HEALTH TIPS: HIV/AIDS FACTS PEOPLE SHOULD KNOW

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WHAT IS HIV?

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks immune cells called CD4 cells, which are type of T cell. These are white blood cells that move around the body, detecting faults and anomalies in cells as well as infections. When HIV targets and infiltrates these cells, it reduces the body’s ability to combat other diseases.

This increases the risk and impact of opportunistic infections and cancers. However, a person can carry HIV without experiencing symptoms for a long time.

HIV is a lifelong infection. However, receiving treatment and managing the disease effectively can prevent HIV from reaching a severe level and reduce the risk of a person passing on the virus.

 

WHAT IS AIDS?

AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV infection. Once HIV infection develops into AIDS, infections and cancer pose a greater risk.

Without treatment, HIV infection is likely to develop into AIDS as the immune system gradually wears down. However, advances in ART mean than an ever-decreasing number of people progress to this stage.

By the close of 2015, around 1,122,900 people were HIV-positive. To compare, figures from 2016 show that medical professionals diagnosed AIDS in an estimated 18,160 people.

CAUSES

People transmit HIV in bodily fluids, including:

  • Blood
  • Semen
  • Vaginal secretions
  • Anal fluids
  • Breast milk

In the united states, the main causes of this transfer of fluids are:

  • anal or vaginal intercourse with a person who has HIV while not using a condom pr PrEP, a preventive HIV medication for people at high risk of infection.
  • sharing equipment for inject able illicit drugs, hormones, and steroids with a person who has HIV

A woman living with HIV who is pregnant or has recently given birth might transfer the disease to her child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding.

The risk of HIV transmitting through blood transfusions is extremely low in countries that have effective screening procedures in place for blood donations.

UNDETECTABLE=UNTRANSMITTABLE

To transmit HIV, these fluids must contain enough of virus. if a person has ‘undetectable’ HIV, they will not transmit HIV to another person, even if after a transfer of fluids.

Undetectable HIV is when the amount of HIV in the body is so low that a blood test cannot detect it. people may be able to achieve undetectable levels of HIV by closely following the prescribed course of treatment.

Confirming and regularly monitoring undetectable status using a blood test is important, as this does not mean that the person no longer has HIV. undetectable HIV relies on the person adhering to their treatment, as well as the effectiveness of treatment itself.

PROGRESSION TO AIDS

The risk of HIV progressing to AIDS varies between individuals and depends on many factors, including:

  • the age of the individual
  • the body’s ability to defend against HIV
  • access to high-quality, sanitary healthcare
  • the presence of other infections
  • the individual’s genetic inheritance resistance to certain strains of HIV
  • drug-resistant strains of HIV

SYMPTOMS

For the most part, infections by other bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites causes the more severe symptoms of HIV.

These conditions tend to progress further in people who live with HIV than in individuals with healthy immune systems. A correctly functioning immune system would protect the body against the more advanced effects of infections, and HIV disrupts this process.

EARLY SYMPTOMS OF HIV INFECTION

Some people with HIV does not show symptoms until months or even years after contracting the virus.

However, around 80 percent of people may develop a set of flu like symptoms known as acute retroviral syndrome around 2-6 weeks after the virus enters the body.

The early symptoms of HIV infection ma include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle aches
  • Sore throat
  • Particularly at night
  • Enlarged glands
  • A red rash
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Thrush

These symptoms might also result from the immune system fighting off many types of viruses.

However, people who experience several of these symptoms and know of any reason they might have been at risk of contracting HIV over the last 6 weeks should take a test.

ASYMPTOMATIC HIV

In many cases, after the symptoms of acute retro-viral syndrome, symptoms might not occur for many years. During this time, the virus continues to develop and cause immune system and organ damage. Without medication that prevents the replication of virus, this slow process can continue for an average of around 10 years.

A person living with HIV often experiences no symptoms, feels weak and appears healthy.

Complying rigidly to a course of ART can disrupt this phase and suppress the virus completely. Taking effective anti-retro-viral medications for life can halt on gong damage to the immune system.

LATE-STAGE HIV INFECTION

Without medication, HIV weakens the ability to fight infection. The person becomes vulnerable to serious illnesses. This stage is known as AIDS or stage 3 HIV.

Symptoms of late stage HIV infection may include:

  • Blurred Vision
  • Diarrhea, which is usually persistent or chronic
  • Dry cough
  • A fever of over 100 F(37 c) lasting for weeks
  • Night sweats
  • Permanent tiredness
  • Shortness of breath, or dyspnea
  • Swollen glands for weeks
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • White spots on the tongue or mouth

During late stage HIV infection, the risk of developing a life-threatening illness increases greatly. A person with late stage HIV can control, prevent and treat serious conditions by taking other medications alongside HIV treatment.

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Rebecca Oboh

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