AIDS (Acquired immune deficiency syndrome or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is a disease caused by a virus called HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). The illness alters the immune system, making people much more vulnerable to infections and diseases. This susceptibility worsens as the disease progresses.
HIV is found in the body fluids of an infected person (semen and vaginal fluids, blood and breast milk). The virus is passed from one person to another through blood-to-blood and sexual contact. In addition, infected pregnant women can pass HIV to their babies during pregnancy, delivering the baby during childbirth, and through breast feeding.
HIV can be transmitted in many ways, such as vaginal, oral sex, anal sex, blood transfusion, and contaminated hypodermic needles.
Both the virus and the disease are often referred to together as HIV/AIDS. People with HIV have what is called HIV infection. As a result, some will then develop AIDS. The development of numerous opportunistic infections in an AIDS patient can ultimately lead to death.
According to research, the origins of HIV date back to the late nineteenth or early twentieth century in west-central Africa. AIDS and its cause, HIV, were first identified and recognized in the early 1980s.
There is currently no cure for HIV/AIDS. Treatments can slow the course of the disease – some infected people can live a long and relatively healthy life.
HIV is the virus which attacks the T-cells in the immune system.
AIDS is the syndrome which appears in advanced stages of HIV infection.
HIV is a virus.
AIDS is a medical condition.
HIV infection causes AIDS to develop. However, it is possible to be infected with HIV without developing AIDS. Without treatment, the HIV infection is allowed to progress and eventually it will develop into AIDS in the vast majority of cases.
HIV testing can identify infection in the early stages. This allows the patient to use prophylactic (preventive) drugs which will slow the rate at which the virus replicates, delaying the onset of AIDS.
AIDS patients still have the HIV virus and are still infectious. Someone with AIDS can pass HIV to someone else.
What is the difference between a sign and a symptom? A sign is something other people, apart from the patient can detect, such as a swelling, rash, or change in skin color. A symptom is something only the patient feels and describes, such as a headache, fatigue, or dizziness.
For the most part, the symptoms of HIV are the result of infections caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. These conditions do not normally develop in individuals with healthy immune systems, which protect the body against infection.
Signs and symptoms of early HIV infection
Many people with HIV have no symptoms for several years. Others may develop symptoms similar to flu, usually two to six weeks after catching the virus. The symptoms can last up to four weeks.
Symptoms of early HIV infection may include:
sweats (particularly at night)
a red rash
Asymptomatic HIV infection
In many cases, after the initial symptoms disappear, there will not be any further symptoms for many years. During this time, the virus carries on developing and damages the immune system. This process can take up to 10 years. The infected person will experience no symptoms, feel well and appear healthy.
Late-stage HIV infection
If left untreated, HIV weakens the ability to fight infection. The person becomes vulnerable to serious illnesses. This stage of infection is known as AIDS.
Signs and symptoms of late-stage HIV infection may include:
diarrhea, which is usually persistent or chronic
fever of above 37C (100F) lasting for weeks
shortness of breath
swollen glands lasting for weeks
white spots on the tongue or mouth
During late-stage HIV infection, the risk of developing a life-threatening illness is much greater. Examples include:
esophagitis (an inflammation of the lining of the lower end of the esophagus)
infections to the nervous system (acute aseptic meningitis, subacute encephalitis, peripheral neuropathy)
some cancers, such as Kaposis sarcoma, invasive cervical cancer, lung cancer, rectal carcinomas, hepatocellular carcinomas, head and neck cancers, cancers of the immune system known as lymphomas
toxoplasmosis (a disease caused by a parasite that infects the brain. It can also cause disease in the eyes and lungs)
Life-threatening illnesses may be controlled and treated with proper HIV treatment.
HIV is a retrovirus that infects the vital organs of the human immune system. The disease progresses in the absence of antiretroviral therapy. The rate of disease progression varies widely between individuals and depends on many factors (age of the patient, bodys ability to defend against HIV, access to health care, existence of coexisting infections, the infected persons genetic inheritance, resistance to certain strains of HIV).
HIV can be transmitted through:
Sexual transmission. It can happen when there is contact with infected sexual secretions (rectal, genital or oral mucous membranes). This can happen while having unprotected sex, including vaginal, oral and anal sex or sharing sex toys with someone infected with HIV.
Perinatal transmission. The mother can pass the infection on to her child during childbirth, pregnancy, and also through breastfeeding.
Blood transmission. The risk of transmitting HIV through blood transfusion is nowadays extremely low in developed countries, thanks to meticulous screening and precautions. Among drug users, sharing and reusing syringes contaminated with HIV-infected blood is extremely hazardous.Thanks to strict protection procedures the risk of accidental infection for healthcare workers is low.Individuals who give and receive tattoos and piercings are also at risk and should be very careful.
