What is HIV?
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) attacks the cells of the immune system. The CD4+ cells help the body to resist any infections. With a lack of these cells, 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 (ART, HIV medicine) is necessary to reduce the viral load and prevent transmission of HIV to the patient’s sexual partners.
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.
The normal CD4+ cell count should be between 500 and 1600 cells per microliter. The higher the CD4+ cell count, the lower the chances of opportunistic diseases.
How is HIV transmitted?
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is transmitted by coming in direct contact with certain body fluids of the person infected with HIV. These fluids are as follows
- Rectal fluids
- Vaginal fluids
- Breast milk
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
- Receiving blood products that are contaminated with HIV
- Getting stuck with an HIV-contaminated needle
Hence, taking precautions either while having sex or sharing a needle is the best way to prevent HIV.
What are the symptoms of HIV?
Not everyone will have identical symptoms because it depends on the person and what stage of the disease they are in.
There are three stages of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Each stage has a unique set of symptoms. These include the following
Stage 1: Acute HIV infection
This stage starts around two to four weeks after getting HIV. The symptoms are similar to those of the flu, which last for a week or two. Symptoms include the following
Stage 2: Chronic HIV infection
In this stage, the virus multiplies at a low level and people may not experience any symptoms at all. Without HIV treatment, the person can remain in this stage for 10 to 15 years. However, the virus remains active during this stage.
Stage 3: Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)
- 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, which are
- Antibody tests: These tests check for HIV antibodies in the 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.
What is the treatment for HIV?
The treatment for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) involves a combination of medications known as antiretroviral therapy (ART). ART cannot cure HIV; however, it can increase the survival rate of patients.
ART halts the multiplication of the virus and reduces the amount of virus in the body to help the patient stay healthier.
Once the treatment has been started, the patient must remain compliant with the dosage for the medicines to be effective. Noncompliance can result in developing resistance to the medicines.
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