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AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) is caused by a virus, HIV (Human Immunodeficiency virus). It is a chronic condition where a person’s immune system is weaken by destroying important cells that fight diseases and infection. It cannot be treated but can be controlled with proper medical care.
When a person is infected with HIV, the virus destroys the CD4 cells – a type of white blood cell that helps the body to fight diseases. The body’s immunity decreases as more and more CD4 cells are killed. One can have HIV infection for years before it progresses to AIDS. HIV infection can occur in several ways –
- When the infected blood, semen or vaginal secretions enter the body while having sex
- Through blood transfusions
- By sharing needles contaminated with infected blood
- From mother to child during pregnancy, child birth and breast feeding.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS -
Depending on the phases of infection, the symptoms of HIV/AIDS vary.
Primary Infection (Acute HIV):
People infected with HIV develop a flu like illness within a month or two and may last for a few weeks. The symptoms are:
- Fever and Headache
- Muscle aches and joint pain
- Sore throat
- Mouth or genital ulcers
- Swollen lymph glands, mainly on the neck
- Night sweats
The amount of virus in the blood stream during primary HIV infection is very high due to which the infection spreads more during this period as compared to the other stages of infection.
Cancers common to HIV/AIDS:
- Kaposi's Sarcoma
Infections common to HIV/AIDS:
- Cryptococcal Meningitis
- Wasting syndrome
- Neurological complications
- Kidney disease
When the CD4 count is below 200, it indicates that the person has AIDS. AIDS is diagnosed by testing your blood or saliva for antibodies to the virus. It takes up to 12 weeks for the body to develop these antibodies. In rare cases, it can take upto 6 months for the HIV antibody test to become positive.
- A protein produced by the HIV immediately after the infection confirms the diagnosis within days of infection. This is a new method of HIV Test.
- Viral Load: This test looks for actual virus in blood
- Drug Resistance: This test determines whether the strain of HIV will be resistant to certain anti-HIV medications.
- Nucleic acid test: measures the amount of virus in blood
- Antigen/Antibody test: This test looks for both; Antigen and Antibody. An antigen called p24 is produced even before the antibody is developed.
- Antibody test: It detects the antibodies present in blood.
There is no cure for HIV but it can be controlled.
- Using medications
- Consuming dietary supplements to boost immune system
RISK FACTORS -
- Unprotected sex: Sex without using a new latex or polyurethane condom may often lead to HIV infection. Anal sex is riskier than vaginal sex. The risk increases if you have multiple sexual partners.
- Sexually transmitted infections: People infected with another STI are prone to HIV as STIs produce open sores on the genitals through which the virus can enter.
- Intravenous drugs: People consuming intravenous drugs often share needles and syringes which if not sterilized may contain HIV virus.
- Uncircumcised man: Lack of circumcision has shown that there is an increase in the risk of heterosexual transmission of HIV.
There is no vaccine for prevention of AIDS but one can take precautionary measures like:
- Using a new condom every time.
- Informing the sexual partner if suffering from AIDS.
- Using a clean needle every time.
- In case of pregnancy, getting medical care right away
- Considering male circumcision