#KnowTheDisease: Everything you need to know about HIV and AIDS
In this series, today we shall discuss about HIV and AIDS. The HIV, which stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, targets the infection-fighting CD4 cells (T4 cells) of the immune system, making people more vulnerable to diseases and some kinds of cancers. If left untreated for years, HIV infection progresses to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Once diagnosed with HIV, the virus stays in your body for life. Currently, there's no cure for it.
Three stages of HIV: Acute HIV infection, Clinical latency, AIDS
Once someone is diagnosed with HIV and doesn't get treatment, then they typically go through three stages of infection: Acute HIV infection, Clinical latency, and AIDS. In Acute HIV infection, people may experience fever, swollen glands, joint aches and pains, sore throat, rashes, and headaches. During the initial stages, a large amount of virus is being produced in the body and is contagious.
Clinical Latency: The second stage of HIV infection
The second stage of HIV infection is Clinical Latency. During this period, the virus continues to multiply in body but at pretty low rates. Affected people don't show any symptoms of the virus, but can still, transmit it to others. For people who aren't on HIV medicine, Clinical Latency stage usually lasts for a decade or longer, though in some, it may advance faster.
AIDS: The last and most severe form of HIV
The last and most severe form of HIV infection is AIDS. Infected people are extremely contagious. During this stage, the immune system of the person is so badly damaged that the body can't fight off opportunistic infections, like bacterial/fungal diseases. The symptoms include weight loss, chronic diarrhea, night sweats, and fever among others. People having AIDS typically survive about three years.
How does HIV spread?
According to WHO, HIV can be transmitted via the exchange of a variety of body fluids from infected individuals, such as blood, semen, and vaginal secretions. Reportedly, unprotected anal or vaginal sex puts individuals at greater risk of contracting HIV. The virus can be transmitted to the child from mother during pregnancy, breastfeeding, or birth. Sharing needles with infected persons can also transmit the infection.
Treatment for HIV infection
Presently, there's no cure available for HIV infection. However, the virus can be treated using Antiretroviral therapy (ART), consisting of three or more antiretroviral drugs. ART doesn't cure the disease but prevents the infection from multiplying and reduces the amount of infection in the body. As a result, the immune system gets a chance to recover and prevents the infection from advancing to AIDS.
Basics of HIV prevention
Anyone can have HIV infection, but there are certain steps to protect yourself from the infection. Measures include the correct and consistent use of male and female condoms while having anal and vaginal penetration, testing and counseling for HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and by limiting sexual partners. Other steps include the use of the antiretroviral drug and avoiding injecting drugs among others.
Some noteworthy facts
It is imperative to note that the individuals cannot acquire HIV infection through ordinary day-to-day contacts such as kissing, hugging, shaking hands, sharing personal objects, food or water. HIV also doesn't spread through the air or in water or by ticks, mosquitoes, or blood-sucking insects.