Know the basics

What is HIV/AIDS?

Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV, is the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).

HIV can drastically decrease immune system, thus allowing other opportunist diseases, bacteria, virus and infections in your body. Unlike other virus, your body cannot get rid of HIV completely. Once you have HIV, you have it for life.

AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV disease and defined by the development of other diseases, such as cancers and multiple infections, that manifest when your body’s immune system is weak.

How common is HIV/AIDS?

According to a report of WHO (World Health Organization), by the end of 2014, there are approximately 37 million people living with HIV and 1.2 million people died of AIDS-related causes. However, only 54% of those people know of their condition. That is because you might have HIV without having any symptoms.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of HIV/AIDS?

Even though you don’t show any symptoms, you can still pass on the virus to someone else. That is because HIV can take up to 2 to 15 years to have symptoms. You might have HIV and still look healthy and function normally. You cannot know for sure if you have HIV until you get tested.

HIV don’t directly damage your organs, but it will attack your immune system, thus allowing various opportunistic diseases, especially infections, to attack your body. The first symptoms of HIV are similar to any other virus infection:

  • Fever;
  • Headaches;
  • Fatigue;
  • Muscle aches;
  • Weight loss;
  • Swollen glands in the throat, armpit, or groin.

AIDS is the advance, progressive stage of HIV infection. HIV can reduce your immune system, thus leading to many opportunistic infection conditions. If you have AIDS, you might have several infectious conditions at the same time.

  • Infection, single or even multiple: tuberculosis, cytomegalovirus infection, cryptococcal meningitis, toxoplasmosis, cryptosporidiosis.
  • Cancers: lung, kidney cancer or lymphomas and Kaposi’s sarcoma.
  • Tuberculosis (TB). In resource-poor nations, TB is the most common opportunistic infection associated with HIV and a leading cause of death among people with AIDS.
  • This common herpes virus is transmitted in body fluids such as saliva, blood, urine, semen and breast milk. A healthy immune system inactivates the virus, and it remains dormant in your body. If your immune system weakens, the virus resurfaces – causing damage to your eyes, digestive tract, lungs or other organs.
  • Candidiasis is a common HIV-related infection. It causes inflammation and a thick, white coating on the mucous membranes of your mouth, tongue, esophagus or vagina.
  • Cryptococcal meningitis. Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes and fluid surrounding your brain and spinal cord (meninges). Cryptococcal meningitis is a common central nervous system infection associated with HIV, caused by a fungus found in soil.
  • This potentially deadly infection is caused by Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite spread primarily by cats. Infected cats pass the parasites in their stools, and the parasites may then spread to other animals and humans.
  • This infection is caused by an intestinal parasite that’s commonly found in animals. You contract cryptosporidiosis when you ingest contaminated food or water. The parasite grows in your intestines and bile ducts, leading to severe, chronic diarrhea in people with AIDS.
  • Beside infection, you are also at risk of cancer and neurological as well as kidney problem when you have AIDS.

These conditions may manifest as:

  • Thrush – a thick, whitish coating of the tongue or mouth that is caused by a yeast infection and sometimes accompanied by a sore throat;
  • Severe or recurring vaginal yeast infections;
  • Chronic pelvic inflammatory disease;
  • Severe and frequent infections periods of extreme and unexplained tiredness that may be combined with headaches, lightheadedness, and/or dizziness;
  • Quick loss of more than 10 pounds of weight that is not due to increased physical exercise or dieting;
  • Bruising more easily than normal;
  • Long periods of frequent diarrhea;
  • Frequent fevers and/or night sweats;
  • Swelling or hardening of glands located in the throat, armpit, or groin;
  • Periods of persistent, deep, dry coughing;
  • Increasing shortness of breath;
  • The appearance of discolored or purplish growths on the skin or inside the mouth;
  • Unexplained bleeding from growths on the skin, from the mouth, nose, anus, or vagina, or from any opening in the body;
  • Frequent or unusual skin rashes;
  • Severe numbness or pain in the hands or feet, the loss of muscle control and reflex, paralysis, or loss of muscular strength;
  • Confusion, personality change, or decreased mental abilities.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Know the causes

What causes HIV/AIDS?

AIDS is caused by HIV. HIV is transmitted through contact with infected blood, semen and vaginal fluids of an infected person. For example:

  • By having vaginal, anal or oral intercourse without condom with someone who has HIV. HIV is most frequently transmitted sexually. That is because fluids mix and the virus can be exchanged, especially where there are tears in vaginal or anal tissue, wounds or other sexually-transmitted infections (STIs). Girls are especially vulnerable to HIV infection because their vaginal membranes are thinner and more susceptible to infection than those of mature women.
  • By sharing needles, syringes and other drug injecting equipment that is contaminated with HIV.
  • By using tattooing and body piercing equipment – including the ink – that isn’t sterilized or properly cleaned and is infected with HIV.
  • From a mother with HIV to her baby (before or during birth) and by breastfeeding.
  • By having another sexually transmitted infection (STI) like chlamydia or gonorrhea. STIs can weaken your body’s natural protection and increase your chances of becoming infected with HIV if you’re exposed to the virus.
  • Getting HIV-infected blood, semen, or vaginal secretions into open wounds or sores

You couldn’t be transmitted HIV by everyday contact:

  • Touching;
  • Shaking hands;
  • Hugging or kissing;
  • Coughing and sneezing;
  • Giving blood;
  • Using swimming pools or toilet seats;
  • Sharing bed linen;
  • Eating utensils or food;
  • Animals, mosquitoes or other insects.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for HIV/AIDS?

