Understanding HIV/AIDS

Since 1981 the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) has been wreaking havoc on the world. In this article we will provide the most important facts about HIV/AIDS so that you can better know the disease.

What is HIV and AIDS

HIV is the short of Human Immunodeficiency Virus and AIDS is Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS is a disease caused by a virus, HIV.
– Acquired: contracted during life, that is not inherited;
– Immune deficiency: weakened immune system;
– Syndrome: set of symptoms and signs.

When a person is HIV-positive, the virus is in his or her body with usually no symptoms. 8-10 years average untreated, the person looks and feels completely healthy, but anyone with HIV can transmit the virus. The virus weakens the immune system slowly. There are 2 types of viruses: HIV-1 is the most common type in USA, UK and HIV-2 is found mainly in West Africa and generally produces a milder variant of the disease. When the immune system is impaired, it is more susceptible to diseases, especially infections (eg tuberculosis and pneumonia) and tumors. AIDS is an advanced stage of the disease it means that, as a result of immunodeficiency, the person has a or more of a list of rare diseases.

What HIV does in the body

HIV reproduces constantly spreading in contaminated body cells in the begining stage. To defend itself, the body creates particular antibodies but can not {get rid of|eradicate} HIV. The percentage of virus in the blood goes down, however the virus remains present and keeps progressing in other organs.

For quite some time (8-10 years), the body stays in a state of apparent balance, however HIV continues to be actively spreading in the cells as well as infecting new ones.

Lymphocytes CD4 (or T4)

HIV can attack various types of cell, but it is especially interested in the CD4 (or T4) cells, that lead the body’s defense mechanisms functions.

From the first time the HIV infection occurs, the virus engages in constant replication (multiplication) creating additional viruses. CD4 lymphocytes, lead the war against HIV to combat viral expansion. Consequently the amount of CD4 cells diminishes more and more and, without medical treatment to support them, after approximately 8-10 years their numbers will fall at a point that the sufferer could become vulnerable to serious bacterial infections and tumors.

Antibodies

The body produces them to combat any sort of foreign bodies (towards contagious or non-infectious agents). Approximately, HIV antibodies start to show up from 2 to 8 weeks following the entrance of the virus in the body. Hence, the existence of antibodies is an indication of infection. The purpose of diagnostic tests such as the Elisa, is to look specifically for the existence of antibodies. Therefore, for the result of these tests to be conclusive, they must be performed after some time since the last contact risk.

HIV symptoms

There are no specific symptoms of HIV, this is why this infection is callled asymptomatic, especially in the early years and in general for a long time. The only way to confirm the existence of HIV is through an HIV test on a blood sample. However, some people said they had experienced a pseudo-flu symptoms between 2 and 5 weeks after infection. But they usually do not pay attention to that because there are no reported cases and symptoms would be like the flu. Therefore, the only way to know whether any infection is to be tested for HIV three months after the risk contact.

When the virus weakens the immune system slowly and would be at an average of 8-10 years without treatment (would have developed the disease and the immune system would be badly damaged), then the following symptoms appear:
– Sudden weight loss greater than 10%
– Fever or night sweats for more than a month
– Chronic diarrhea for more than a month
– Persistent and severe fatigue
– Other side AIDS symptoms: dry cough for over a month, rashes, mouth ulcers, fungi in the mouth and throat, herpes and swollen glands.

How it is transmitted

HIV is transmitted through three channels:
– SEXUAL ROUTE
– VIA BLOOD
– FROM MOTHER TO INFANT

For the virus enters the body have to contact:
– An’infecting’ fluid: blood, semen, vaginal secretions or breast milk. Just those four fluids transmit the virus. The rest – saliva, tears, sweat …- contain insufficient concentration of virus to transmit

– An entry: mucous membranes (semipermeable membranes) lining the mouth, vagina, penis and rectum.
Skin breaks (bleeding wounds).

HIV is not spread by …

– Tears, sweat, coughing, saliva, sneezing …
– Sharing space (office, school, gym …) or objects commonly used in school life, work or social: cutlery, glasses, food, clothing, furniture, telephones …
– Shaking hands, hugging or kissing.
– Sharing showers, sinks, or toilets
– Stings or insect bites pets.
– By giving or receiving blood, in countries where control is adequate. The blood donation is systematically analyzed.