Over the past several decades, the one disease that has become a cause of concern for people across the globe is HIV/AIDS. Having claimed more than 25 million lives globally, it is believed that another 34 million people are living with HIV. However, more than the disease itself, the misinformation and speculation about it is proving extremely damaging for individuals. So discussed below are the various aspects of HIV/ AIDS to help people understand and manage the ailment in a better manner.
What Is HIV And AIDS?
The first step in the direction of the efficient management of the ailment is to understand what is HIV and AIDS? AIDS is the acronym used for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, which is caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus commonly known as HIV. The disease affects the immune system of the humans making it weaker and easily susceptible to a wide range of infections and diseases. This vulnerability of the immune system increases as the virus grows inside the body. It is important to understand that AIDS is not basically a disease in itself, but rather a condition that results from HIV infection making the body lose its ability to defend itself from attacks by foreign micro-organisms. The time taken by HIV infection to progress to the stage where it is classified as AIDS varies from individual to individual and is generally within the range of 5 to 15 years.
What Are The Causes Of Aids/HIV?
Having gained a basic understanding of what is HIV, it is important to learn about its causes. There is widespread speculation about what causes HIV, especially since the virus is found throughout all the tissues of the body. However, the ailment can spread from one infected person to another only through body fluids. These include semen, vaginal fluids, blood and breast milk. Thus the most common causes of HIV are listed as follows.
• Unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected person
• Transfusion of the blood from an infected person to a healthy individual
• Sharing of contaminated needles for injection of drugs and medicines
• Sharing infected needles for body piercing and tattooing
• From an HIV infected mother to the child during pregnancy, childbirth and while breastfeeding
Contrary to the popular belief, HIV and AIDS, does not spread like the flu virus. It is also not caused by actions such as sharing a kiss with the infected person, wiping their tears or sweat and handling their urine. This is because HIV virus is not able to survive in these body fluids and in fact, the virus is not able to survive outside the human body for long. The virus dies quickly when the body fluid containing it dries up.
Getting Familiar With The Symptoms
Since being infected is not equivalent to having AIDS, the symptoms of both the conditions tend to vary somewhat. In general, people infected with HIV might also not share the same symptoms. However, the most common HIV symptoms include fever, headache and sore throat, although these symptoms might vanish after a few weeks. In fact, it is not uncommon for people to be suffering from HIV for several years before they actually start experiencing any symptoms for the same.
As the immunity weakens with the gradual progression of the disease, the patients start experiencing persistent infections which are generally indicative of the development of AIDS. The most common AIDS symptoms experienced by patients include the following.
• Frequent and persistent fever
• Extreme fatigue which is not related to stress or lack of sleep
• Severe malnutrition and weight loss
• Persistent diarrhoea and constant cough
• Oral thrush and difficulty in swallowing
• A headache, confusion and forgetfulness
• Swelling of glands in the neck and groin etc.
The only way to diagnose the presence of HIV is by undertaking a test that detects the presence of HIV virus in the blood. In case the test confirms the presence of this virus, the patient is diagnosed as HIV positive. If no signs of HIV virus are found in the blood, the patient is said to be HIV negative. A patient is required to undergo two different types of tests to be confirmed as HIV positive or negative. These include the plasma HIV RNA test and antibody HIV test.
Treatment Of HIV/AIDS
Once a patient has been diagnosed to be HIV positive, the primary objective of HIV treatment is to prevent the HIV virus from damaging the immune system and also to halt or delay the progress of the infection. These two objectives integrate a third objective of providing relief from the signs of HIV. The treatment generally includes a combination of three or more antiretroviral drugs. These drugs are effective in controlling the replication of HIV virus and maintaining the strength of the patient’s immune system to enable their body to fight off the infections. However, in order to gain the full benefits of these drugs, it is essential for the patients to take the HIV medication at the right time on a daily basis.