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HIV/AIDS – Signs, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Defining HIV/AIDS

Generally described as an infection that impairs the body’s immunity, HIV also refers to a disease acquired in several ways. Its major way of transmission is by direct touch or contact alongside someone who has the virus. If the infection or disease has been untreated, this makes it more complicated to manage and control the condition. And once totally impaired, the body is unable to protect itself from emerging infections and further health aggravations.

When HIV advances, it produces a more severe disease – AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). This chronic ailment is largely referred to as the most progressive phase of the infection, which means that it is responsible for the appearance of many hostile health dilemmas. Add to that the number of deaths it has recorded prior to the arrival of antiretroviral therapy (ART). Without proper medications and antiretroviral drugs, AIDS could cost people their lives.

As of the present time, a cure for the infection is still absent. However, for millions who have been suffering the infections’ negative impact, medicines can be accessed following their diagnosis. With the application of ART, living longer and becoming healthy is possible amidst the infection. The medicines involved in ART are competent enough to fight the viruses running in the bloodstream. They are used to obstruct and hinder the negative functions these viruses have. Furthermore, it lowers the volume of the virus, making individuals free from its hostile operations.

HIV/AIDS signs and symptoms?

This specific type of infection follows distinct stages and phases. This is also the reason why consuming an ARV at the earliest period possible is a must. Aside from the efficiency of every medicine, early care and therapy help to fully combat the disease. These phases include:

First Stage

During this phase, the infection is considered acute. Individuals who acquire the virus will deal with symptoms that usually show when someone has the flu. For this instance, the signs will disappear after a short time, making it acute and manageable. Aside from the level of infection, its symptoms can be listed as follows:

  • Chills and Fever
  • Mild headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Fatigue
  • Pain in the joints
  • Mild coughing
  • Recurrent night sweats
  • Rashes
  • Loss of weight
  • Sores in the mouth
  • Sore throat
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes
  • Recurrent diarrhea

During this phase, the virus becomes eminently virulent. This is because of the virus showing a greater number of its load and volume inside the body. If treatment is still not given, the immune system becomes critically tarnished. The body becomes helpless in combating the disease.

Second Stage

As for this level of infection, the primary symptoms may not show anymore, and people can stay asymptomatic. However, in some situations, the symptoms corresponding to the first stage may often appear. It is also highly suggested that individuals should obtain medical care urgently to at least fight the illness.

Continued usage of ART, involving a series of antiretroviral drugs, can add more to the life rate of individuals with the ailment. If a person has the determination to always follow his prescription, he can achieve an undetectable status or condition. This way, he/she is will not be labelled as someone who can transmit or spread the infection.

Third Stage

As mentioned, AIDS has been recognized as the highest phase of HIV. During this phase, the condition becomes long-term, and the CD4 cells have decreased a lot. It tells the damage and possible hospitalization following the impairment of the immune system. For this part, various opportunistic diseases can emerge, and even cancer can develop. These infections include:

  • Pneumonia
  • Tuberculosis
  • Salmonella
  • HSV (herpes simplex virus)
  • Neurological illnesses
  • Kaposi’s sarcoma
  • Lymphoma
  • Infections of the intestines
  • Fungal and cytomegalovirus diseases

The list above is just some of the major infections associated with AIDS. There are others that are minimal but can also go beyond their minimum infective levels. Additionally, AIDS also has warning signs. These are as follows:

  • Unexplained tiredness
  • Recurrent night sweats
  • Fever and chills
  • Unexplained loss of weight
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Severe diarrhea
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Yeast infection
  • Skin lesions and rashes
  • Severe coughing
  • Loss of memory
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Unusual bruising
  • Bleeding

Failing to use the advantage of ART, an individual with the infection can no longer live the normal life expectancy of a human being. Additionally, he/she is likely to experience more health disappointments and other diseases that can eliminate his/her chances to live a few more years. Even if it’s already AIDS, as long as an individual fight well and is consistent with his medications, a quality existence is still achievable.

Causes of the Infection

The infection can only be transmitted once a positive individual transfers it to someone who has a negative status. The high concentration of the virus can be carried in fluids that the body possesses. These fluids can be in the form of semen, secretions of the female and male organs, breast milk, and most importantly, by the blood.

There are ways for these fluids to enter other bodies. Whether it be through the sexual organs or to the bloodstream, the effects are still the same. Without the means to obstruct possible transmission, another person can be at risk for a probable infection. However, the bodily fluids do not involve tears and saliva, which means that they are not agents for the infection.

Sexual Activities

Whether it be the vagina or anus, any form of sexual contact is enough for the virus to enter the body. When people choose not to use condoms in their sexual intercourse, the possibility of having the infection is high. This is especially true with the growing number of cases worldwide involving unprotected sex. Meanwhile, preventive medication is available for people who do not want to use a condom, this is in the form of PrEP.

