What is HIV?
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the cells of the immune system (CD4 cells). CD4+ cells help the body to resist any infections. When the number of these cells goes down, the body is less resistant,which makes it vulnerable to other infections and diseases. HIV spreads mainly via body fluids (blood and semen) from the infected person.
If untreated, HIV can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Hence, treating HIV with antiretroviral therapy (HIV medicine) is necessary to reduce the viral load and prevent transmission of HIV to the patient’s sexual partners.
How is HIV transmitted?
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is transmitted by coming in direct contact with certain body fluids from the person infected with HIV. These fluids are as follows
- Rectal fluids
- Vaginal fluids
- Breast milk
The transmission occurs only when the fluid gets into the bloodstream of an HIV-negative person through open sores or cuts, by direct injection or through contact with a mucous membrane.
The most common ways of spreading HIV are as follows
- Having anal or vaginal sex with an HIV-positive person
- Sharing needles with a person who has HIV
- Less common ways are as follows
- During pregnancy or breastfeeding
- Having oral sex with an infected person
- Receiving blood products that are contaminated with HIV
- Getting stuck with an HIV-contaminated needle
How do you feel when you have HIV?
Around two to four weeks after getting human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the patient may experience the following symptoms
- Sore throat
- Swollen glands
- Upset stomach
- Joint aches and pains
As the disease progresses, the patient may remain symptomless for quite some time. This stage is also known as clinical latency. During this stage, the virus multiplies at a low level. Without treatment, the patient may remain in this stage for 10 to 15 years. However, the virus remains active during this stage.
If left untreated, HIV progresses to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). AIDS can weaken the immune system causing several opportunistic diseases. The patient may experience the following severe symptoms in this stage:
- Unexplainable weight loss
- Recurring fever
- Getting tired easily
- Prolonged swelling of the lymph glands in the armpits, groin or neck
- Diarrhea that lasts for more than a week
- Sores of the mouth, anus or genitals
- Memory loss and depression
- Purplish spots on the skin that don’t go away
- Night sweats
- Bruises or bleeding due to an unknown reason
What are the types of HIV tests?
There are three types of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) tests used to diagnose HIV infections
- Antibody tests: These tests check for HIV antibodies in blood or oral fluid.
- Antigen/antibody tests: These help to detect both HIV antibodies and antigens in the blood.
- Nucleic acid tests: These look for HIV in the blood.
How to manage HIV symptoms
Antiretroviral medications are the first-line treatment for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Patients should be compliant with the medications to reduce the amount of virus in the body.
The various symptoms and their treatments are as follows
- Weight loss: In addition to the HIV medications (antiretroviral therapy), patients should eat a well-balanced diet and high-protein supplements and perform exercises to build muscle mass. The physician may prescribe medications such as Megace (megestrol acetate) and Marinol (dronabinol) to treat wasting syndrome commonly seen in HIV patients.
- Skin problems: Skin infections or dry itchy skin are usually treated with antifungal or antibacterial cream. Oral medicines may also be required.
- Herpes (Shingles): Shingles can cause a painful, blistering rash. Antiviral medications, pain relievers and calamine lotions are mainly used to treat rashes.
- Fever: Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and applying cold compresses may bring down the temperature.
- Nagging cough: Dry cough can be due to an infection known as pneumocystis pneumonia. The physician may prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. Medicines to thin the mucus may also help.
- Diarrhea: Doctors may prescribe antidiarrheals to control diarrhea. Patients need to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
- FDA Panel Backs RSV Vaccine for Infants, Some Toddlers
- Seniors: Stay Social, Active for 'Optimal Aging,' Study Shows
- Diabetes Med Metformin Might Help Prevent Long COVID
- Disability a Growing Concern for U.S. Cancer Survivors
- Smoke From Wildfires Is Especially Tough If You Have Asthma. Here’s How to Protect Yourself
- More Health News »
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Top How Do You Feel When You Have HIV Related Articles
HIV/AIDS HistoryGet a historical overview of the HIV/AIDS pandemic from human contraction to the present through this slideshow of pictures.
Can I Get HIV From Surfaces?Studies proved that HIV cannot be transmitted through surfaces such as toilet seats, chairs, doorknobs, drinking glasses and bedsheets. The virus cannot survive outside a human host; hence, transmission through air, water (swimming pools), insect bite or casual contacts such as handshake, hug or touch is not possible.
HIV Early Signs and StagesHIV (human immunodeficiency virus) weakens your immune system. Some people with HIV don’t have any symptoms, but those that do may experience mononucleosis-like or flu-like symptoms. There are 3 stages of HIV.
HIV/AIDS MythsWhat is HIV versus AIDS? What are the symptoms of HIV? Is there an HIV cure? Discover myths and facts about living with HIV/AIDS. Learn about HIV and AIDS treatment options, symptoms, and diagnosis.
What Are HIV & AIDS? Symptoms, Treatment, and PreventionHIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS. Learn about HIV symptoms, HIV test, HIV positive, being HIV positive, how HIV infection spreads, T-Cell counts, antiretroviral therapy (ART), viral load, Truveda, and other HIV/AIDS therapies.
HIV TestingHIV antibody tests detect antibodies the body produces to neutralize the virus. HIV RNA testing uses polymerase chain reaction to detect HIV RNA in a person's blood. It usually takes one to three days to get results.
HIV/AIDS QuizNow, more than ever, you should know about HIV/AIDS, especially its causes, symptoms treatments, and complications. Take the HIV/AIDS Quiz now!
HIV/AIDS PictureAcronym for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, the cause of AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). See a picture of HIV/AIDS and learn more about the health topic.
How Long Can You Live with HIV?HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. If someone has HIV it means that they have been diagnosed with the HIV infection. AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome); however, is the most advanced or final stage of the HIV infection. In the case of an untreated HIV infection, the overall mortality rate is more than 90%. The average time from infection to death is eight to ten years.
How Long Does It Take to Notice Signs of HIV?HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks and damages the cells of the immune system in the body. If left untreated, HIV can lead to the AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) disease. AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection which occurs when the body’s immune system is severely damaged because of the virus and unusual infections result. Untreated, HIV infection has a mortality of 90%.
How Long Does It Take to See Signs of HIV?The signs and symptoms of HIV may first appear within two to four weeks of infection. The stage in which the symptoms appear is called the stage of acute HIV infection. The symptoms appear due to the resistance or fight of the immune system against HIV. Early diagnosis and treatment of HIV gets the best results.
What Are the Four Stages of HIV?The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) into four stages. Stage 1 (HIV infection): The CD4+ cell count is at least 500 cells per microliter. Stage 2 (HIV infection): The CD4+ cell count is 350 to 499. Stage 3 (advanced HIV disease or AHD): The CD4+ cell count is 200 to 349. Stage 4 (Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome [AIDS]): The CD4+ cell count is less than 200.
What Foods Should HIV Patients Avoid?People living with HIV face several health challenges because their bodies must work harder to fight infections. HIV patients should avoid foods high in sodium, sugar, and trans and saturated fats.
What Is the Difference Between HIV-1 and HIV-2?There are two main types of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), HIV-1 and HIV-2. HIV-1 is the most common type of HIV and accounts for 95% of all infections, whereas HIV-2 is relatively uncommon and less infectious. HIV-2 is mainly concentrated in West Africa, is less deadly and progresses more slowly.
Should I Be Worried About Pregnancy if I Used a Condom?Condoms are a popular method of birth control. If used correctly, there's about a 2 percent risk of becoming pregnant while using a condom, but it's a good idea to use another method of birth control along with it. Condoms are probably the most effective means for preventing human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), as long as they are used correctly during sex.