Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that target CD-4 cells, a subset of T cells in the body. HIV harms a person’s immune system and lowers his capability to fight with diseases and infection by destroying white blood cells. Further, HIV puts a person life at risk by developing serious infections and diseases that are not curable. AIDS is a medical condition that develops due to HIV infection. AIDS stands for acquired immune deficiency syndrome and it can or cannot appear at the advanced stage of HIV infection. It is also important to know that not everyone with HIV should develop AIDS. Basically, HIV infection can develop AIDS. A person who develops this syndrome will have reduced immunity caused by the virus called HIV 1 and 2. AIDS is not one single disorder or illness, but is the collection of many infections and symptoms which affects the immune system of the individual. In short, AIDS damages and affects the body’s defense mechanism which may affect the normal functions of other organs.
The major causes of AIDS are
- Improper blood transfusion
- Having unprotected sex
- Use of unsterilized needles
- Exchanges of body fluids
It is also possible that pregnant women suffering with AIDS can transfer disease into their babies during their pregnancy or birth.
HIV infection will not show any symptoms until several months or even years after infecting the body. AIDS cannot be detected at early stages and few symptoms like flu, headache, fever, nausea, diarrhea and fatigue are observed in persons who acquire this syndrome. However, around 80 percent of the patients may develop flu like symptoms after 2-5 weeks of virus infection. This stage is known as retroviral syndrome. The symptoms of early HIV infection include
- Joint pain
- Sore throat
- Muscle aches
- Enlarged glands
- Red rashes
- Sudden weight loss
Many times, there are no further symptoms after appearance of initial symptoms for many years, but the virus is active in the body and developing and damaging the organs and immune system during this time. The slow process of immune depletion can continue for an average of 10 years, if any medication is not given to stop that. People with HIV often not experience any symptoms, appear healthy, and feel well. Effective doses of anti-retroviral can disturb the immune depletion.
Late Stage HIV Infection
HIV gradually weakens the capacity of a person to fight with infection, if not treated on time. The person with HIV infection is vulnerable to adapt serious and incurable illness. This stage of HIV infection is known as AIDS or stage 3 HIV. Symptoms of this stage are
- Dry cough
- Fever that last for weeks
- Blurred vision
- Breath shortness
- High sweating in nights
- White spots in the mouth or on tongue
The risk of developing serious illness is much higher during the late stage HIV infection.
The signs of AIDS depend on the person and his stage of the disease. A person may experience pain in abdomen area, swallowing, headache, fatigue, fever, ulcers or sores as Signs of HIV infection.
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There are three stages of HIV infection
- The initial stage of infection (HIV-1) – it is a primary stage which occurs within 2-6 weeks of HIV infection. Generally, characterized by a flu or minor illness that cures within weeks.
- The chronic asymptomatic infection stage (HIV-2) – this stage has a long duration on infection without any symptoms. This stage can lasts from 8-10 years without treatment.
- The symptomatic infection stage (HIV-3) – in this stage, the body immune system has been depleted and develops complications. This stage is known as AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). The stage show severe weight loss, unusual infections, and dementia (intellectual deterioration) in a person.
Risk factors associated with AIDS are
- Sex without the use of condom or other barriers
- Risk of transfer of various sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Risk of handling used needles/sharps
- Inappropriate disposal of needles/sharps
- Improper use of personal protective measures such as masks, gloves, and eye protection
Generally, HIV infection is diagnosed by blood tests. HIV testing is a two-step process. The first step is a screening test. If the first test is positive, than second test (western blotting) is performed to confirm the result. The three screening test includes
- HIV antibody test or ELISA (Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay)
- p24 antigen tests and fourth generation combined antibody/antigen tests
- Viral load tests or PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) tests (for both RNA and DNA)
Currently, there is no complete treatment is available for HIV or AIDS, but excellent treatment is available for treating and suppressing the symptoms of AIDS. HAART therapy is administered for many patients who have AIDS which enhances life expectancy by destroying the virus completely. Anti-Retroviral Therapy is a combination of drugs and injections which are simultaneously given to the patient which act as inhibitors of virus and prevents the growth of virus in different stages. Treatment methods for suppressing AIDS include
- Emergency HIV pills (post-exposure prophylaxis)
Anti-HIV medication, known as PEP (post exposure prophylaxis) may prevent infection, if a person believes that he have been attacked by the virus within the 72 hours. This treatment is recommended as soon as a person came in to the contact of the virus. The duration of PEP treatment is 4 weeks or 28 days, but complete monitoring after treatment is continued.
- Anti-retroviral drugs
HIV is treated by anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs). The antiretroviral drugs treatment reduces the HIV infection and lowers the spreading process of virus in the body. The treatment includes a combination of medications, known as HAART (highly active antiretroviral therapy) or cART (combination antiretroviral therapy.
Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is recommended to every HIV infected person. Antiretroviral therapy cannot cure people from HIV, but helps them to live longer and healthier life with HIV. Antiretroviral therapy also reduces the risk of HIV transmission. The therapy does have some side effects but only treatment option for HIV infection. The number of antiretroviral sub groups are used in treatment, these include
- Protease inhibitors such as cobicistat/atazanavir(Evotaz) or ritonavir/lopinavir(Kaletra)
- Integrase inhibitors such as dolutegravir (Tivicay) and elvitegravir (Vitekta)
- Nucleoside/nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) such as abacavir (Ziagen) and emtricitabine (Emtriva)
- Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs)
- Chemokine co-receptor antagonists
- Entry inhibitors
HIV Home Remedies
There are no home remedies to cure AIDS, but some helps to reduce viral load and maintain CD4 cells count in the body. The home remedies the helps treatment include
- A diet, rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains
- Low fat diet of protein
- A diet, rich in carbohydrates, protein, and a little amount of fat
- Limiting consumption of soft drinks, sweets, and sugar added products
The prevention is only cure for HIV and AIDS. The prevention for AIDS include
- Use of condoms in sexual activities
- Limit sex to only one partner
- Stop sharing of drug injection and needle
- Avoid body fluid exposure by using gloves, masks or shields
- Early HIV testing during pregnancy to stop transmitting disease into new born baby
- Educate people about AIDS and its effect
- Take proper medication
HIV/AIDS do not have any cure. Earlier, people with AIDS were to be lived only for couple of years but improvement in treatment methods extends the average life span and now, people can live with AIDS for many years. The advancement in treatment has improved survival rates. Prevention techniques have reduced HIV infection in new born babies. Drugs only reduce the risk of transmitting HIV and its effects on the body, but do not eliminate the infection. It is important to take drugs regularly or as prescribed to resist the virus and to avoid developing AIDS in the body. Intensive research is focused on developing better and effective treatment methods for HIV/AIDS, but currently, prevention is the only cure.