29.2.1 Re-infection with HIV
Another subject that PLHIV should consider is re-infection, which refers to the situation in which a person already living with HIV is infected with a new strain of HIV from another PLHIV. Re-infection can accelerate progression to AIDS in two ways. First, re-infection can increase the viral load (i.e. the levels of HIV in the blood) of a person living with HIV, as it may take some time for either the patient’s immune system (whose function is already impaired), or antiretroviral (ARV) drugs to be effective against the new type of virus. This will result in further damage to the immune system, making the person with a re-infection more vulnerable to opportunistic infections.
Secondly, a PLHIV may be re-infected with another type of HIV that is already resistant to the ARV drugs they are taking, which may ultimately lead to treatment failure. The consequence of ART failure of first-line drugs is replacement with second-line ARV drugs, which may be less effective in controlling HIV infection (Study Session 23). Thus, it is always advisable for PLHIV not only to minimise risks of HIV transmission to other people, but also to avoid re-infection by HIV from another person.