HIV-Positive Does NOT Always Mean It’s AIDS
AIDS mean Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. This medical condition is developed when there is severe damage to the immune system of the body resulting in various life-threatening and serious infections and illnesses.
HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus is the virus that potentially harms and damages the cells present in the immune system of the body. This consequently brings down the body’s ability to fight even common infections and everyday diseases. This virus is communicable and can be transmitted from person to person. Whereas AIDS is a medical condition and hence can only be developed in an individual and not transmitted.
Even in present times there is no cure for HIV. Although a cure is not there but there are drugs that are extremely effective in the treatments which can allow most people having the virus to lead a long and healthy life. Also it is possible that in a high number of cases people with HIV will not even develop any AIDS related illnesses. These people can live upto almost a normal lifespan.
There are two types of HIV. Type I and Type II. Type I is more common in India.
AIDS is characterised by 3 main stages:
- Acute symptoms
- Clinical latency
- Severe symptoms
Most people who get infected by HIV, within a month or two after the virus entering the body, will develop Influenza or flu like illness. This medical illness will generally last for a few weeks and is known to be Primary or Acute HIV Infection.
The symptoms are:
- Sore throat
- Muscle soreness
- Mouth or genital ulcers
- Swollen lymph glands, typically on the neck
- Joint pain
- Night sweats
It is during the clinical latent phase that the lymph nodes are persistently swollen. Even though the body is still infected with the virus, there are no specific signs and symptoms that surface to make it’s presence known.
- Blurred and distorted vision
- Cough and shortness of breath
- White spots which stay for than usual or normal time period
- Soaking night sweats
- Persistent chilliness in the body. Or having high fever, typically more than 100 F or 38 C for weeks.
- Chronic diarrhoea
- Persistent, unexplained fatigue
- Weight loss
- Skin rashes
There are several causes that can infect a person with HIV and that it might develop to AIDS. The causes are:
1. Blood transfusions:
Blood transfusions of two or multiple people, in some cases, can cause the virus to transmit between the infected and healthy people.
2. Sharing infected needles:
The infected blood contaminated needles and syringes can be a source to transmit HIV.
3. Sexual Contact:
This is the most common and in-fact the most frequent cause of HIV transmission from an infected person to a healthy person.
4. From mother to child:
The foetus of a pregnant women can get infected with HIV because of their shared blood circulation. It may also happen that the newborn infant gets infected by the already infected nursing mother while breastfeeding her baby.
The HIV is detected in saliva, serum or urine by the HIV test performed on the person. This test, as per the UNAIDS/WHO policy, should be conducted with a human rights approach and in a manner which provides due respect to the ethical principles. The primary address by these principles is towards confidentiality, where the entire process of carrying out diagnostic tests and the subsequent results should be kept private and confidential. Home-Based HIV Testing and Counselling (HBHTC) is also available and allows rapid HIV tests for the results to be available within 15 to 30 minutes for the person requesting the test. For those people who test positive are provided counselling sessions by experts. This home based test and counselling is always carried out with the informed consent of the person on whom the test is conducted.
The doctors perform certain tests during the diagnosis of HIV or AIDS to know the stage of the disease or infection.
The various tests are:
The HIV antibodies appear after a certain period of time in the body of the person who is infected by HIV. This time period is called as ‘Window Period’. This is typically between 3 weeks and 6 months, and the antibody test may show false negative, which means that the results will not show the presence of any HIV anti-bodies even though the virus is present.
There are CD4 cells in odour body that get destroyed specifically as the are targeted by HIV. For a healthy person the CD4 count varies from 500 to more than 1000. It may so happen that the HIV infection has progressed to develop AIDS even though the infected person does not have any symptoms when the CD4 count in the body reduces to less than 200.
Rapid or point-of-care tests:
This way of diagnosis produces the results in 20 minutes or less. Blood or oral fluid such as saliva is used to know the presence of HIV-antibodies. This test is an immunoassay and require a follow up if they show the result as positive. Also it should be kept in mind that if this test is conducted during the window period, then it may give a false negative as the result.
ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay):
This is a set of blood tests which are performed by inserting a needle in the body of the person getting tested to draw the blood out and check it to diagnose the HIV infection. It may so happen that a false positive result comes up, which means that it is not necessary that the person has HIV infection even if the test results show positive. This can be in cases such as Lyme disease, Syphilis, and lupus.
In this test instead of detecting the antibodies, the virus itself is directly detected. This test can even detect the presence of the infection about 10 days after the person gets infected.
The Western Blot test is always done after a positive ELISA test to confirm the HIV infection.
There is no definitive cure for AIDS. However, certain medications which are prescribed and taken correctly at certain stage of the disease can help with a healthy and near to normal prolonged life. Although this also depends on the CD4 count in the infected person’s bloodstream.
- Reverse transcriptase (RT) inhibitors
- Protease inhibitors
- Fusion inhibitors
- Integrase inhibitors
- Multidrug combinations
Avoiding AIDS is as easy as ABC;
B= Be faithful
- Prevention can be done for your own health and even for other people by taking and implementing certain precautionary and wise efforts.
- Spreading awareness, specially to sex workers and drug users. Even people for very low income groups and uneducated people should be brought to this awareness.
- Safe and protected sex by using condoms.
- Using auto disposal syringes and not reusing injections
- Blood transfusions only in authorised centres and blood bans
- Provide counselling to an HIV positive pregnant mother and making her aware on how to Prevent Parent To Child Transmission (PPTCT).
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