Needle or Syringe Sharing

On most occasions, people tend to use recreational drugs. Without proper measures, many involved individuals are candidates to get infected with the usage of only one needle or contaminated syringes. This is why people need to use sterilized needles when doing such acts.

Blood Transfusions

Prior to the development of blood screenings, the most glaring reason for many cases of this infection is the transfusion of blood and even transplants involving bodily organs. Fortunately, a lot of blood banks today are already established, with the proper equipment and machines to test the organ or the blood for possible infection.

Mother-to-child

Aside from sexual contact, pregnancy also poses a probable transmission. The disease is transmitted through the period of delivery and even during breastfeeding. Luckily, ARVs are also available for pregnant women to cut off the advancement of the disease.

Wounds or Open cuts

For this factor, the chance for someone to get the disease is rare and low. But to ensure safety, still, avoid actions that can put you at risk.

Oral Sex

At the present day, there is no known case that someone got the illness because of oral sex. Alongside other low transmission rates, the infection is rare to get for this action. Still, individuals must be aware of other diseases that they can get by doing oral sex.

Complications Associated with the Infection

Because the body is now unable to oppose the effects of this life-threatening condition, distinct complications are likely to occur. Take the following into consideration:

  • PCP or also known as pneumocystis pneumonia
  • Candidiasis or also recognized as thrush
  • TB or tuberculosis
  • Cancer of the white cells – Lymphoma
  • Disorders involving the brain and other neurological ailments (may also involve anxiety, dementia, and even depression)
  • Liver diseases or liver failure (also associated with hepatitis B and C)
  • Kidney damage or failure (dysfunction of the kidneys)

Of all these complications, there is one that is considered the most dangerous. It is in the form of tuberculosis or TB. This certain disease has already accounted, if not thousands but millions, of deaths involving the aforementioned infection – AIDS.

Getting Diagnosed

Following the remarkable developments in the industry, there are three major ways to know someone’s status and condition. Diagnosis can only be given according to these:

Antigen/Antibody Testing

Similar to different tests, a sample of blood is taken from a patient. Once the sample is extracted, it will be checked for antibodies and antigens related to the virus. Once the machine used identifies the presence of the virus, the result will eventually become positive.

Antibody Testing

Party similar to the first type of test, this, however, only checks for the antibodies present in the blood. Note that the period for antibodies to show are from the initial infection to twelve weeks interval. These are what other clinics used and there are tests like these used in many steads.

Nucleic Acid Tests

NATS refer to a type of screening where only the virus is checked for diagnosis. Similarly, a blood sample is taken and will be checked further. Additionally, this certain test can provide results in just a matter of minutes. However, it is immensely expensive. Your physician will still likely advise this test type to ensure your safety, but it’s still up to you to attend to that advice.

Treatment, Care, and Prevention

Treatment for this kind of infection is done by a series of medications and prevention measures. As the cure is still under works, individuals can take advantage of the positive impact of ART and antiretroviral drugs. For immediate care, treatment, and prevention, acknowledge the following:

Usage of barrier devices (such as condoms)

This is not new to us anymore. Aside from birth control, condoms can be used to avoid getting the disease. Whether it be for men or women, straight sexes, or even for sexual activities involving male-to-male, condoms are capable of great protection. Also, in choosing the brand for condoms, ensure that you are using a strong one to avoid breakage.

Antiretroviral therapy

ART is certainly the answer to HIV concerns. Recognized for its great assistance to millions of individuals, this form of therapy involves the utilization of ARVs to lower the chances of the infection from causing more health complications. Since its development, the therapy has been really potent and effective.

Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)

Apart from the availability of ART, there are also other forms of drugs utilized to prevent HIV acquisition. This is in the form of PrEP. As of today, there are only two drugs approved for usage in line with this medication – Descovy & Truvada. Even if this is considered safe in preventing the infection, you cannot be so sure to also prevent other STIs.

Series of Medications

Alongside the creation of antiretroviral therapy, we are also introduced to its drug categorization. These groups may have different functions, but they share one objective. Take these into consideration:

Nucleoside/Nucleotide Reverse Transcriptase (NRTIs)

Non-nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase (NNRTIs)

  • Delavirdine
  • Doravirine
  • Efavirenz

Protease Inhibitors (PIs)

Integrase Inhibitors (INIs)

  • Dolutegravir
  • Elvitegravir
  • Raltegravir

Entry Inhibitors

Gp120 Attachment Inhibitor

  • Fostemsavir

CCR5 Antagonist

  • Maraviroc
  • Post-Attachment Inhibitor
  • Ibalizumab-uiyk

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