Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a chronic, potentially life-threatening condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). By damaging your immune system, HIV interferes with your body's ability to fight infection and disease.
HIV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It can also be spread by contact with infected blood and from illicit injection drug use or sharing needles. It can also be spread from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. Without medication, it may take years before HIV weakens your immune system to the point that you have AIDS.
There's no cure for HIV/AIDS, but medications can control the infection and prevent progression of the disease. Antiviral treatments for HIV have reduced AIDS deaths around the world, and international organizations are working to increase the availability of prevention measures and treatment in resource-poor countries.
The symptoms of HIV and AIDS vary, depending on the phase of infection.
Primary infection (Acute HIV)
Some people infected by HIV develop a flu-like illness within 2 to 4 weeks after the virus enters the body. This illness, known as primary (acute) HIV infection, may last for a few weeks.
Possible signs and symptoms include Fever, Headache ,Muscle aches and joint pain, Rash, Sore throat and painful mouth sores, Swollen lymph glands, mainly on the neck, Diarrhea, Weight loss, Cough, Night sweats
These symptoms can be so mild that you might not even notice them. However, the amount of virus in your bloodstream (viral load) is quite high at this time. As a result, the infection spreads more easily during primary infection than during the next stage.
Clinical Latent infection (chronic HIV)
In this stage of infection, HIV is still present in the body and in white blood cells. However, many people may not have any symptoms or infections during this time. This stage can last for many years if you're receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART). Some people develop more severe diseases much sooner.
Symptomatic HIV infection
As the virus continues to multiply and destroy your immune cells — the cells in your body that help fight off germs — you may develop mild infections or chronic signs and symptoms such as Fever, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes — often one of the first signs of HIV infection, diarrhea, weight loss, oral yeast infection (thrush), shingles (herpes zoster), pneumonia
Access to better antiviral treatments has dramatically decreased deaths from AIDS worldwide, even in resource-poor countries. Thanks to these life-saving treatments, most people with HIV in the U.S. today don't develop AIDS. Untreated, HIV typically turns into AIDS in about 8 to 10 years.
When AIDS occurs, your immune system has been severely damaged. You'll be more likely to develop diseases that wouldn't usually cause illness in a person with a healthy immune system. These are called opportunistic infections or opportunistic cancers.
The signs and symptoms of some of these infections may include Sweats, chills, recurring fever, chronic diarrhea, swollen lymph glands, persistent white spots or unusual lesions on your tongue or in your mouth, persistent, unexplained fatigue, weakness, weight loss, skin rashes or bumps
If you think you may have been infected with HIV or are at risk of contracting the virus, see a health care provider as soon as possible. is caused by a virus. It can spread through sexual contact, illicit injection drug use or sharing needles, contact with infected blood, or from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding.
To become infected with HIV, infected blood, semen or vaginal secretions must enter your body.
This can happen in several ways:
By having sex. You may become infected if you have vaginal, anal or oral sex with an infected partner whose blood, semen or vaginal secretions enter your body. The virus can enter your body through mouth sores or small tears that sometimes develop in the rectum or vagina during sexual activity.
By sharing needles. Sharing contaminated injection drug paraphernalia (needles and syringes) puts you at high risk of HIV and other infectious diseases, such as hepatitis.
From blood transfusions. In some cases, the virus may be transmitted through blood transfusions. Hospitals and blood banks screen the blood supply for HIV, so this risk is very small in the U.S. and other upper-middle-income countries. The risk may be higher in low-income countries that are not able to screen all donated blood.
During pregnancy or delivery or through breastfeeding. Infected mothers can pass the virus on to their babies. Mothers who are HIV-positive and get treatment for the infection during pregnancy can significantly lower the risk to their babies.
You can't become infected with HIV through ordinary contact. That means you can't catch HIV or AIDS by hugging, kissing, dancing or shaking hands with someone who has the infection.
HIV isn't spread through the air, water or insect bites.
Anyone of any age, race, sex or sexual orientation can be infected with HIV/AIDS. However, you're at greatest risk of HIV/AIDS if you:
Have unprotected sex. Use a new latex or polyurethane condom every time you have sex. Anal sex is riskier than is vaginal sex. Your risk of HIV increases if you have multiple sexual partners.
Have an STI. Many STIs produce open sores on your genitals. These sores act as doorways for HIV to enter your body.
Use illicit injection drugs. People who use illicit injection drugs often share
This article is written and submitted to The E Today by Shrushti Mehta.
We thank her for her research and analysis and hope to see the awareness about health and nutrition being spread ahead to larger mass of our citizens.