves more rapidly into what is commonly known as AIDS and is defined by the presence of any of the more than twenty opportunistic infections or HIV-related cancers.

The virus is found in blood, sex organ fluids (pre-ejaculatory fluid, semen, vaginal discharge), and breast milk and can, therefore, be transmitted through vaginal, anal, or oral sex with an infected person, transfusion of contaminated blood, or sharing of needles, syringes or other sharp instruments. It can also be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding. Once HIV is inside the body's cells, it uses them to replicate without causing any prior discomfort, which is why this stage is known as asymptomatic. It is because of this stage that the infected person is not treated promptly and some discomfort is detected when the infection has evolved into such a disease. Without early diagnosis and treatment, there is a greater chance that HIV infection will develop into AIDS, which is why life expectancy and quality of life are considerably reduced.

Currently, the only way to know if you have HIV is through a laboratory test that detects antibodies against the virus in blood or saliva and the way to treat infected people is through various antiretroviral drugs and comprehensive medical care that allow increasing life expectancy and quality of life.