Home » HIV/AIDS: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

HIV/AIDS: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the immune system of the body that leads to HIV/AIDS. The immune system is the body’s defense system that controls various diseases. HIV damages the white blood cells called CD4 cells, hence weakening the immune system. When the immune system loses too many white blood cells CD4 cells, the body is less able to fight infections hence the body can develop serious infections.

HIV is also a virus that causes (AIDS) Acquired immune Deficiency Syndrome. Currently, there is no cure for HIV/AIDS once you contract HIV you have it for life. HIV can only be controlled hence people living with HIV can live long and normal lives through proper medical care.

What is AIDS

Acquired immune Deficiency syndrome (AIDS) is the advanced stage of HIV According to (the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) a person contracts AIDS if he is living with HIV and has a CD4 cell count of less than 200. AIDS is also defined through the development of opportunistic infections such as cancer. AIDS is also the 3rd stage of HIV

Where did HIV come from

There are two types of HIV, HIV-1, and HIV-2. According to research by scientists, they were able to trace the first transmission of HIV to have taken place in the 1920s. Scientists were able to trace the first transmission of SIV to HIV in humans. HIV one is related to the strain of SIV found in chimps while HIV 2 is related to SIV found in monkeys. HIV 2 is rare and less infectious than HIV 1. HIV is also classified into four main groups of viral strains group M, N, O, and P. HIV -1 group M has caused the majority of HIV infections in the world Since the first identification of HIV more than 60 million people have been infected, and more than 35 million people have died.

A person can have two or more strains if he or she transmitted the virus to more than one person. When the virus multiplies the strains mutate and developed into another HIV strain in your body hence  drugs may not work against the virus

Risks of HIV/AIDS

For a person to know if he or she has HIV they have to be tested. A person gets HIV infection through direct contact with body fluids such as blood, breast milk, vaginal fluids, seminal fluids, and rectal fluids.

Unprotected sex

This is the common way you can get HIV. This is by having vaginal or anal sex with a person who has HIV. The more sexual partners a person has the more the risk of contracting HIV

 Sexually Transmitted Disease

Many STIs produce open sores on your genitals. These sores act as doorways for HIV to enter your body. STIs like herpes, syphilis, or gonorrhea may cause changes in the tissue of the vagina or penis that make it easier for HIV to pass to you while you’re having sex.

From Mother to Child

A child can contract HIV from the mother during pregnancy, birth, or during breastfeeding, however, this type of HIV is less common because of the recommendation to test all pregnant mothers for HIV and start HIV treatment immediately after they turn HIV positive. If a woman with HIV takes medication well during pregnancy and even during childbirth and gives HIV medicine to her baby for 6 weeks after childbirth the risk of transmitting HIV is low.

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Shared Needles

People who use illicit injection drugs often share needles and syringes. This exposes them to droplets of other people’s blood and blood carries HIV. The risk of getting HIV is high for a person sharing injection equipment with someone with HIV. This is because HIV can survive in used syringes for up to 42 days.

Alcohol and Recreational Drugs

Drug and substance use can increase the risk of getting HIV through sex this is because when people are under the influence of drugs they may engage in unprotected sex, they may engage in sex with multiple partners, or engage in sex with sex traders hence increasing the risk of contracting HIV.

Other ways of transmitting HIV

Oral sex

Oral sex is the practice of sex by putting the mouth on the penis, vagina, and anus. You may get HIV infection through ejaculation in the mouth when you have mouth ulcers or bleeding gums.

Biting

This occurs through contact between skin wounds and body fluids from a person with HIV. There are only a few cases of people who have contracted HIV through biting.

Deep mouth kissing

HIV can only be transmitted through kissing if both partners have sores in the mouth or have bleeding gums. You can not transmit HIV through saliva.

Tattoos

It’s possible to get HIV through body piercing if the equipment used for tattooing has someone else blood on them. This is by the use of unsterilized needles.

Stages of HIV

HIV has got three stages and without proper medication and treatment HIV overpowers your immune system

1. (Acute HIV infection)

This is the first stage where symptoms develop within 2 to 4 weeks after infection with HIV. During this stage, the body’s immune system puts up a fight and the body shows flue like symptoms similar to those of a viral disease. A person may experience headache, fever swollen lymph nodes, aching muscles, sore thought, rash, and sores in the mouth. The virus attacks and destroys the CD4 cells. During this stage levels of HIV in the blood are very high hence the risk of HIV transmission is high. It’s important to get an HIV test immediately after your manifest the symptoms to start treatment to boost your immune system.

2 Chronic HIV (clinical latency)

This stage is also called the asymptomatic stage. HIV continues to multiply in the body but at low levels and infected people may not have any symptoms. people who take HIV/AIDS drugs called antiretroviral therapy (ART) may be in this stage for a longer period and their HIV infection may not get worse and they may not transmit HIV to an HIV-negative person if they take ART as prescribed. Without ART this stage advances to AIDS in less than 10 years.

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3 AIDS

This is the final stage and the advanced stage of HIV infection. This is because the virus has severely damaged the body’s CD4 and immune systems. During this stage, you might get an opportunistic infection that is more severe in people with a weakened immune system. people with HIV are diagnosed with AIDS if they have a CD4 of less than 200 or if they have certain opportunistic infections. In this stage, people have a high viral load and can transmit HIV to negative people. People with AIDS who don’t take medication survive about 3 years but it’s possible to treat HIV/AIDS at this stage this is through proper medication as prescribed.

