What is HIV?
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks cells that help the body fight infection, making the human body vulnerable to other infections and diseases. It is transmitted by certain bodily fluids of a person with HIV, most commonly through unprotected sex (sex without condom), or through sharing injection.
People with HIV can enjoy a long and healthy life by antiretroviral treatment (ART), which is effective and available to all. When treated properly, ART can reduce the HIV level in the body to such a low level that it becomes undetectable by blood tests which means you cannot pass on HIV.
HIV was first identified in 1981, and is the cause of one of humanity’s deadliest and most persistent epidemics.
What is AIDS?
AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) is the set of symptoms and illnesses caused at the last stage of HIV if left untreated. A person is said to have AIDS when his immune system becomes too weak to fight any infection.
However, there is no effective cure for HIV and only with the proper treatment and support people with HIV can live a long and healthy life.
Most people don’t know right away that they have been infected with HIV. The symptoms are developed within 2-6 weeks after they have gotten the virus. The symptoms are similar to viral fever and you may confuse it with Flu. Early signs of HIV include:
- Aching muscles
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
- A red rash on torso, that does not itch
Second Stage symptoms:
Once your immune system can no longer fight with the HIV, the flu-like symptoms will go away. But there’s a lot going on inside your body. This is called the asymptomatic period or chronic HIV infection.
In your body, cells called CD4 T cells coordinate your immune system’s response. At this point the untreated HIV will kill CD4 cells and destroy your immune system. If the treatment is not done, the number of CD4 cells will drop, and you’ll be more likely to get other infections.
Third Stage Symptoms:
AIDS is the advanced stage of HIV infection. In this stage, the CD4 T-cell number drops below 200 and the immune system is badly damaged. You might catch opportunistic infections, an illness that happens more often and worse for people with weak immunity. If HIV is not detected in the earlier stage, then the individual may realize it after having these symptoms:
- Being tired all the time
- Loss of weight
- Night sweats
- Purplish spots on the skin that don’t go away
- Shortness of breath
- Severe long-lasting diarrhea
- Yeast infections in mouth, throat or vagina
- Bruises or bleeding
Cure fit is the healthcare organisation that offers various services related to medical problems. They have a team of specialised doctors that can solve your medical issues. You can contact them anytime or do a consultation call.
Who is at risk?
Gay or bisexual man are at a high risk of HIV. Also, transgender women who are involved in sexual activities with men are at a risk.
Other activities like anal sex is the biggest risk factor. And if your partner has HIV, you are at a higher risk of getting HIV.
- By having vaginal, anal or oral sex with an infected partner
- By sharing needles
- Through blood transfusions. This risk is quite small
- From infected mother to babies during pregnancy or delivery or through breast-feeding
HIV can be diagnosed through blood or saliva testing. Available tests include:
- Antigen/antibody tests. In this test, the blood is drawn from the vein. Antigens are substances on the HIV itself and are usually detectable-a positive test- in the blood within a few weeks after exposure to HIV. Usually, it may take 2-6 weeks.
- Antibody tests. These tests are basically done to find the antibodies to HIV in blood or saliva. Mostly the tests, including self-tests done at home, are antibody tests. These tests can take 3 to 12 weeks after you’re exposed to become positive.
- Nucleic acid tests (NATs). These tests are done to find the actual virus in your blood (viral load). They also involve blood drawn from a vein. If you might have been exposed to HIV within the past few weeks, the doctor may recommend NAT.
Even if these reports are negative, you may need a follow-up test.
If you receive a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS, several tests are conducted which can help determine the stage of the disease. These are:
- CD4 T cell count. CD4 T cells are white blood cells that are specifically targeted and destroyed by HIV. Even if you show no such symptoms, HIV infection progresses to AIDS when your CD4 T cell count dips below 200.
- Viral load (HIV RNA). This test helps to measure the amount of virus in your blood. After the treatment is done, the goal is to have an undetectable viral load. It helps to significantly reduce the chances of infection and other HIV-related complications.
- Drug resistance. Some strains of HIV are resistant to medications. This test helps your doctor determine if a specific form of the virus has resistance and guides treatment decisions.
The doctor may also conduct tests for other complications such as Tuberculosis, liver or kidney damage, Hepatitis B or C infection, Toxoplasmosis, STIs, etc.
At present, there is no cure for HIV, but with proper medication, one can control HIV and its complications. These medications are called Antiretroviral therapy (ART). It is a combination of three or more drugs from different drug classes. Each of the drugs blocks the virus in different ways. It also reduces the risk of HIV transmission.
There are many myths floating around about HIV, which may lead to anxiety and a state of tension among people. However, if detected at an earlier stage and properly taken care of with medication, the diagnosed person may lead a long and healthy life.
HIV can be prevented by –
- Limiting the number of sexual partners
- Not sharing the needles
- Using condoms
- Maintaining hygiene