What is HIV?
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) attacks the cells of the immune system. CD4+ cells help the body to resist any infections. When the number of these cells is reduced, 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 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. The difference between HIV-1 and HIV-2 are as follows
- 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 and the surrounding countries.
- HIV-2 is less fatal and progresses more slowly than HIV-1.
Currently, only one antibody test can distinguish between antibodies to HIV-1 or HIV-2.
How is HIV transmitted?
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is transmitted by coming into direct contact with certain body fluids of the person infected with HIV. These fluids are as follows
- Rectal fluids
- Vaginal fluids
- Breast milk
Transmission occurs only when the fluid gets into the bloodstream of an HIV-negative person through open sores or cuts, by direct injection or a mucous membrane.
The most common ways of spreading HIV are as follows
What are the symptoms of HIV?
Not everyone will have identical symptoms, as it depends on the person and what stage of the disease they are in.
There are three stages of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. Each stage has a unique set of symptoms. These include
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 lasts for a week or two. Symptoms include
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, depression
- Purplish spots on the skin that don’t go away
- Night sweats
- Bruises or bleeding of 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 as follows
- Antibody tests: These 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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