Though a lot has been said and written about HIV/AIDS, what many people are not aware of is the fact that the other two STDs- Hepatitis B and C
are equally deadly, if not more. In addition to making one prone to HIV infection, hepatitis itself is a rapidly progressing and fatal disease. Chronic hepatitis is known to cause serious liver diseases such as cirrhosis, fibrosis or cancer. Such patients are also, more likely to suffer from heart diseases or stroke.
Researches indicate that patients with hepatitis B/C or history of the same are 70% more likely to get infected with HIV. This incidence of co-infection is on the rise owing to lack of awareness amongst people. While Hepatitis B is preventable by means of a vaccine thereby, reducing the chances of HIV infection, lack of knowledge regarding the same has led to the steep rise in the number of co-infection cases. This co-existing hepatitis and HIV infection quickens the progression of disease damaging liver and other important organs of the body. The body’s resistance to treatment also, increases manifold.
Modes of transmission:
Being Sexually Transmitted Diseases, the common modes of transmission of all the 3 viruses are:
- Unprotected sex with an infected individual
- Sharing infected needles, syringes or blades
- Mother to child transmission
- Gay relationship
- Unprotected sexual intercourse with multiple partners
- Sharing sex toys
As STDs do not always manifest signs and symptoms, it is advisable to screen and test all suspected patients to prevent spread and initiate treatment at the earliest.
A comprehensive blood test to check for all the 3 viruses- Hep B, Hep C, and HIV is recommended followed by liver function tests, viral load tests etc.
Sexual abstinence or using condoms for every sexual act is the surest way of preventing these viruses. However, administering the Hepatitis vaccine also offers protection against deadly diseases. Hepatitis B vaccine is readily available at the medical centers and hospitals.
Combination antiretroviral therapy depending upon the severity of co-infection has been effective in curbing the diseases to an extent. The success of any treatment depends on various factors such as the age of the patient, type of virus, viral load, severity of damage caused, etc.
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