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HIV and AIDS: What You Should Know

16 min read

HIV is an infection that is well known globally, but the truth is myths still abound around the virus concerning its causes, symptoms, treatments, and mode of transfer. This article aims to give you a brief understanding of what HIV is, and why the disease is often referred to as a deadly one. So relax and spend the next few minutes to learn the basic facts about HIV/AIDS.

What is HIV?

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) referred to a killer virus that attacks the body’s immune system and weakens the victim’s defense systems against infections. As soon as the HIV virus is contracted, it becomes active in the body by attacking white blood’s CD4+ cells. These attacks on the CD4+ cells render the immune system less effective in fighting off an infection that attacks the body.

Basically, there are two types of HIV, namely: HIV-1 and HIV-2. The first type is often responsible for most of AIDS cases globally. The other is a rare virus that causes an ailment similar to AIDS in nature.

Statistics have shown that an estimate of 36.9 millions of people are living with HIV around the world and about 34 million people globally have died as a result of the activities of the deadly virus in the human body. If the attacks on CD4+ cells by the virus are left unchecked, it may eventually lead to a full-blown condition called AIDS. Note that HIV is different from AIDS.

What Is the Difference Between HIV and AIDS?

HIV is a virus as well as an infectious condition. The infection follows a three-stage progression, which is: Acute Infection, Clinical Latency and AIDS. The first stage is the beginning of infection. The symptoms at this stage are Fever, swollen glands, sore throat, rash, headache, and joint pains. The virus reproduces rapidly during this early period of the infection. The Clinical Latency stage is the second stage of the infection, where the reproduction of the virus is slowed down. Depending on individual differences, an infected person who doesn’t undergo antiretroviral therapy (ART) may live for about 10 years after the infection. If the antiretroviral therapy is used according to doctors prescriptions, the clinical latency stage can be extended for several decades as the medicines help to reduce the activities of the virus. Ultimately, AIDS is the final Stage of the HIV infection.

What is AIDS?

When your immune system is not strong enough, the body begins to have troubles fighting against diseases and infections that came attacking it. This may eventually lead to Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). This is the last stage of HIV infection. At this stage, the level of CD4+ cells in the body have reached an extremely low point and can no longer fight infectious attack or cancerous development in the body. This ultimately results in death.

What Are the Causes of HIV/AIDS?

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) comes into the human body system when there is a contact with blood, semen, or vaginal fluids of an infected person. The common cause of HIV is unprotected sex with someone who has the virus. Other causes include sharing of needles, razors or any sharp objects with infected persons. There are also many cases of infected mothers passing the virus to their babies during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding.

What Are the Symptoms of HIV/AIDS infection?

Symptoms of AIDSHIV symptoms at the early stage are often mistaken for that of flu and may lapse without the infected person being aware of being a carrier of the virus unless an HIV/AIDS test is conducted. Some of the common early stage symptoms of HIV include Fever, sore throat, headache, muscle aches and joint pain, swollen glands, and skin rash, among others. These symptoms often appear few days to several weeks after infection and faded away 2-3 weeks after. The symptoms may not reappear until several years later, denoting the beginning of the second stage of HIV. The symptoms at this stage may be severe. Some of these symptoms include Swollen lymph nodes, extreme tiredness, weight loss, fever, and night sweats. The antiretroviral therapy may help to suppress the activities of the virus for many years if medications begin at this stage.

How to Diagnose HIV/AIDS

As the activities of the virus increase in the body, the immune system naturally builds antibodies to combat the virus. So when doctors are diagnosing HIV, they test for the presence of these antibodies in the patient’s urine, saliva, or blood. A urine or saliva tests is first conducted to ascertain the infection. Afterward, a blood test is conducted to confirm the first result. Alternatively, doctors can conduct two blood tests. The first test is meant to establish whether the patient is positive for HIV. While the second test is meant to confirm the first result.

At the early stage of HIV, tests may come out negative. However, if think you’re at risk, you can request for another test after 6 months. Usually, the antibodies may not be found in your blood within the first 3 months of contracting the HIV infection.

How is HIV/AIDS treated?

Victims of HIV and AIDS are treated with antiretroviral therapy (ART) to help manage the infection. These drugs help to slow the pace at which the virus multiplies. The therapy, thereby, reduces the amount of virus in your body so as to keep you healthy despite the infection. So, it is important to begin treatment for HIV as soon as you are tested positive. It is also important that you adhere strictly to the instruction of your physician when taken medicines so the virus doesn’t develop resistant to the drugs.

There are two ways doctors monitor the HIV infection and its effect on your immune system. These are Viral load and CD4+ cell count. The viral load is meant to monitor the amount of virus in the patient’s blood. While the CD4+ cell count is meant to measure the strength of the victim’s immune system.

How Can You Prevent HIV Infection?

Acute HIV InfectionMost people who spread HIV are not aware of their status. Hence, it is important to always take steps that will keep you from the risk. The following are tips that can help prevent you from HIV infection:

  • Practice safer sex always. Abstinence from sex and keeping to a single partner are the best ways to prevent yourself from being infected with the virus. If you have multiple sex partners, ensure you use a condom every time you have sex (including oral sex).
  • Get tested together with your partner before you have sex. Both of you should remain loyal to one another after the test, so as not to put the other person at risk.
  • Avoid taking substances before sex so you don’t let down your guard during the act.
  • You should not share personal items like toothbrushes and razors with other people.
  • Don’t ever share needles or syringes with anyone.

In conclusion, always remember that you can test for HIV in any public health clinic near you. You can as well purchase an FDA approved home HIV test kit to perform the test at home. Consult your doctor for a confirmation if a home test you conducted comes out positive. The doctor will guide you on the next steps to take in order to manage the infection.

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