AIDS is caused by HIV and this virus is transmitted through the exchange of body fluids from HIV patients, including blood, semen, vaginal fluids and breast milk. For example:

  • By doing sexual activities without condom with someone who has HIV.
  • By sharing needles, syringes and other drug injecting equipment that is contaminated with HIV.
  • By using tattooing and body piercing equipment – including the ink – that isn’t sterilized or properly cleaned and is infected with HIV.
  • From a mother with HIV to her baby (before or during birth) and by breastfeeding.
  • Getting HIV-infected blood, semen, or vaginal secretions into open wounds or sores

And remember that you couldn’t be infected with HIV by regular contact:

  • Touching;
  • Shaking hands;
  • Hugging or kissing;
  • Using swimming pools or toilet seats;
  • Sharing bed linen;
  • Eating utensils or food;
  • Animals, mosquitoes or other insects.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is HIV/AIDS diagnosed?

A blood test allows doctor to determine if you are infected with the virus.

The accuracy of the test depends on the time of your last possible exposure to HIV (unprotected sex, needle sharing). If you have ever had a risky experience, you could be infected with the virus at any time. Therefore, it’s a good idea to be tested for HIV. There is an approximately 3-month-window period for HIV antibodies to show up on an HIV test.

If your results come back positive (reactive):

  • You have antibodies for HIV and have the HIV infection. But it doesn’t necessarily mean you have AIDS.
  • No one knows for sure when someone infected with the HIV virus will develop AIDS.

If your results come back negative, you didn’t have the antibodies at the time of the test. However:

  • If it’s been 3 months since a high-risk activity and your test is negative, you don’t have the HIV infection.
  • If it’s been less than 3 months since being involved in a high-risk activity, you should do a repeat test.
  • Remember, if you put yourself at risk, you can be infected with the virus at any time. For more information on how you can get HIV, check out how do I get it?

How is hivaids treated?

There is no cure or vaccine for HIV/AIDS. There are some medications that help slow down the progression of the illness. Talk to your doctor or specialist about the treatments that will work best for you.

You should know that you are positive for HIV as soon as possible to get medical advice and treatment. These include:

  • Consult a doctor who knows about HIV/AIDS treatment.
  • If you’re sexually active, inform sex partner(s) who may also be infected.
  • Do not share needles.
  • Get psychological support with a therapist and/or join a support group for people with HIV/AIDS.
  • Get information and social and legal support from an HIV/AIDS service organization.
  • Don’t share your HIV status with people who do not need to know. People with HIV may still face discrimination. Only tell people you can count on for support.
  • Consider using medicines that may slow the progress of the infection.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage HIV/AIDS?

Maintain a strong immune system with regular medical checkups and a healthy lifestyle:

  • Eat well.
  • Get enough rest and exercise.
  • Avoid illegal or recreational drugs, including alcohol and tobacco.
  • Learn how to manage stress effectively.

If you’re HIV positive, you can pass the virus onto others even though you’re not presenting any symptoms. Protect yourself and others as well — prevent the spread of HIV by:

  • Always using condom for vaginal, oral or anal sex.
  • Never sharing your needles or other drug equipment.
  • Telling people who may be exposed to your body fluids, like your doctor, your dentist or dental hygienist.

If you have HIV and are pregnant, consult a doctor who has experience about HIV treatment. Without treatment, about 25 out of 100 babies born to women with HIV are also infected. However, the use of HIV medicines, cesarean delivery, and refraining from breastfeeding can reduce the risk of transmission to less than 2 out of 100.

To reduce your chances of getting HIV, you should:

  • Use lubricated condoms for vaginal sex;
  • Use non-lubricated condoms for oral sex on a man;
  • Use a latex barrier – a dental dam – or a non-lubricated condom cut length-wise for oral sex on a woman;
  • Use condoms with extra lubricant for anal sex;
  • Abstain from sexual intercourse;
  • Not share needles, syringes, drug injecting equipment or sex toys;
  • Ensure tattooing and piercing equipment is sterile;
  • Don’t share personal items that may have blood on them, includes toothbrushes, razors, needles for piercing or tattooing, and blades for cutting or scarring.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: January 4, 2017 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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