AIDS – Causes, Prevention & Treatment
AIDS, stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, is a highly transmissible immune-system disease caused by the HIV virus. HIV is a lentivirus, a retrovirus family member that progressively targets and kills the immune system, leaving an individual prone to a range of other infections and certain cancers that finally may be fatal. It can be passed during pregnancy, childbirth or nursing through sexual contact, injectable drug use or needle sharing, contact with contaminated blood, or from mother to child during pregnancy, breastfeeding or childbirth.
Symptoms of AIDS:
The degradation of the immune system and the reduction of CD4+ T cells, aggravates symptoms of HIV. Among the most prevalent symptoms are the following:
- Diarrhoea lasting more than a week
- Dry coughing
- Memory loss, depression, and neurological diseases
- Extensive, inexplicable fatigue
- Unexplained weight loss
- Recurrent fever or excessive night sweats
- Blotches of red, brown, pink, or purple on or under the skin or within the mouth, nose, or eyelids
- Lymph nodes are swollen in the armpits, groin, or neck
- White spots or odd lesions on the tongue, lips, or throat
Most people with HIV never develop late-stage HIV if detected early and at once begin treatment. Although there is no cure for HIV, treatment with HIV medications (known as antiretroviral therapy or ART) can reduce or prevent the virus from progressing from one stage to the next. HIV medications enable people living with HIV to enjoy longer, better lives.
Without therapy, HIV infection progresses in phases, worsening over time. HIV steadily wreaks havoc on the immune system, eventually leading to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
While AIDS cannot be passed from person to person, HIV may. There is no cure for HIV. Still, highly effective pharmacological therapies allow most people infected with the virus to enjoy a long and healthy life.
How does the infection spread?
By engaging in unprotected sexual activity: You may get infected if you have sexual intercourse with an infected partner whose blood, sperm, or vaginal fluids enter the body. The virus can also enter the body through mouth sores or tiny rips during sexual intercourse.
By exchanging needles: Sharing contaminated injectable drugs (syringes and needles) puts you at risk of contracting HIV and other infectious illnesses like hepatitis.
Transfusions of blood: The virus may be spread through blood transfusions in rare situations where the blood samples might not be screened for HIV risks.
During pregnancy, delivery, or nursing: Infected moms can transmit the virus to their children. HIV-positive mothers who get HIV therapy during pregnancy can dramatically reduce the danger to their offspring.
The best way to reduce your risk of HIV is to understand how it spreads and to protect yourself during certain activities.
Here are some ways to reduce your risk:
- Use latex condoms whenever you have sex.
- Use water-based lubricants.
- Never share needles when taking drugs.
- Get tested and treated for other STDs.
- Avoid getting drunk or high.
- Ask your healthcare practitioner if you should take pre-exposure prophylaxis if you are at substantial risk of HIV exposure
- Consider being tested to see if you can transmit HIV to others.
- To protect oneself against HIV, it is critical to wear a condom appropriately. For every sex act involving your penis, use a male condom.
HIV is detected using either a blood or spit test. If your test results are negative, no additional testing is necessary if:
- You have not had any exposure in the three months before testing with any test.
- You are yet to have probable exposure within the period for a blood sample test.
If you had a probable exposure within three months of testing, you should retest to confirm the negative result.
If your test results are positive, the lab may conduct further tests to confirm the finding.
- Tests for antigen/antibody
- Antibody screening
- Nucleic Acid Test
Additionally, your healthcare professional will propose more tests to evaluate your health. These tests may include a complete blood count (CBC) as well as the following:
- Screening for viral hepatitis.
- X-ray of the chest
- Pap smear test for males.
- CD4 cell count
- Tuberculosis test.
Stages of HIV Infection:
HIV infection progresses through the following phases if left untreated:
1. Seroconversion disease:
Seroconversion is the phase during which an HIV-infected person is most infectious. Some people have a brief sickness after contracting HIV. This is referred to as seroconversion sickness and primary or acute HIV infection. Seroconversion sickness is so minor in some people that it goes unnoticed.
2. The HIV asymptomatic stage:
Most people are well after seroconversion and do not have any symptoms. This is known as the asymptomatic period, which can linger for years. The virus is still active, infecting new cells, replicating itself, and impairing your immune system’s ability to combat sickness.
3. HIV Symptoms:
The longer you go without treatment for HIV, the more likely you are to get diseases such as your weakened immune system cannot fight certain malignancies and the direct impacts of HIV. If you become unwell in one of these ways, you now have symptoms of HIV.
4. HIV in late stages:
The terminal stage of HIV infection is AIDS. If HIV has the potential to cause significant immune system damage, you may develop dangerous opportunistic infections and malignancies. These diseases are also referred to as AIDS-defining.
There is currently no treatment for HIV/AIDS. Once infected, your body is unable to rid itself of it. There are, however, several drugs that can manage HIV and avoid problems.
These drugs are known as antiretroviral treatment (ART). Everyone diagnosed with HIV should begin ART regardless of the stage of infection or consequences.
ART is often a mix of two or more drugs from several pharmacological classes. Many ART methods combine numerous HIV drugs into a single tablet taken once daily. This method provides the highest probability of decreasing HIV levels in the blood.
Each medicine class distinctly inhibits the virus. Combinations of medications from several types are used in treatment to:
- Maintain a healthy immune system.
- Reduce your risks of becoming infected.
- Reduce your chances of getting HIV that is resistant to therapy.
- Reduce your chances of spreading HIV to others.
Obtain the necessary immunizations:
Inactivated vaccinations are safe. These can potentially prevent common diseases, including pneumonia and influenza. However, most live virus vaccines are not because of your compromised immune system. Other vaccines, such as those for HPV, hepatitis A, and hepatitis B, may be recommended by your doctor.
Take diligent care of your pets. Some animals may contain parasites that can cause illnesses in HIV-positive individuals.
HIV patients may experiment with dietary supplements that promise to strengthen the immune system or mitigate the adverse effects of anti-HIV medicines. However, no scientific proof exists that any dietary supplement boosts immunity, and many may interact with medications.
Coping and assistance:
Receiving a life-threatening sickness diagnosis is heartbreaking. The emotional, social, and economic ramifications of HIV/AIDS can make dealing with the disease exceptionally challenging – not only for you but also for those closest to you. However, people living with HIV now have access to various treatments and support. Most HIV/AIDS clinics have social workers, counsellors, or nurses who can assist you directly or connect you with those who can. Apollo Homecare has counsellors and nurses who help you live with HIV/AIDS and make the situation beneficial.
AIDS is a late stage of HIV infection that develops when the immune system of the body has been seriously damaged by the virus. Early detection, prompt treatment, and support to stay on treatment are critical to improving HIV patients’ health and preventing transmission. For better management, adherence and coping with the challenges of the treatment, Apollo Homecare offers registered and licensed nurses, doctors, and diagnostic services in the comfort of your home.