What Is HIV / AIDS?

“HIV” stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. AIDS is a set of symptoms caused by a virus HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). It can be found in blood, semen or vaginal fluids on infected person.

It can spread through sexual contact, shared needles, blood transfusion and broken wet skin of genital areas. It often spread through the person who is unaware of his infection for a long time without feeling sick.

HIV is very much like other viruses, including those that cause the flu or the common cold. But there is an important difference that other viruses are cleared by our immune system while HIV cannot. It means, once you have HIV it remains with you for life.

More Detailed About What Is HIV/AIDS?

HIV is a virus that particularly affects humans only and weakens the immunity. It hides for a long period of time in the human body without any symptoms and keep destroying it gradually.

HIV attacks the T-cells and CD4 cells of the body and makes its exponential numbers of copies in the body thereby destroying the immune system. Over the time, the HIV becomes so strong that it causes AIDS.

AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection. AIDS stands for “Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome”. As noted above AIDS is the final stage if HIV but not everyone having HIV advance to the stage of AIDS.

With proper treatment, one can keep the level of HIV low in the body so that it cannot progress to AIDS.

What Are the Symptoms of HIV?

For a long period of life after exposure the HIV remains silent and asymptomatic. When one is first infected by HIV, one may experience short flu like illness and fever, sore throat, tiredness, fatigue, diarrhoea, joint & muscle pains, swollen glands, skin rashes.

One will probably start with a high fever, chills and sweats accompanied by a sore throat and mouth ulcers. One may find it difficult to chew or eat, which can cause rapid weight loss.

Swollen lymph nodes can appear in early stage and last for a few weeks or more. Infected nodes usually appear in the neck, armpits and groin area. People with HIV infection often complain about severe muscle/joint aches or stiffness.

What Are the Symptoms of AIDS?

If one receive no treatment for HIV infection the disease progress to AIDS. Since the AIDS develop the immune system has been severely damaged and one is more prone to multiple infections and diseases.

At that stage even the weakest virus affects the body very badly, such viruses that couldn’t even trouble a bit when the person is in normal health.

When the individual’s immune system can’t cope with HIV anymore it starts giving out symptoms. The infected one experience night sweats that soak the person, shaking chill, fever higher than 100 F for several weeks.

Infected individual also experience cough, shortness of breath, chronic diarrhoea, lesions on tongue or in the mouth, headache, fatigue, loss of vision, weight loss & skin rashes.

How Can I Know If I Have HIV?

Most common types of tests taken are the, Enzyme immunoassay (EIA) tests for which blood, oral fluid , or urine is tested to detect HIV antibodies and Rapid HIV antibody tests also use blood, oral fluid, or urine to detect HIV antibodies.

Antibody tests are the most common tests in which instead of HIV its antibodies are checked in the blood.

Enzyme immunoassay (EIA) tests use blood, oral fluid, or urine to detect HIV antibodies. Rapid HIV antibody tests also use blood, oral fluid, or urine to detect HIV antibodies.

If the test results are positive one should take other tests too.

Antigen tests are used to diagnose HIV infection in early stages and it requires a blood sample.

PCR test is also taken PCR stands for “Polymerase chain reaction test”. This test detects the genetic material of HIV. Babies born to HIV mother are testes with special PCR because for several months they contain the antibodies of the mother.

There are kits available for testing HIV at home and only one test “Home Access HIV-1 Test System” is approved by the FDA.

Is There a Cure for HIV/AIDS?

There is no cure for HIV/AIDS but several drugs can be used to control the virus. There are different drugs that blocks or inhibit the virus in different ways. There is always a combination of 2-3 drugs is given to lessen the strain of HIV.

The drugs used for the control of HIV are NNRTIs (Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors), NRTIs (Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors), Integrate inhibitors, PIs (Protease inhibitors), Entry or fusion inhibitors.

NNRTIs disable the protein required by HIV to make its copies and they include drugs like, efavirenz, etravirineand nevirapine.

NRTIs are the abnormal version of building blocks of HIV and they distort the HIV structure and function. NRTIs include drugs, Abacavir, and the combination drugs emtricitabine and tenofovir, and lamivudine and zidovudine.

Integrase inhibitors disables the enzyme that is use to insert the HIV genetic material into CD4 cells. Raltegravir is an example.

Protease inhibitors are the proteins that help HIV in making its copies. PIs are atazanavir, darunavir, fosamprenavir and ritonavir.

Entry inhibitors, inhibits the entry of HIV into CD4 cells and they include drugs like, enfuvirtide and maraviroc.

How Is HIV Spread?

There are five body fluids that can spread HIV and these fluids are blood, semen, rectal fluid, vaginal fluid and breast milk. HIV can spread only when there fluids of infected person enters the blood stream of healthy person.

The two major ways that spread HIV are “unprotected sex” & “sharing needles”.

One can get infected if one has vaginal, anal or oral sex with the infected person. So using condom or other barriers can reduce the risk.

HIV can also be transmitted by sharing tattoo needles and inks, jewelry to get a body piercing, acupuncture needles, to fetus by pregnant mother, through breast milk to infant or by transfusion of unchecked infected person’s blood.

HIV cannot be passes by talking, shaking hands, working or eating with someone who has HIV. Hugs or kisses, coughs or sneezes, swimming pools, toilet seats or water fountains, bed sheets or towels, forks, spoons, cups or food, insects or animals cannot transmit the virus as well.

How Can I Prevent Getting or Spreading HIV?

One can protect his/her partner and oneself by getting or spreading HIV if one follows safer sex. If one has HIV, one is having other STDs too but precautions and prevention can help to protect against such STDs.

One should use a new condom every time one have sex, tell the sexual partner if one have HIV, always use a clean needle for injection, don’t share needles, consider male circumcision.

One should take regular tests and checkups for HIV if one is concerned about his/her health and that of one’s partner.

What If I Have HIV/AIDS?

If one is diagnosed with HIV/AIDS one should immediately visit the health care provider without wasting a second and should take proper tests and treatments. Consider all the prevention suggested by the health care provider and follow them.

Tell the partner about the disease and avoid having sexual or other harmful contact without proper cautions. Take medication regularly and properly with a healthy and balanced diet so there would be no weight loss.

One should take enough rest, stop smoking or liquor, regular exercise and avoid stress.

What If I Have HIV/AIDS and I Am Pregnant?

If one is pregnant and HIV/AIDS positive, one should get medical care right away. If infected one is pregnant she can pass the infection to the fetus, but if one takes treatment early during pregnancy one can reduce the risk of transmitting this STD by two third.

One should keep monitoring viral load during pregnancy, taking appropriate medications, avoiding certain pregnancy procedures, having a cesarean-section if one’s viral load is too high, and not breastfeeding.

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