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Hiv Aids: Causes, Symptoms,Treatments And Prevention

HIV and AIDS are two different terms that go hand-in-hand. HIV is a spectrum of conditions caused due to a virus, which reduces the body’s ability to fight infections.

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus that leads to a condition known as AIDS if left untreated. AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. AIDS is the last stage of HIV and is also known as stage 3 HIV.


What is HIV AIDS?

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a sexually transmitted disease. However, it can also be transmitted through the other body fluids like blood, for example- from the pregnant mother to her unborn child, from a lactating mother to the child etc. The HIV virus damages the immune system by attacking CD4+ cells (a type of white blood cells that fight off infections) and increase the risk of serious infections and cancers.

AIDS is the severe stage of HIV. It is developed when the immune system is severely damaged. It takes about 10 to 14 years for HIV infection to develop AIDS if the patient does not undergo any treatment.

Types of HIV:

HIV is of two types, they are:

  • HIV-1 is the common strain of HIV that causes AIDS throughout the world
  • HIV-2 is mostly found in West Africa and the progression of the disease is very slow

What Causes HIV AIDS?

HIV is caused due to human immune deficiency virus, and most of the individuals develop HIV due contact with infected blood, semen, or vaginal fluid.

The common causes of HIV AIDS include:

  • Unprotected sex with the person having HIV
  • Sharing needles with the infected person
  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding

What are the Symptoms of HIV AIDS?

The symptoms of HIV vary from person-to-person, and some people are asymptomatic for many years. The symptoms mostly depend on the stage of HIV.

When the immune system gets worse over time HIV progresses into three different stages, they include:

1. Acute HIV infection stage:

In this stage, a.k.a: ARS (acute retroviral syndrome) or primary HIV infection , few weeks after infection several people develop flu-like symptoms. This is the natural tendency of the immune system of the body to get rid of the infection. The following are common symptoms of this stage:

  • Sore throat
  • Joint pain
  • Swollen glands
  • Muscle pain
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Rash

In this stage, the levels of HIV are too high in the blood and the person develops a higher risk of transmitting HIV. Early diagnosis and treatment at this stage significantly benefit the health of the person.

2. Clinical latency stage:

In clinical latency stage (a.k.a: asymptomatic HIV infection or chronic HIV infection), the virus develops without showing any symptoms.

3. AIDS:

AIDS is the final stage of HIV in which the immune system is damaged badly. The life-expectancy of a person with AIDS is about three years, and it may fall for one year without treatment.

Risk factors for HIV AIDS:

Factors that increase the risk of HIV AIDS include:

  • Having several sexual partners
  • Presence of any other sexually transmitted disease, such as gonorrhoea, Chlamydia
  • Sexual intercourse after consuming alcohol or any drugs
  • Having a pregnant or lactating mother infected with HIV

Complications of HIV AIDS:

In HIV the immune system is weakened due to the destruction of white blood cells. A weakened immune system increases the vulnerability of developing several complications, such as:

  • Tuberculosis
  • Hepatitis C
  • Cryptococcal meningitis
  • HIV-related encephalopathy
  • Chronic pneumonia
  • Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy
  • Toxoplasmosis
  • HIV-related wasting syndrome
  • Kaposi’s sarcoma
  • Lymphoma
  • Cervical cancer

Diagnosis of HIV AIDS:1

Early diagnosis is very important for an effective treatment plan. The doctor initiates the diagnosis by ruling out the signs and symptoms, medical history, and physical examination of the individual.

The tests for diagnosing HIV AIDS include the following:

  1. Antibody Screening Tests are also known as “immunoassay or ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) test”. These tests are conducted to check the presences of proteins in response to the HIV infection.
  2. Antibody/ Antigen Combination Tests are done to detect the HIV antigen and HIV antibodies two to six weeks after the infection. The test results can be obtained in 20 minutes.
  3. Results and Follow-up Procedures:

If the HIV diagnostic tests have shown a positive result, it means the traces of HIV are present in the body, for confirming this, standard lab test must be done. These tests include:

  • Western Blot or Indirect Immunofluorescence Assay is a confirmatory test to detect the presence of specific proteins, which indicates HIV.
  • RNA test is also known as HIV early detection test because it detects the infection during its early stage. It is performed to detect the genetic material of the HIV directly in the blood. RNA test is faster and more accurate than any other HIV diagnostic test.

If the HIV tests show a negative result, it means the person doesn’t have HIV. However, the person should take necessary precautions to avoid the risk of developing HIV.

Treatment of HIV AIDS:

HIV AIDS cannot be treated completely. But a proper treatment plan prevents the progression of HIV and associated infections. Adhering to the treatment plan helps the individual to extend the years and quality of life.

A proper treatment plan is designed based on the:

  • The willingness of an individual to begin the therapy
  • Stage of the disease
  • Other medical conditions

Drug therapy:

  1. Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTI): This class of drugs interrupts the action of certain enzymes that duplicate the virus and slows down the progression of HIV. This includes drugs, such as:
  • Abacavir
  • Didanosine
  • Lamivudine
  • Stavudine
  • Tenofovir
  1. Protease inhibitors: This class of drugs prevents the replication of the virus and interrupts the lifecycle of the virus. This includes drugs, such as:
  • Lopinavir
  • Atazanavir
  • Indinavir
  • Ritonavir
  1. Fusion inhibitors: Fusion inhibitors are a new class of drugs that act by preventing the fusion of virus inside the cell and prevent the replication. This class includes drugs, such as Enfuvirtide.
  2. Non-Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NNRTI): This class of drugs inhibits the action of certain enzymes and blocks the infection of new cells. This includes drugs, such as:
  • Delvaridine
  • Efravirenz
  • Nevirapine
  1. Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART): HAART is the combination therapy of three or more drugs, such as protease inhibitors and other anti-retroviral medications. The goal of HAART is to slow down the replication and spread of the virus in the body.

Prevention of HIV AIDS

HIV AIDS can be prevented by following certain measures, such as:

  • Safe sex by using condoms
  • Use sterile needles for piercing, tattoos, or injecting drugs
  • Proper prenatal care
  • Male circumcision
  • Emtricitabine/tenofovir drug can be used in individuals who are at higher risk of developing sexually transmitted HIV.

How does male circumcision protect against HIV infection? Bmj. Accessed May 25, 2018.

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