HIV and AIDS

AIDS is one of the most serious, deadly diseases in human history. Because of this it is vital that you are in the know. AIDSis fundamentally caused by the human immunodeficiency virus(HIV). HIV destroys a type of defence cell in the body called a CD4 helper lymphocyte. These lymphocytes are part of the body’s immune system, the defence system that fights infectious diseases. But as HIV destroys these lymphocytes, people with the virus begin to get serious infections that they normally wouldn’t — that is, they become immune deficient. The name for this condition is acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

Symptoms

Many years can pass without any symptoms so many people do not know they are infected. That is why it is so difficult to know who has and who has not got HIV. By the time the disease is obvious the individual could have inadvertently infected many people, but there are some basic ones and below will show you that.

Symptoms Early After Infection – Acute HIV
- In emergency departments and family practice offices, people come in with symptoms like fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, sore throat, rash and diarrhoea. In response to these symptoms, physicians diagnose the flu and send the patient on their way. In the majority of cases, their diagnosis proves correct. But unfortunately, a number of people with these vague, indistinct symptoms have a more serious illness than the flu; these symptoms may signal the acute stages of HIV infection.

Symptoms of the Immune System
- The immune system is the body’s natural defence against invading foreign agents such as viruses and bacteria. HIV attacks the immune system, weakening it and making the body more susceptible to infection. After infection, some symptoms affect the immune system.

Symptoms of the GI Tract
- HIV can have a profound effect on the gastrointestinal system and nutrition. Like any virus, HIV can cause symptoms ranging from poor appetite to diarrhoea. Here are some of the most common: Rapid weight loss, Diarrhoea, Poor appetite, profound fatigue.

Respiratory Symptoms
- Some of the most serious symptoms of HIV involve the respiratory system. Symptoms associated with breathing and respiration usually occur later in course of the disease. Unfortunately, many people’s first symptom of HIV involves the respiratory system, illustrating why HIV testing is so important. Any cough or shortness of breath could be a sign of bacterial pneumonia or pneumocystis (carinii) jiroveci pneumonia (PCP).

Symptoms of the Skin and Mucous Membranes
– Many of the symptoms of HIV are a result of infection by other viruses, fungi or bacteria. Often, these infections involve the skin or mucous membranes (for example, inside the mouth).


Transmission


There are a few ways that can lead to people being infected with HIV and AIDS.

Most commonly, HIV infection is spread by having sex with an infected partner. The virus can enter the body through the lining of the vagina, vulva, penis, rectum, or mouth during oral sex.


  • HIV can be spread in health-care settings through accidental needle sticks or contact with contaminated fluids.
  • Women can transmit HIV to their babies duringpregnancyor birth, when infected maternal cells enter the baby’s circulation.
  • HIV frequently spreads among injection-drug users who share needles or syringes that are contaminated with blood from an infected person.
  • People who already have a sexually transmitted disease, such assyphilis, genital herpes,Chlamydiainfection,gonorrhoea, orbacterial vaginosis, are more likely to acquire HIV infection during sex with an infected partner.
  • The virus does not spread through casual contact such as preparing food, sharing towels and bedding, or by going to swimming pools, telephones, or toilet seats.


Treatment

Antiretroviral drugs
keep the levels of HIV in the body at a low level, so that the immune system is able to recover and work effectively. Antiretroviral drugs enable many HIV positive people to live long and healthy lives. Starting antiretroviral treatmentfor HIV infection involves commitment – drugs have to be taken every day, and for the rest of a person’s life. Adhering to HIV treatment is important, particularly because not doing so increases the risk ofdrug resistance.Side effectsto the HIV drugs can make adherence difficult, and are sometimes very severe. There are ways of reducing the impact of these side effects, but sometimes it is necessary to change to an alternative HIV treatment regime. There isn’t a cure to either, and AIDs is incurable.


Testing


There is a simple blood test to detect HIV infection. But you can have to wait at least three months after the event that exposed you to HIV before the test becomes positive. Special blood tests can be used to make the diagnosis before this time so if you think you have been exposed to HIV, it is important to seek advice early.

Written by Kryptonite.