We are all aware of the word AIDS. It is one of the major feared diseases all over the world. This disease spreads through bodily fluids via sexual intercourse, infected needle injection and breastfeeding. In this blog, you will get to know about HIV/AIDS and its prevention.
What is HIV/AIDS?
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a lentivirus that infects humans and can lead to an advanced disease state called acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Millions suffer from HIV condition for many years without becoming ill or showing symptoms. During this time, HIV remains active in the body where it damages the immune system our body. Without effective treatment, the average survival time of a person is nine to 11 years.
HIV infection spreads through transfer of blood, semen, vaginal fluid, or breast milk. The disease is present as both free virus particles and virus within the infected immune cells. HIV evades the body’s natural defense system by hiding in immune cells called CD4+ T cells. It effectively hijacks these immune cells and uses them to replicate before destroying them. However, HIV prevention is possible, if you find its symptoms as early as possible.
Also Read: 11 Signs That You May Have HIV!
What are the symptoms of HIV/AIDS?
Symptoms of HIV/AIDS vary from person to person and on the phase of infection. In the beginning the infection with HIV does not produce any symptoms until the disease progresses to AIDS.
Symptoms of early HIV infection:
Initial stage of HIV infection is known as acute HIV infection. In this stage a majority of people develop a flu-like illness within a month or two after the virus enters the body. These symptoms may last for a few weeks. In addition, there are other possible symptoms of HIV:
• Joint pain
• Sore throat
• Sweats (particularly at night)
• Enlarged glands
• Muscle ache
• A red rash
• Weight loss
In the primary stage of infection, HIV may be mild enough to go unnoticed, but the amount of virus in the bloodstream is unusually high. As a result, HIV infection spreads more efficiently during this stage as compared to the next stage of infection.
Also Read: HIV and Other Sexual Problems in Women
Clinical latent HIV infection:
Various people with HIV, experience persistent swelling of lymph nodes otherwise, there are no specific signs and symptoms. However, HIV remains in the body and infects white blood cells. Though, clinical latent infection typically lasts eight to 10 years, and a few people stay in this stage even longer while others progress to severe disease.
Early symptomatic HIV infection:
When HIV continues to multiply and destroy immune cells, you may develop chronic signs and symptoms including:
• Weight loss
• Shortness of breath
Late-stage HIV infection:
As the infection progresses and if it left untreated, then HIV weakens the body’s ability to fight infections and makes the person vulnerable to serious illnesses like AIDS. Some of the symptoms of HIV/AIDS include the following:
• Blurred and distorted vision
• Soaking night sweats
• Shortness of breath
• Chronic diarrhea
• Fever higher than 1000 F (380 C) for several weeks
• Unexplained fatigue
• Persistent white spots on your tongue or in your mouth
• Weight loss
Late-stage HIV infection makes a person susceptible of developing a life-threatening illness like:
• Esophagitis (an inflammation of the lining of the lower end of the esophagus)
• Infections of the nervous system
• Various types of cancers including Kaposi’s sarcoma, lung cancer, rectal carcinomas, hepatocellular carcinomas, invasive cervical cancer, head and neck cancers, and lymphomas.
Illnesses mentioned above can be controlled and treated with proper HIV treatment.
Treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS:
There is no cure for HIV/AIDS, but a combination of various drugs can be used to control the virus. Your doctor will prescribe you the best medications to control your condition. He/she may prescribe you class of anti-HIV drugs to block the virus in different ways. Some of the anti-HIV drugs include the following:
• Non-nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NNRTIs) – These disable the protein needed by HIV to make copies of it. Some of the NNRTIs includes Efavirenz, Nevirapine and Etravirine.
• Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTIs) – To limit the spread of HIV, doctor may recommend you to take Abacavir, and the combination drugs like Emtricitabine and Tenofovir, and Lamivudine and Zidovudine.
• Entry or fusion inhibitors- These medications block HIV’s entry into CD4 cells. You may be advised to take Enfuvirtide and Maraviroc.
Treatment of HIV may involve taking multiple drugs at specific times each day for the rest of the life. Some of the side effects that may accompany include nausea, heart disease, weakened bones, vomiting or diarrhea, shortness of breath and skin rashes.
How to prevent HIV?
HIV prevention is possible that can be done by educating yourself about the condition. To prevent HIV from getting trapped and spreading to others, follow the below-mentioned tips:
• Protect yourself by understanding how HIV spread- A lot of misinformation is trending about the transmission of HIV, so you must be aware of the actual means of transmission in order to protect yourself. In general, HIV is transmitted when breast milk, semen, infected blood, or vaginal secretions come in contact with broken skin or mucous membranes. HIV also spreads through unprotected vaginal, oral, or anal intercourse.
• Always use a new and fresh condom- Sex can turn into a real danger if you don’t know the HIV status of your partner. In any case of doubt, use a fresh condom every time whenever you have anal or vaginal sex.
• Use a clean needle- Make sure to use sterilized injections and dispose it of after using.
• If you’re pregnant, get medical care right away- If you’re pregnant and HIV-positive too, then you need to pay extra attention because you may pass the infection to your baby. If you receive adequate treatment during pregnancy, you can lower your baby’s risk of getting HIV by as much as two-thirds.
• Circumcision- Various studies have proved, male circumcision (surgical removal of the foreskin from the penis) lowers the risk of acquiring HIV in men.
HIV is a very painful condition, but HIV prevention can be possible if you educate yourself. By following the tips as mentioned above, you can lead an ordinary life.
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