The HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that causes Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). It is a fatal or life-threatening disease. It damages the immune system and makes our body weak to be able to fight infection and disease.
It can spread through an infected person, from a pregnant or breastfeeding mother to a child. It is also an STI- sexually transmitted infection. Currently, there is no cure for this disease, but medicines reduce the effect of the virus and add a few more years to the life of the patient.
The symptoms of HIV and AIDS vary person to person as per the phase of infection.
Acute HIV or primary infection
People who are suffering from HIV infection may experience flu-like symptoms within two to four weeks after the virus enters the body. Symptoms of acute HIV include:
- Fever and headache
- Muscle aches, joint pain, or rashes
- Sore throat, painful mouth sores, or cough
- Swollen lymph glands
- Diarrhea followed by weight loss
- Night sweats
These symptoms are usually very mild to even notice. But viral load in the bloodstream can be quite high which makes it easier for the virus to spread rapidly in the primary stage.
Chronic HIV or Clinical latent infection
It is present in the white blood cells in this stage of infection. But people may not experience any acute symptoms till this stage. ART – antiretroviral therapy is important to take in this stage otherwise infection can last for a number of years and the condition can get worse.
Symptomatic HIV infection
The virus always continues to multiply and harm immune cells, that help fight off germs and infections in our body. Now, you may experience mild symptoms such as:
- Fever and fatigue
- Swollen lymph nodes — often one of the first signs of HIV infection
- Diarrhea with weight loss
- Oral yeast infection (thrush)
- Shingles (herpes zoster)
Progression to AIDS
If HIV is left untreated, it can turn into AIDS in about 8-10 years. This virus destroys the immune system that makes a person prone to many infections which can not be caught by a healthy person.
The symptoms of some of these infections may include:
- Sweats and chills
- Recurring fever
- Chronic diarrhea
- Swollen lymph glands
- Persistent white spots or unusual lesions on your tongue or in your mouth
- Persistent, unexplained fatigue
- Weakness and weight loss
- Skin rashes or bumps
HIV is a viral disease that can spread through sexual contact or blood, or from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breast-feeding.
How does HIV become AIDS?
There are CD4 T cells in our body that are damaged bt the virus. CD4 T cells are white blood cells that help our body to fight against infections and viruses. Less number of these cells make our immunity weak and prone to different types of infections.
This infection can live in our body for years without any symptoms. Before it turns into AIDS, our white blood cells falls down to a number of 200.
How HIV spreads?
This virus can spread in many ways:
- By having sex: If you come in a contact with an infected person and the exchange of semen takes place, then you become highly prone to get the virus. This virus can enter your body through mouth sores or small tears that sometimes develop in the rectum or vagina during sexual activity.
- By sharing needles. Sharing contaminated needles and syringes make you a high-risk factor of getting this virus.
- From blood transfusions. It can also enter the body through infected blood transfusions.
- During pregnancy or delivery or through breast-feeding. This virus can pass to babies through an infected mother. Mothers who are HIV-positive and get treatment for the infection during pregnancy can significantly lower the risk to their babies.
How HIV doesn’t spread?
HIV never spread through ordinary contact. You can live a normal life with the person who is infected. It is a non-communicable disease that means it does not spread through the air, water or insect bites.
There is no set age, race, sex, or sexual orientation for this viral infection. anyone can get infected with this disease. You will get this infection if you:
- Have unprotected sex. Use a new latex or polyurethane condom every time you have sex. Anal sex is more risky than is vaginal sex. Your risk of HIV increases if you have multiple sexual partners.
- Have an STI. Many STIs produce open sores on your genitals. These sores act as doorways for HIV to enter your body.
- Use IV drugs. People who use IV drugs often share needles and syringes. This exposes them to droplets of other people’s blood.
Presently, there’s no cure for HIV/AIDS. If it enters your body, it will remain there for your whole life. However, there are many medications that can control HIV and prevent complications. These medications are called antiretroviral therapy (ART). Everyone diagnosed with HIV should be started on ART, regardless of their stage of infection or complications.
ART is a combination of three or more medications from several different drug classes. This works on lowering the amount of HIV in the blood. There are many ART options that combine three HIV medications into one pill, taken once daily.
Each class of drugs blocks the virus in different ways. Treatment involves combinations of drugs from different classes to:
- Account for individual drug resistance (viral genotype)
- Avoid creating new drug-resistant strains of HIV
- Maximize suppression of the virus in the blood
Side effects of the treatment
Treatment side effects can include:
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Heart disease
- Kidney and liver damage
- Weakened bones or bone loss
- Abnormal cholesterol levels
- Higher blood sugar
- Cognitive and emotional problems, as well as sleep problems