Everything you need to know about HIV and AIDS

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AIDS or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome is a syndrome that caused by the HIV Virus. This is a life-threatening condition that affects the immune system and makes the patient susceptible to varied infections. HIV or human immunodeficiency virus is transmitted through varied body fluids, including blood, vaginal fluids and semen. A newborn can get HIV virus through breast milk of their mother. It is now possible to buy HIV test kit and get tested for HIV-1, HIV-2 and p24 antigens, typically within 10 to 90 days of getting infected. Here are some of the aspects worth knowing

Basics, causes and more

As mentioned, the HIV virus attacks the immune system, and it can lead to AIDS, which may not be detected until the advanced stage of infection. To be more precise, HIV is the infection, while AIDS is the syndrome. While HIV infection causes AIDS, patients with HIV infection don’t necessarily gets AIDS, especially if treated in time.

Coming to the causes, HIV infection is caused or transmitted through body fluids. HIV is known to be a retrovirus, which affects the immune system, as well as, vital organs.  It can be treated with antiretroviral therapy (ART), but in absence of that, the virus progresses rather fast, although it varies on different factors and the concerned individual. HIV is passed through sexual transmission, usually when one comes in contact with infected sexual fluids, which includes rectal fluids too. Having unprotected sex with a HIV+ person and blood transmission are two common causes known. Getting HIV virus through blood transmission is rare in developed countries though. Other cause includes perinatal transmission. An HIV-infected mother can transmit the disease to the child during birth, through the pregnancy, and during breastfeeding.

Symptoms of HIV infection

When the HIV virus attacks the immune system, it exposes the body and makes it susceptible to varied infections that may not affect a person with a healthy immune system. Many people don’t have any signs and symptoms of HIV infection for months or even years, but in more than 75% of cases, patients do develop flu-like symptoms within two to six weeks of infection, which is called “acute retroviral syndrome”. Symptoms can include fever, chills, pain in joints, muscle pain and sore throat. Some patients can have consistent tiredness and weakness and unexplained weight loss. In later stages of infection, patients may have signs and symptoms like dry cough, night sweats, and vision issues. Fever may not subside, and some patients can develop chronic diarrhea.

Getting tested

HIV test kits are now available in the market, and you can choose the 5th generation kit, which is a self-collection kit and works great for testing primary HIV infection. The test is completely secure, and your results will be kept confidential by most labs. You can detect for HIV-1, HIV-2 and p24 antigens, right within 90 days of being exposed (with 5th generation test HIV can be detected after 28 days) to the HIV virus. People who have more than one sexual partner should get tested at least once in a year, while doctors also recommend sexually-active people to get tested anyway. Most kits will come with moist wipes, Alcotip swab, Lancet, Plaster, Blood collection Tube, and Protective packing wallet. You can follow the instructions to take the blood sample from your finger and it is not painful at all.

Bust the myths

Yes, HIV infection is serious and it does spread through bodily fluids, but it is not spread through kissing, hugging or shaking hands. It is also not spread through touching unbroken skin or sneezing. In short, you can share the same plate, towel and clothes with a HIV infected person. Casual contact does not cause AIDS or HIV infection.

Treatment and more

There is no cure for HIV and AIDS. Yes, there are treatments and medicines that can prevent the condition from progressing further. Most patients who get early treatment do have a long and healthy life, and as mentioned earlier, having HIV infection doesn’t always lead to AIDS. Treatments have improved over the years, but there is no vaccine for HIV as yet. It is now known that if treated in time, people with HIV may not have any signs of the condition at all. This is also the reason why HIV testing is so, so important. Doctors have concluded that after being treated for HIV, some patients “may not have any risk of transmitting the virus to a HIV- partner”.

Talk to your doctor to know more and pledge your support for the red ribbon, to spread awareness about HIV!