HIV/AIDS: Signs, Symptoms and Prevention



HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks the immune system, the body’s natural defense system. Without a strong immune system, the body has trouble fighting off disease. Both the virus and the infection it causes are called HIV. During the initial infection a person may experience a brief period of influenza-like illness.

White blood cells are an important part of the immune system. HIV infects and destroys certain white blood cells called CD4+ cells. If too many CD4+ cells are destroyed, the body can no longer defend itself against infection.
The last stage of HIV infection is AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). People with AIDS have a low number of CD4+ cells and get infections or cancers that rarely occur in healthy people. These can be deadly.
But having HIV doesn’t mean you have AIDS. Even without treatment, it takes a long time for HIV to progress to AIDS-usually 10 to 12 years.
When HIV is diagnosed before it becomes AIDS, medicines can slow or stop the damage to the immune system. If AIDS does develop, medicines can often help the immune system return to a healthier state.
Genetic research indicates that HIV originated in west-central Africa during the early twentieth century. AIDS was first recognized by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 1981 and its cause, HIV infection was identified in the early part of the decade.
Since its discovery, AIDS has caused nearly 30 million deaths (as of 2009). As of 2010, approximately 34 million people have contracted HIV globally. AIDS is considered a pandemic —a disease outbreak which is present over a large area and is actively spreading.
Origin of HIV/AIDS:
1. Through African Monkey To human.
2. Through Vaccine Programme
(a) Polio, small pox vaccine from monkey’s kidney-Africa.
(b) Hepatitis-B viral vaccine-Los Angles and New York
With treatment, many people with HIV are able to live long and active lives.
There are two types of HIV:
  • HIV-1, which causes almost all the cases of AIDS worldwide
  • HIV-2, which causes an AIDS-like illness. HIV-2 infection is uncommon in North America.

What causes HIV?



HIV infection is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus. You can get HIV from contact with infected blood, semen, or vaginal fluids.
  • Most people get the virus by having unprotected sex with someone who has HIV.
  • Another common way of getting it is by sharing drug needles with someone who is infected with HIV.
  • The virus can also be passed from a mother to her baby during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding.
HIV doesn’t survive well outside the body. So it can’t be spread by casual contact like kissing or sharing drinking glasses with an infected person.

Signs and Symptoms:

There are three main stages of HIV infection:
Acute infection, clinical latency and AIDS.
Signs and Symptoms
The initial period following the contraction of HIV is called acute HIV, primary HIV or acute retroviral syndrome. Many individuals develop an influenza like illness or a mononucleosis-like illness 2-4 weeks post exposure while others have no significant symptoms.
Symptoms occur in 40-90% of the cases and most commonly include fever, large tender lymph nodes, throat inflammation, a rash, headache, and/or sores of the mouth and genitals. The rash, which occurs in 20-50% of cases, presents itself on the trunk and is classically maculopapular.
Some people also develop opportunistic infections at this stage. Gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea may occur, as may neurological symptoms of peripheral neuropathy or Guillain-Barre syndrome. The duration of the symptoms varies, but is usually one or two weeks.

How is HIV diagnosed?


A doctor may suspect HIV if symptoms last and no other cause can be found.
If you have been exposed to HIV, your immune system will make antibodiesto try to destroy the virus. Doctors use tests to find these antibodies in urine, saliva, or blood.
If a test on urine or saliva shows that you are infected with HIV, you will probably have a blood test to confirm the results.
Most doctors use two blood tests, called the ELISA and the Western blot. If the ELISA is positive (meaning that HIV antibodies are found), a Western blot or other test will be done to be sure.
HIV antibodies usually show up in the blood within 3 months but can take as long as 6 months. If you think you have been exposed to HIV but you test negative for it:
  1. Get tested again. Tests at 6, 12, and 24 weeks can be done to be sure you are not infected.
  2. Meanwhile, take steps to prevent the spread of the virus, in case you do have it.

Prevention from AIDS:

Sexual contact:

Consistent protection use reduces the risk of HIV transmission by approximately 80% over the long term. When one partner of a couple is infected, consistent protection use results in rates of HIV infection for the uninfected person of below 1% per year. There is some evidence to suggest that female protection may provide an equivalent level of protection.
Application of a vaginal gel containing tenofovir (a reverse transcriptase inhibitor) immediately before sex seems to reduce infection rates by approximately 40% among African women. By contrast, use of the spermicide nonoxynol-9 may increase the risk of transmission due to its tendency to cause vaginal and rectal irritation. Circumcision in Sub-Saharan Africa “reduces the acquisition of HIV by heterosexual men by between 38% and 66% over 24 months”.
Based on these studies, the World Health Organization and UNAIDS both recommended male circumcision as a method of preventing female-to-male HIV transmission in 2007. Whether it protects against male- to-female transmission is disputed and whether it is of benefit in developed countries and among men who have sex with men is undetermined.
Some experts fear that a lower perception of vulnerability among circumcised men may result in more sexual risk-taking behavior, thus negating its preventive effects. Women who have undergone female genital cutting have an increased risk of HIV.
Programs encouraging sexual abstinence do not appear to affect subsequent HIV risk. Evidence for a benefit from peer education is equally poor. Comprehensive sexual education provided at school may decrease high risk behavior.
A substantial minority of young people continues to engage in high-risk practices despite knowing about HIV/AIDS, underestimating their own risk of becoming infected with HIV. It is not known if treating other sexually transmitted infections is effective in preventing HIV.

Mother-to-child:

Programs to prevent the transmission of HIV from mothers to children can reduce rates of transmission by 92-99%. This primarily involves the use of a combination of antivirals during pregnancy and after birth in the infant but also potentially includes bottle feeding rather than breastfeeding.
If replacement feeding is acceptable, feasible, affordable, sustainable and safe, mothers should avoid breast-feeding their infants, however exclusive breast-feeding is recommended during the first months of life if this is not the case. If exclusive breast feeding is carried out, the provision of extended antiretroviral prophylaxis to the infant decreases the risk of transmission.

Vaccination:

As of 2012 there is no effective vaccine for HIV or AIDS. A single trial of the vaccine RV 144 published in 2009 found a partial reduction in the risk of transmission of roughly 30%, stimulating some hope in the research community of developing a truly effective vaccine. Further trials of the RV 144 vaccine are on-going.

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