HIV and AIDS are the same things, with HIV being the acronym for human immunodeficiency virus and AIDS being the acronym for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. They can cause mild to severe symptoms, so if you think you may have been exposed to them, it’s essential to get tested immediately and start treatment if needed as soon as possible. Read on to learn more about HIV/AIDS and its symptoms and causes.
What Is HIV?
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It attacks the immune system by destroying CD4 cells (aka T-helper cells). There are two types of HIV, HIV-1, and HIV-2. HIV-1 is much more common worldwide than HIV-2. The World Health Organization estimates that there are 36.7 million people living with AIDS around the world today. In 2015 alone, 1.5 million people died from AIDS–making it the leading cause of death in Africa 2015.
Signs and Symptoms of HIV
When you’re first infected with HIV, it takes a while for your body to produce antibodies to fight off the infection. You may not notice any symptoms until you’ve been infected for three months or so. As your immune system starts to weaken, though, these symptoms might start showing up. HIV is not a physical disease. Signs and symptoms of HIV can be difficult to identify because they are often not severe until late in the course of the infection.
A person may have no signs or symptoms for many years and then develop AIDS years later. One in five people infected with HIV will develop AIDS if not treated. The only way to know for sure whether you are infected with HIV is to take an antibody test, usually performed by a doctor’s office or health department. There is no other way to know for sure if you have been infected with HIV except through an antibody test.
How Do You Get HIV?
HIV is transmitted via contact with infected bodily fluids such as blood, semen, or vaginal fluid. Unprotected anal or vaginal sex with an infected person carries the highest risk of transmission. In addition to sexual contact, other forms of transmission include sharing needles for injecting drugs, being born to an infected mother, or having a mother who may have become infected during pregnancy.
HIV can also be passed from one person to another if untreated health care workers do not adequately protect themselves when performing their duties. The virus enters the body either by going through a break in the skin (a cut or wound) or mucous membranes (oral cavity, eyes). A person becomes infected with the virus when they come into contact with these bodily fluids which then enter the body through one of these routes.
Preventing the Spread of HIV
Avoid having unprotected sex or sharing needles. Limit your alcohol intake if you are sexually active to reduce the risk of contracting HIV. Practice safe sex by using condoms during all sexual activity. If someone in your sexual contact has HIV or AIDS, it is important to protect yourself with a condom. It is also recommended that when sharing needles with someone who may have HIV or AIDS that you should change needles because using the same needle after it had been inserted into a person with HIV can lead to transmitting the virus from one person to another. These precautions will go a long way in helping reduce the transmission of this debilitating disease from one person to another.
What are AIDS and its symptoms?
HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system by infecting white blood cells. AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, which is when HIV has turned those infected immune systems so weak that they are susceptible to nearly all other infections. The first symptoms of AIDS include fever, swollen lymph nodes in the neck and armpits, night sweats, fatigue, or weakness.
AIDS can progress to low levels of immunity and various infections that would not affect someone with a healthy immune system. There are antiretroviral drugs to help slow down or stop the progression of this disease if it is caught early enough but there is no cure for it at this time.
Treatments for HIV and AIDS
There are a number of different treatment options for HIV. The primary treatment is highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). HAART lowers the levels of the virus in your body. For most people who take HAART as prescribed and receive regular medical care, the virus becomes undetectable, or very low. This means that it’s not contagious.
Along with HAART, there are other therapies available to lower your viral load if you are taking it responsibly but still have high levels of HIV in your bloodstream. There is some evidence that these therapies might prevent transmission of the virus to an uninfected partner when taken regularly on an ongoing basis together with condoms or having sex only with partners who do not have HIV.
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