Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a chronic, potentially life-threatening condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). HIV attacks the immune system, specifically CD4 cells (also called T cells), which are crucial to helping the body fight off infections and diseases. Without treatment, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infections and disease.
There are several ways that HIV can be transmitted, including through sexual contact, sharing needles or syringes with an HIV-positive person, mother-to-child transmission during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding, and in rare cases, through blood transfusions or organ transplants.
There is currently no cure for HIV/AIDS, but there are medications available that can help slow the progression of the disease and improve the quality of life for people living with HIV. These medications, called antiretroviral therapy (ART), work by preventing HIV from multiplying in the body. When taken consistently and correctly, ART can lower the amount of HIV in the blood to undetectable levels, which greatly reduces the risk of transmission to others.
Prevention methods such as using condoms during sexual activity, not sharing needles, and getting tested for HIV can help reduce the risk of transmission. Additionally, pre-exposure prophylaxis (Prep) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) are medications that can be taken to prevent HIV transmission in certain high-risk situations.
It is important to note that people living with HIV can lead long, healthy lives with proper treatment and management. HIV-positive individuals can still work, have relationships, and participate in everyday activities with proper care and support.
AIDS / HIV symptoms:
The symptoms of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) can vary depending on the stage of infection. Some people may experience mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, while others may experience more severe symptoms. It is important to note that not everyone with HIV will experience the same symptoms, and some symptoms may not appear until years after infection.
In the early stages of HIV infection, some people may experience flu-like symptoms, which can include:
- Muscle aches and joint pain
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
These symptoms typically appear within 2-4 weeks after infection and can last for a few days to several weeks.
After the initial stage, HIV may enter a clinical latency stage where the virus reproduces at very low levels. During this time, some people may experience no symptoms at all, while others may experience mild symptoms such as:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Weight loss
- Night sweats
As HIV progresses and the immune system becomes more compromised, more serious symptoms may develop, which can include:
- Persistent coughing or shortness of breath
- Chronic diarrhea
- Swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, armpit or groin
- Recurrent fever or night sweats
- Rapid weight loss
- Persistent, unexplained fatigue
- Skin rashes or bumps
- Memory loss or confusion
It is important to note that these symptoms can be caused by other conditions as well, and that a positive HIV test is needed to confirm a diagnosis of HIV. If you think you may have been exposed to HIV, it is important to get tested and seek medical care as soon as possible.
AIDS / HIV treatment:
There is no cure for HIV or AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), but there are treatments that can help manage the virus and improve the quality of life for people living with HIV.
Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is the most common treatment for HIV, and it involves taking a combination of medications that target the virus at different stages of its life cycle. ART can reduce the amount of HIV in the blood to undetectable levels, which helps to prevent the virus from causing further damage to the immune system and reduces the risk of transmission to others.
Other treatments for HIV and AIDS may include:
Medications to prevent and treat opportunistic infections:
People with HIV may be more susceptible to certain infections, and medications can help prevent and treat these infections.
Vaccines can help prevent certain infections that can be especially dangerous for people with weakened immune systems, such as pneumonia and hepatitis B.
Other therapies, such as counseling and support groups, can help people living with HIV manage the emotional and psychological effects of the disease.
It is important for people living with HIV to work closely with their healthcare provider to develop a personalized treatment plan that takes into account their specific needs and medical history. With appropriate treatment and medical care, many people with HIV are able to live long and healthy lives.