Myths: There are many misconceptions about HIV and AIDS. The virus CANNOT be transmitted from:
A 2011 report issued by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), USA, found that about 1 in every 5 HIV-positive Americans is unaware of their HIV-status, and only 49% of those who are aware receive ongoing medical care and treatment. (Link to article)
HIV blood test
Diagnosis is made through a blood test that screens specifically for the virus.
If the HIV virus has been found, the test result is 'positive'. The blood is re-tested several times before a positive result is given to the patient.
For those whose tests came back positive, they will be asked to undergo some other tests to see how the infection has progressed, and also to decide when to start treatment.
If a person has been exposed to the virus, it is crucial that they get tested as soon as possible. The earlier HIV is detected, the more likely the treatment will be successful. Also, precautions can be taken to prevent the virus from spreading to other people.
After infection with HIV, it can take up from three weeks to three months for the virus to show up in testing. Re- testing may be necessary.
If a patients most at risk moment of becoming HIV infected was within the last three months, he/she can have the test immediately. However, a good doctor will urge that another test be carried out within a few weeks.
Virology blood tests for HIV/AIDS
A virology form for HIV blood tests.
Ultra-sensitive HIV sensor - scientists from Imperial College London reported in Nature Nanotechnology (October 2012 issue) that they have developed an extremely sensitive sensor that detects viral infections, including HIV. They say the sensor is ten times more sensitive at detecting an HIV biomarker that anything else on the market today; it is also extremely cheap. The doctor can see the results by looking at the color change in a liquid solution.
Currently, there is no vaccine or cure for HIV/AIDS. But treatments have evolved which are much more efficacious - they can improve patients general health and quality of life considerably.
Emergency HIV pills. If an individual believes they have been exposed to the virus within the last 72 hours (three days), anti-HIV medication, called PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) may stop infection. The treatment should be taken as soon as possible after contact with the virus.
PEP is a very demanding treatment lasting four weeks. It is also associated with unpleasant side effects (diarrhea, malaise, nausea, weakness and fatigue).
After a positive HIV diagnosis, regular blood tests are necessary to monitor the progress of the virus before starting treatment. The therapy is designed to reduce the level of HIV in the blood.
Complementary or alternative medicine. Although widely used, alternative/complementary medications, with the homeopathy treatment is very effective medicine in HIVs & AIDS. Such has herbal ones, have not been proven to be effective or ineffective. According to some limited studies, mineral or vitamin supplements may provide some benefits. Patients are urged to discuss these options with their doctors.
Unprotected sex. Having sex without a condom can put a person at risk of being infected with HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). HIV can be spread by having unprotected sex (vaginal, oral and anal sex). It can also be caught from sharing sex toys with someone infected with HIV.
Drug abuse and needle sharing. Intravenous drug use is an important factor in HIV transmission in developed countries. Sharing needles can expose users to HIV and other viruses, such as hepatitis C.
Strategies such as needle-exchange programs are used to reduce the infections caused by drug abuse.
Body fluid exposure. Exposure to HIV can be controlled by employing precautions to reduce the risk of exposure to contaminated blood. At all times, health care workers should use barriers (gloves, masks, protective eyewear, shields, and gowns). Frequent and thorough washing of the skin immediately after being contaminated with blood or other bodily fluids can reduce the chance of infection.
Pregnancy. Anti-HIV medicines can harm the unborn child. But an effective treatment plan can prevent HIV transmission from mother to baby. Precautions have to be taken to protect the babys health. Delivery through caesarean section may be necessary. Breastfeeding may have to give way to bottle-feeding if the mother is infected. A study by scientists from Columbia University, New York, found that breastfeeding for 6+ months with antiretroviral therapy could help reduce mother-to-child HIV transmission as well as improve chances of infants survival. (Link to article)
Education. Health education is an important factor in reducing risky behavior.
Adherence. HIV treatment is effective if the patient is committed and constant in taking the medication on time. Missing even a few doses will jeopardize the treatment. A daily methodical routine has to be programmed to fit the treatment plan around the patients lifestyle and schedule. 'Adherence' is sometimes known as 'compliance'.
General Health. It is crucial for patients to take medication correctly and take steps to avoid illness. Patients should seek to improve their general health and reduce the risk of falling ill by practicing regular exercise, healthy eating, and not smoking.
Additional precautions. HIV-infected people should be extra cautious to prevent exposure to infection. They should be careful around animals, avoid coming into contact with cat litter, animal feces. Meticulous and regular washing of hands is recommended.
Long-term condition. HIV is a lasting condition, and therefore patients have to be in regular contact with their healthcare team. Treatment plan is reviewed regularly.
Psychological. Common misconceptions about AIDS/ HIV are diminishing. However, the stigma of the disease persists in many parts of the world. People infected with the virus may feel excluded, rejected, discriminated and isolated.
Being diagnosed with HIV can be very distressing, and feelings of anxiety or depression are common. If you feel anxious or have symptoms of depression, seek medical help immediately.
From time to time Homeopathy has proved its efficacy in treating such challenging cases with long lasting effects and strengthening immune system , thus giving hope to the hopeless
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