Infections common to HIV/AIDS

1. pneumonia caused by Pneumocystis (PCP). This fungal infection can lead to serious sickness. PCP remains the leading cause of pneumonia in HIV-infected patients.

2. Candida. Candidiasis is a very prevalent HIV infection. It causes inflammation and a thick, white coating on the inside of your mouth, tongue, esophagus, or vagina.

3.Tuberculosis (TB) (TB). Tuberculosis (TB) is a frequent opportunistic illness linked with HIV. TB is the primary cause of mortality among AIDS patients.

4.Meningitis caused by cryptococcal bacteria. Meningitis is an infection that affects the membranes and fluid that surround your brain and spinal cord. Cryptococcal meningitis is a frequent illness of the central nervous system linked with HIV.

Cancers common to HIV/AIDS

  1. Leukemia . This cancer starts in the white blood cells. The most common early sign is painless swelling of the lymph nodes in your neck, armpit, or groin.
  2. Kaposi’s sarcoma. A tumor of the blood vessel walls, Kaposi’s sarcoma usually appears as pink, red, or purple lesions on the skin and mouth. In people with darker skin, the lesions may look dark brown or black. Kaposi’s sarcoma can also affect the internal organs, including the digestive tract and lungs.
  3. HPV-related cancers. These are cancers caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. They include anal, oral, and cervical cancer.

Other complications

  1. They are wasting syndrome. If HIV/AIDS is not treated it can cause significant weight loss, often accompanied by diarrhea, chronic weakness, and fever.
  2. Neurological complications. HIV can cause neurological symptoms such as confusion, forgetfulness, depression, anxiety, and difficulty walking. HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND) can range from mild symptoms of behavioral changes and reduced mental functioning to severe dementia causing weakness and inability to function.
  3. Kidney disease. HIV-associated nephropathy (HIVAN) is an inflammation of the tiny filters in your kidneys that remove excess fluid and wastes from your blood and pass them to your urine. It most often affects Black or Hispanic people.
  4. Liver disease. Liver disease is also a major complication, especially in people who also have hepatitis B or hepatitis C.

Symptoms of HIV

The only way to know you have HIV is by testing for HIV this is because may not tell if you have HIV. People notice flue like symptoms after 1 to 4 weeks after infection.

First-stage (Acute HIV) symptoms

In this stage, you experience flue like symptoms because your body’s immune system is trying to react and fight the virus.

  1. Headache
  2. Fatigue
  3. Aching muscles
  4. Sore throat
  5. Swollen lymph nodes
  6. A red rash that doesn’t itch, usually on your torso
  7. Fever
  8. (sores) in your mouth, esophagus, anus, or genitals
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At this first stage, you may not get accurate results from HIV/AIDS tests this is because it takes 3 to 12 weeks for enough signs to manifest hence routine testing is recommended. The second stage has no symptoms if you take medication as prescribed and if your viral load is low. In the third stage, the body’s immune system is weak and the body experiences several symptoms.

At this first stage, you may not get accurate results from HIV tests this is because it takes 3 to 12 weeks for enough signs to manifest hence routine testing is recommended.

  1. Rapid weight loss
  2. Recurring fever and night sweats
  3. Extreme tiredness
  4. Prolonged swelling of the lymph glands in the armpits, groin, and neck
  5. Diarrhea that lasts for more than a week
  6. Sores of the mouth, anus, or genitals
  7. Pneumonia
  8. Memory loss, depression, and other neurologic disorders

Ways to prevent HIV

  1. Ensure you engage in safe sex by use of condoms this is because the virus cannot pass through the condom if used correctly. don’t use condoms with natural membranes because they have small holes in them and hence can’t block HIV. You can use water or silicone-based lubricant to lessen the chance of a condom break during sex. You should not use oil-based lubricants because they weaken the condom and break it.
  2. In case of oral sex use a condom or a dental dam placed over your partner’s vulva when you have oral sex.
  3. Avoid drugs and ensure you don’t share needles and syringes. In case you use drugs carry condoms this is because drugs may make you have unprotected sex.
  4. Protect yourself by self-using (PrEP) and (PeP) If you may be at risk of transmitting HIV because your partner is HIV positive or you may have come into contact with sharp-cutting objects on your skin or you may share needles. You can protect yourself by taking (PrEP) pre-exposure prophylaxis pill which prevents the virus not to spread through your body. Use post-exposure prophylaxis (pep) within 72 hours after a possible exposure to HIV to prevent the virus from spreading through the body.
  5. If you test positive take antiretroviral therapy (ART) as prescribed and ensure your viral load is low.
  6. Pregnant women should be tested for them to begin treatment if one is HIV positive. This is to protect the child from being infected with HIV during HIV and childbirth.
  7. If you are an HIV-positive mother should give HIV medicine to your baby 4 to 6 weeks after birth to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to the child.

Conclusion

HIV/AIDS affect people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds. You should ensure you encourage practices that will reduce the spread of this killer disease. you should encourage routine HIV testing, mass education about HIV/AIDS, patient education and counseling, consistent condom use, and encourage treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. The main aim is to eliminate the spread of HIV/AIDS in the world.

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