What Causes AIDS? Know about HIV and AIDS in Detail!
21-09-2017 | Posted By: Chhavi | 2035 View(s)
Human Immunodeficiency Virus which is commonly known as HIV is a virus which attacks the body’s immune system and its natural defence system. When our immune system is not strong, our body finds it difficult to fight off diseases. The blood in our body is made of different blood cells; one of those blood cells is White Blood Cells which are an important part of the immune system. White Blood Cells help our body to fight against infections and illnesses.
An Overview of HIV and AIDS
Human Immunodeficiency Virus invades and attacks White Blood Cells; specifically the CD4+ cells and makes our immune system weaker. When there is a reduced number of CD4+ cells in the person’s body, they are more likely to get infections. When these cells are destroyed in a large number, our body is not able to defend itself against illnesses and infections.
AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) occurs in the last stage of the virus infection. Those who have AIDS have a fewer number of CD4+ cells in the body and get cancers or infections that rarely occur in healthy people. However, it is not necessary that if you have this virus means you have AIDS. Even if left untreated, it takes a long time, usually 10 to 12 years for Human Immunodeficiency Virus to cause AIDS.
If HIV is diagnosed before it progress to AIDS, medications can help in slowing down or prevent the damage to the immune system. When people who have Human Immunodeficiency Virus get treatment at the right time, they can live long, active and healthy lives.
Causes of HIV
Human Immunodeficiency Virus leads to Human Immunodeficiency Virus infections. One can get Human Immunodeficiency Virus from contact with infected blood, semen or vaginal fluids. Ways by which one can get HIV:
• One can get the virus by having unprotected sex with someone who has a Human Immunodeficiency Virus.
• Another way of getting this virus is by sharing drug needles with someone who has this virus.
• Also, the virus can be passed from a mother to her baby during the time of pregnancy, birth or even breastfeeding.
It is a misconception that this virus can be spread by casual contact with infected people. Human Immunodeficiency Virus does not survive well outside the body. That is why the virus cannot be passed on to another person by casual contact such as kissing, hugging or sharing food with an infected person.
Symptoms of HIV
The symptoms of Human Immunodeficiency Virus are not seen at an early stage. People who have symptoms many times mistake it for flu or mono.
The early symptoms of the virus which are common to most people are:
• A sore Throat
• A headache
• Joint pain and Muscle Aches
• Skin rash
These early symptoms of the virus usually go away within 2 to 3 weeks.
When these early symptoms go away, an infected person may not have these symptoms again for many years. If the person gets treated at the right time, it will help to keep the virus under control and keep the immune system healthy. However, if left untreated, the virus will continue to grow in the body and will keep attacking the immune system. Thus, after some time, the symptoms will reappear and then remain. These symptoms which reappear and remain in the body include:
• Swollen lymph nodes
• Feeling tired all the time
• Losing Weight
• Night Sweats
A Doctor may suspect that you have the virus if these symptoms last and no other cause can be found for these symptoms.
Contagious and Incubation Period of the Virus
The incubation period is the time between a person is infected initially with Human Immunodeficiency Virus and when the early symptoms develop which may be a few days to several weeks.
It can take either take as less time like 2 weeks or as long as 6 months from the time you first became infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus for the antibodies to be detected in your blood. This is called the “window period”. During this period, you can spread the virus to others as you are contagious. If you have been tested for Human Immunodeficiency Virus and your test results are negative, it is advisable to be tested again after six months.
Once you are infected with this virus, your blood, semen or vaginal fluids will always be infectious, even after taking treatment for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus infection.
Diagnosis of HIV
Human Immunodeficiency Virus can be diagnosed through the tests that can detect Human Immunodeficiency Virus antibodies in oral fluid, urine or blood. If a urine test or a test on oral fluid shows that you have this virus, you will need to go for a Blood Test to confirm the diagnosis. Once you are infected with the virus, your immune system will start making antibodies to try to destroy the virus. Blood Tests can detect these antibodies.
Generally, two blood tests are used by the Doctors for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. These two tests are- The ELISA (Enzyme‐linked immunosorbent assay) and the Western blot assay. Firstly, the ELISA test is done, and if the results are positive (meaning that the body has Human Immunodeficiency Virus antibodies), the blood sample is tested again. If the second test is also positive, the Doctor will do a Western Blot to confirm the diagnosis. It takes around 6 months for Human Immunodeficiency Virus antibodies to get detected in a blood sample. So, if you think you are infected with this virus but your test results are negative, you must get tested again in 6 months.
If someone is infected with the virus, they can pass it to another person during this time; thus one must always take steps so that they can prevent the spread of the virus.
You can get tested for Human Immunodeficiency Virus in most Doctors’ offices, hospitals and even public health clinics.
Positive Test Results of Human Immunodeficiency Virus
If you test positive for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, it is definite that you will feel anxious and depressed. However, you must know the fact that there are so many people who have this virus and with proper treatment, they are living a healthy life. There are certain medicines which help in slowing down the rate at which the virus progresses and even prevent AIDS from developing.
Your Doctor will complete your medical history and physical examination once you are tested positive for the virus. Also, the Doctor may ask you to go for several lab tests so that your overall health condition can be evaluated. Also, other lab tests help the Doctor to identify current or previous infections that may have become more complicated due to the virus.
