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HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a potentially life-threatening condition. It damages the immune system and affects the body’s ability to fight infections. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS. However, there are few medications that can help slow the progression of the disease.

Facts About HIV
  • Currently, about 36.9 million people are infected with HIV/AIDS worldwide.
  • Approximately 85 percent of HIV transmission are through sexual intercourse.
  • India has 3rd largest number of HIV infected people.

Difference Between HIV and AIDS

Most of us always get confused when it comes to HIV and AIDS. To understand HIV and AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), it is necessary to understand the difference and meaning of the two.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus is one of the group of viruses known as Retrovirus. After getting into the body, HIV damages the immune system and destroys the body’s ability to fight infections and some cancers.

AIDS is a disease caused by HIV. It occurs when the virus damages the immune system to critical level, causing life-threatening infections. HIV-1 is a sub-type of HIV that causes HIV/AIDS.

Most Common Opportunistic Infections to HIV/AIDS

Few common opportunistic infections to HIV/AIDS are:

  • Candidiasis

This infection causes inflammation and a thick, white coating on the mucous membrane of the tongue, mouth, vagina or oesophagus.

  • Cryptosporidiosis

This infection is caused by an internal parasite, found in animals, ingested through contaminated food or water.

  • Tuberculosis

This infection is the most common opportunistic infection linked with HIV. In fact, it is the leading of cause of death among people with AIDS.

  • Toxoplasmosis

This deadly infection occurs due to a parasite, Toxoplasma Gondii, spread by infected cats.

Transmission of HIV/AIDS

HIV can enter the body in several ways.

  • HIV can spread by sharing contaminated needles or syringes used by infected-drug users.
  • HIV can transmit by having unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected partner.
  • It can pass from an infected mother to her baby during pregnancy or birth.
  • On rare occasions, it can pass through transfusion of infected blood or blood components.
  • People who are already suffering from a sexually transmitted infection – such as genital herpes, chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhoea and bacterial vaginosis – are more at risk of getting HIV infection during unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected partner.

Signs and Symptoms of HIV/AIDS

The signs and symptoms of HIV/AIDS depend on different stages of HIV.

Few signs and symptoms associated with the acute phase or primary phase of HIV are:
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Diarrhoea
  • Rashes
  • Sore throat

The key feature of the symptoms associated with the acute phase of HIV is that they disappear within a few weeks.

After the acute phase, the person feels normal. This asymptomatic phase often lasts for years. During this phase, the virus continues to multiply, infects and destroys the immune system. This stage can last up to 10 years.

HIV progression to AIDS

If no treatment is initiated during the first two stages of HIV, the virus can progress to cause AIDS. AIDS is the advanced stage of HIV infection. It is the stage when the body begins to lose its ability to fight infections. The signs and symptoms of the advanced stage of HIV (AIDS) depend on the opportunistic infections developed during the stage. Few of them are:

  • Yeast infection of the oesophagus that can cause pain and swallowing.
  • Infection of the brain along with toxoplasmosis that can cause headache and other problems relate to brain.
  • MAC (Mycobacterium) that can cause diarrhoea, fever and weight loss.
  • Pneumonia that can cause persistent wheezing or a dry cough.
  • Lymphoma in the brain, which can cause fever and cognitive problems
  • Kaposi’s sarcoma is a kind of cancer that can cause brown, reddish or purple spot developed on the skin or in the mouth.

Prevention of HIV

There is no cure or effective vaccination for HIV. Hence, it is important to take all the measures to prevent HIV from entering into the body. Few preventive strategies are:

  • Have safe sex with your partner. Use condoms while intercourse.
  • Do not share needles or syringes with anyone.
  • Healthcare providers should follow the guidelines while using needles or syringes.
  • Women should test themselves for HIV during their pregnancy.
  • Get tested for STDs and HIV on a regular basis