It might interest you to know that despite the stigma around people living with HIV and AIDS, these individuals are living their best life every day, regardless of the increase in the number of cases yearly and the myths surrounding HIV/AIDS, why is that so? I believe there are somethings you might need to know about this disease.
WHAT’S HIV/AIDS ALL ABOUT?
HIV is short for human immunodeficiency virus.This virus is a virus that attacks cells that help the body fight infection as such,leaves the individual defenseless and vulnerable to fight any disease on his own.It was first discovered in 1981,and has been one of the leading causes of death all over the world.According to UNAIDS, approximately 38 million people around the world are currently living with HIV, 36.2 million are adults and 1.8 million are children below 15 years.
AIDS (Accquired Immunodeficiency syndrome) is the final stage of the infection caused by HIV , and it causes severe damage to the immune system. AIDS is characterised by changes in the population of T-cell lymphocytes that play a key role in the immune system .What the virus does is to deplete the number of T-cells (T – helper cells) in the affected individual, leaving him/her vulnerable to any kind of infection and even malignancies.
FACTS ABOUT HIV/AIDS
• HIV/AIDS has no cure
• It cannot be spread by air or water
• It cannot be transmitted through mosquitoes
• You cannot get HIV by kissing an infected person except if there are sores or open wounds in the mouth
• If you are exposed to HIV or feel you’ve been exposed,let’s say, a rape incident, it’s very important to get a Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) within 72 hours of exposure, with that you avoid becoming infected for life.
• Once the amount of HIV in your body fluids (Viral load) is reduced to an undetectable level, you cannot pass on HIV during sex.
• Having a reduced or undetectable viral load doesn’t mean you’re cured of HIV.
STAGES OF HIV INFECTION
There are four stages of HIV Infection which includes
• STAGE 1.The virus multiplies in the body after the infection, and the body develops antibodies as a way of putting up a fight with this virus.Flu-like symptoms such as fever, sore throat, cough, etc occurs.
• STAGE 2. This stage can last for several years because the individual is asymptomatic and there are no outward symptoms, and the individuals are oblivious of the fact that they have it.
• STAGE 3. Here, the immune system is damaged and weakened by HIV and symptoms such as weight loss, tiredness, mouth ulcers, diarrhoea and other opportunistic infections manifest.
• STAGE 4. The progression from HIV to AIDS occurs in this stage.The CD4 count, presence of opportunistic infections and viral load indicates that it has progressed to AIDS .These CD4 T-cells coordinate your immune system’s response.Untreated HIV kills CD4 cells and destroy the immune system, So usually without treatment, these CD4 cells keep dropping in their numbers and the HIV could progress to AIDS when the CD4 count is below 200.
HOW DOES HIV/AIDS SPREAD?
HIV/AIDS is transmitted or gotten from one infected person to another by
• Sharing blood products and sharp instruments (unclean needles, etc ) with an infected person.
• From an infected mother to baby through pregnancy, labour/birth, breastfeeding.
• Contact between broken skin, wounds, mucous membranes and HIV infected blood.
• Recieving unscreened blood transfusions, organ/tissue transplants that are contaminated with HIV.
• Having unprotected vaginal or anal sex with an infected person.
• Having oral sex,although the risk of infection is quite low.
• Eating food that has been prechewed by a person with HIV.
WAYS HIV CANNOT BE SPREAD
HIV/AIDS cannot be spread by
• Shaking hands; hugging, sharing toilets, dishes, silverware and drinking cups with an infected person.
• Saliva, tears and sweat ( that is not mixed with blood) from an infected person.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF HIV?
The most observed symptoms includes
• Weight loss
• Pain and difficulty while swallowing
• Nausea, persistent diarrhoea
• Mouth ulcers, sores and white tongue
• Oportunistic Infections
• Swollen lymph nodes
• Muscle wasting
• Incessant cough which is productive.
So with this,it’s important that you get tested and know your HIV status today.
DOES HIV VIRAL LOAD AFFECT CHANCES OF TRANSMITTING HIV?
The amount of HIV in your body fluid is called your viral load. Effective antiretroviral therapy (HIV treatment) suppresses the amount of HIV in your body fluid to the point where HIV can be undetectable. This doesn’t mean you’re cured of HIV, because once you stop taking your treatment, your viral load increases and it becomes detectable.
COMPLICATIONS OF HIV/AIDS
What the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) does is to destroy the immune system,thus the affected individual is susceptible to various diseases such as
• Liver/Kidney Damage
• Urinary Tract Infections
• Hepatitis B and C Infections
TREATMENTS FOR HIV/AIDS
There is no cure for both HIV and AIDS but strict compliance to HIV treatment can slow the disease’s progress dramatically as well as secondary complications.It’s medication is called Anriretroviral therapy (ART) which is usually a combination of three or more medications from several drug classes .This is the best approach as it helps in avoiding new drug resistant strains of HIV, maximize suppression of virus in the blood and usually takes into recognition the individual drug resistance(viral genotype).