HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This virus causes the development of a life-threatening disease called AIDS and attacks the body’s immune system. If left untreated, it destroys and reduces the number of T-cells in the body. T-cells are the major disease-fighting cells of the immune system. HIV might destroy so many of them that the body becomes highly vulnerable to many other infections, this condition is called Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). While AIDS cannot be transmitted from one person to another, HIV is transmissible.
There are Two Kinds of HIV Viruses:
HIV 1: More common and associated with AIDS in the US
HIV 2: Rare and is associated with AIDS in Western Africa and Southern Asia
HIV is found in the body fluids of the infected person such as semen, vaginal and anal fluids, blood, or breast milk. HIV is not transmitted via saliva, sweat, or urine though. This virus does not survive outside the body for long. The transmission of HIV can also happen if needles are shared via syringes or other injecting equipment. It can also be transmitted from the mother to the child because of pregnancy, birth, and breast milk.
Symptoms of HIV
People experience flu-like symptoms after 2 to 6 weeks of an HIV infection. These may last for a week or two. Once these symptoms go away, HIV may not present any symptoms for many years — though it is slowly damaging the immune system. The infection progressively weakens the immune system, subsequently causing swollen lymph nodes, fever, weight loss, diarrhea, and a cough.
Who is at risk to get an HIV infection?
- Those who have unprotected vaginal or anal sex
- People with a previous or current partner infected with HIV
- People who use drugs to enhance sex
- Men who have unprotected sex with other men
- Those who have a history of sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- People who need blood transfusions for certain health conditions
- Babies born to parents with untreated HIV
Diagnosis of HIV
HIV can be diagnosed using rapid diagnostic tests. The most commonly used HIV diagnostic tests detect antibodies in the infected person. These antibodies are produced at around 28 days post-infection. For children less than 18 months, serological testing is not enough and virological testing must be done.
HIV infections are treated with antiretroviral medications. They stop viral replication in the body, allowing the immune system to recuperate and prevent any further damage. These come in the form of tablets. HIV develops resistance against these antiretroviral medicines quite quickly though, so a combination of medicines will most likely be needed to treat effectively. Most people suffering from HIV are given a combination of antiretroviral medicines.
- Enforce your HIV treatment plan
- Make sure to get your yearly flu shot. This will minimize the risk of serious illness.
- Keep yourself active and eat a healthy, balanced diet
- Stop smoking
Without proper treatment, the body may fall victim to life-threatening diseases like cancer and other infections.
- Do I have an HIV infection? The only sure way to know is to take a blood test specifically for HIV.
- How often do I need to get tested? The CDC recommends everyone between the ages 13 and 65 get tested for HIV at least once every year as a part of routine health checkups.
- Where can I get an HIV test? Local health clinics, your doctor’s office, a hospital, or mobile clinics set up especially for HIV testing are some places you can.
- How long should I wait to get the HIV test done? Most people develop enough detectable antibodies between 20-25 days.
- What can I do to prolong my life even though I have HIV? Early medication and a healthy lifestyle can help you cope with this disease and live a healthy, happy life.
Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!