Contributed by: Priyaish Srivastava
Did you know already?
- HIV and AIDS are not the same. Although HIV is a virus that causes AIDS, not every HIV patient always has AIDS
- In most cases, HIV occurs as a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
- HIV is a global public health problem, responsible for around 2.1 million cases in India.
- India is home to the third largest population in the world with HIV
- According to a 2020 survey by the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of people infected with HIV worldwide is between 30.2 million and 45.1 million
- Although there is no cure for the disease, a person infected with HIV can lead a long and healthy life by taking preventative measures
What is HIV
Human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, is an infection that affects how the immune system works by attacking and destroying the white blood cells called CD4, making the infected person immunodeficient. An HIV infected person is more prone to fungal infections, tuberculosis, bacterial infections, and can even lead to the development of some cancers.
The last or most advanced stage of HIV is’Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome ‘, commonly known as AIDS. The disease can lead to long-term serious illness, including certain types of cancer, if the infected person does not take measures to treat HIV.
There is currently no cure for HIV, but the bright spot is that those infected can live longer, be healthier, and protect their partners through preventative measures to treat the condition.
This article walks you through the three stages associated with HIV and their early signs, transmission, risk factors, and essential preventive measures that can help control HIV.
Early Signs and Three Stages of HIV
The manifestation of signs of HIV largely depends on the stage of infection. If the infection is left untreated, it will gradually worsen. Therefore, to slow or prevent the progression of HIV infection, one should seek medical attention to administer the correct treatment and take precautions. The three stages of HIV include:
Acute HIV infection
- Infected people tend to have high levels of HIV in their blood at this stage
- Most people are unaware of their condition until the next stage while they are still severely infected
- People may experience flu-like symptoms such as a cough, fever, headache, rash, or sore throat
- If you have flu-like symptoms and there is a possibility that you have been exposed to HIV, contact your doctor right away
- A diagnosis is the only way to identify acute HIV infection to prevent the disease from getting worse
Chronic HIV infection
- Also as’Asymptomatic HIV infection“At this stage the progression of the infection becomes slow. In other words, the blood still contains HIV, but the rate of reproduction is slow
- The manifestation of a symptom at this stage is rare
- This phase can last a decade or more, but without medication, people can enter the third phase early
- There is a chance that the stage will not progress with regular medication
- Symptoms begin to manifest when the stage ends and the infected person moves to the third stage. This happens because the viral loads in the blood attack the immune system, increasing the levels of HIV in the blood, and at the same time decreasing the number of CD4s (WBC)
Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
- AIDS is the most severe stage of HIV
- The condition means that the immune system of the HIV infected person is badly damaged and the person is susceptible to serious opportunistic infections
- Opportunistic infections are conditions that are common in an HIV-infected person. These include various diseases such as tuberculosis, lymphoma, pneumonia, and invasive cervical cancer
- People are diagnosed with AIDS when they show opportunistic infections
- The survival rate without proper AIDS treatment is very low
How is HIV transmitted?
Anyone can become infected with HIV, including a mother who can transmit the virus to her child during pregnancy. The virus is transmitted through body fluids, including:
- Vaginal and rectal fluids
- Breast milk
HIV cannot be transmitted through normal, everyday contact, including:
- Shake hands
- Sharing personal items, food or water
Eye opening risk factors
Risk factors that increase the chances of contracting HIV are related to a person’s behavior and condition. It contains:
- Unprotected anal or vaginal sex (the most common route of transmission)
- Existing sexually transmitted disease (STD) such as syphilis, herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea or bacterial vaginosis
- Sharing of contaminated needles, other injection devices and drug solutions
- Receiving unsafe blood transfusions, organ transplants, injections, piercings, tattoos, etc.
Important preventive measures against HIV
Limiting exposure to the risk factors of HIV infection can help prevent and control the virus. These include:
- Take preventive measures to rule out the possibility of mother-to-child transmission, such as: B. antiretroviral therapy (ART)
- Use condoms during sex
- Do not take or inject medication
- Regular diagnosis and counseling for HIV and STIs
- Use of prescribed antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) for prevention
- Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC)
Although HIV is a chronic and incurable disease, it can still be controlled by consulting a doctor and taking the prescribed steps for effective HIV management. As mentioned above, the disease has three stages, all of which are different but have a large impact on your health. The best way to control HIV is to get diagnosed and take preventative measures.
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