These tests include:
• A Complete Blood Count Test (CBC)
• Syphilis Testing
• Screening for Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C
• Screening for Tuberculosis
These are some of the tests done to evaluate your overall health so that the Doctor can do the proper treatment.
Stages of HIV
There are stages in which this virus infection progresses. These stages are based on the symptoms and the amount of virus present in the blood. After being infected with the virus; most people go through the stages mentioned below:
1. Initial Stage (Acute Retroviral Syndrome)
This stage develops within a few days of infection but may occur after several weeks of the infection.
The symptoms in this stage may include:
• Abdominal cramps,
• Nausea or vomiting
• A headache
• Joint Pain
• Skin rash
• A sore throat
• Weight loss
These symptoms can be mild or severe, and they usually disappear on their own after 2 to 3 weeks.
2. Chronic Stage
It sometimes takes years for Human Immunodeficiency Virus symptoms to develop. But it does not mean that everything is OK as even though no symptoms are present, still the virus multiplies itself in the body during this time. And it multiplies at such a fast pace that the immune system is not able to destroy the virus. And then the body’s immune system starts to weaken.
If the symptom persists and the Doctor cannot identify the cause of the symptoms, he or she may suspect that you have the virus. Also, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus can be detected when the following symptoms occur:
• Feeling confused all the time
• Difficulty while concentrating
• A dry Cough
• Mouth Sores
• Night Sweats
• Loss of Appetite
• Change in Behaviour
• Weight loss
• Tingling and weakness in the limbs
• Yeast infection of the mouth
• Not able to breathe properly
Additionally, a woman is suspected to have Human Immunodeficiency Virus if at least one of the following symptoms occurs:
• More than 3 vaginal yeast infections in a year which are not related to the use of antibiotics
• Abnormal Pap Test or Cervical Cancer
• Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) which is recurring
Children with this virus often have different symptoms, such as the enlarged spleen or delayed growth than teens or adults.
3. Late Stage
In the late stage of this virus, AIDS occurs. When this virus is left untreated, AIDS develops in most people within 12 to 13 years after the initial infection. If a person takes proper treatment at the right time, it can delay or prevent the development of Human Immunodeficiency Virus to AIDS.
When your body’s immune system starts getting weak, you tend to develop various infections and illnesses such as pneumonia or cancer.
In a few people, Human Immunodeficiency Virus infection develops faster as compared to others, and thus they tend to develop AIDS within a few years only if they do not get proper treatment. The reason as to why the infection develops at a faster pace in some people is still unknown.
Consulting a Doctor
You must refer to a doctor if any of the following conditions develop:
• Feeling unconscious
• Weakness in an arm, a leg or one side of the body
• Sudden inability to move a body part
• High Fever, generally higher than 103°F (39.4 °C)
• Feeling short of Breath
• A cough producing sputum or mucus
• Not being able to stand or walk
• Numbness, tingling or pain in body parts
• A headache
• Weight loss without any explained reason
• Vision problems
• Night Sweats
• Swelling of lymph nodes
• Behavioural changes
If any of the following symptoms persist, you must consult a doctor and get yourself tested for HIV.
There are certain medicines, such as antiretroviral medicines which slow down the rate at which the virus multiplies. If you take treatment at the right time and take proper medicines, it can also reduce the amount of virus in your body.
Once you start the treatment, it is vital that you take medicines exactly as directed by your doctor. If the treatment does not work, it can be because the virus has become resistant to your medicines. This can also occur when you do not take your medicines in the correct manner. Thus, ask your doctor all the questions about the treatment and make sure that you take the medications in the right way.
Some Dos and Don’ts to Follow During Treatment:
1. Do not smoke as people with this virus have more chances of getting cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer.
2. Eat healthily and include foods in your diet which strengthen our immunity system.
3. Exercise daily.
4. Do not take the stress
5. Quit Drinking
6. Use Safer Sex Practices.
Prevention of HIV
The prevention of this virus can be done in the following ways:
1. Adopt safe sex practices and always have protected sex. Use a condom during sexual intercourse if your partner has Human Immunodeficiency Virus and also get yourself tested regularly for Human Immunodeficiency Virus.
2. Make a conversation with your partner about their sexual history and let them know about your own. Get to know if your partner has engaged in high-risk behaviours or not. Get yourself and your partner tested for Human Immunodeficiency Virus before having any sexual activity.
3. Say ‘NO’ to alcohol and drugs as they weaken your immune system
4. Do not share intravenous (IV) needles, cotton, syringes, cookers, cocaine spoons, or eyedroppers with others if you use drugs.
5. If you are Human Immunodeficiency Virus-Positive, do not donate blood, semen, body organs or body tissues to anyone.
6. If you are Human Immunodeficiency Virus positive, do not share personal items, such as razors, toothbrushes or sex toys that may be contaminated with your blood, semen or vaginal fluids.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus causes serious damage to our health, and there is only one way of preventing is, and that is going for a regular health check-up. Even if you do not notice any of the symptoms as mentioned above of the virus, it is advisable to get yourself tested for HIV every 6 months. Always remember, prevention is better than cure.