AIDS - Symptoms, Risk factors and Treatment

AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome- a chronic, life-threatening disease that is caused by HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus. It damages your body by damaging your immune system. Due to which your body becomes unable to fight off any infection, leading to complications eventually. 


The human immunodeficiency virus may remain silently in your body for many years, but when your immune system gets compromised due to any infection, it may show its symptoms. To protect its invasion in your body, you need to take medications. 


AIDS is a sexually transmitted virus- which means you can transmit it to your partner upon unprotected sexual intercourse. Moreover, it can also be spread through direct blood contact, by sharing needles, breastfeeding, or during pregnancy from mother to the child. Until now, there is no cure for AIDS, but medicines can help prolong life.


Symptoms 


There are various phases of an HIV infection. The signs and symptoms of AIDS vary according to the phase. They can be described as;


Acute infectious phase - primary infection 


Initially, the person may have flu-like symptoms within two to four weeks of virus entrance- this phase is known as the primary infection. In this phase, it may cause symptoms like;


  • Fever

  • Headache

  • Muscle aches and joint pain

  • Cough

  • Night sweats

  • Rash

  • Sore throat and painful mouth sores

  • Swollen lymph glands, mainly on the neck

  • Diarrhea

  • Weight loss


At this stage, you may feel that you have mild flu. However, when it progresses it may show other symptoms.


Chronic HIV- Clinical Latent infection 


At this stage, the person may not have many symptoms of infection. The virus is still present in white blood cells and the body. If you are not receiving antiretroviral therapy, this stage can last for many years.


Symptomatic HIV infection 


After some time, the virus may keep replicating, resulting in damage to your healthy cells, leading to infections. It can cause chronic signs and symptoms like;



  • Swollen lymph nodes — often one of the first signs of HIV infection

  • Fever

  • Oral yeast infection

  • Shingles (herpes zoster)

  • Pneumonia

  • Fatigue

  • Diarrhea

  • Weight loss


Progression to AIDS


HIV, when left untreated for 8 to 10 years, turns into AIDS. It occurs when HIV damages your immune system, which makes your body susceptible to opportunistic infections and cancers. The signs and symptoms at this stage are;


  • Sweats

  • Chills

  • Persistent white spots or unusual lesions on your tongue or in your mouth

  • Persistent, unexplained fatigue

  • Weakness

  • Weight loss

  • Skin rashes or bumps

  • Recurring fever

  • Chronic diarrhea

  • Swollen lymph glands



Causes


AIDS is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus. It can spread from one person to another through sexual intercourse, from mother to baby and direct contact with the blood of an infected person, breastfeeding, and sharing of needles. 

Prevention 


Until now, there is no vaccine available to prevent AIDS. Some tips can help in preventing it;


The most common method of HIV transfer is unprotected sex, either anally or vaginally. The risk can be eliminated if you are not sexually active. If you are concerned about HIV, you should take the following measures;


  • Get yourself tested for HIV regularly.

  • Ask your partner when were they last tested for HIV and what is their status. 

  • Do not have unprotected sex with multiple partners. 

  • Get yourself and your partner tested for other sexually transmitted diseases. 

  • Use condoms- they are the best way to prevent sexually transmitted infections because most of them, including AIDS, are transmitted through sex either anally or vaginally. 

  • If your healthcare provider has prescribed you antiretroviral therapy, take it as directed. 

  • Do not share needles or razors with anyone. Moreover, avoid sharing personal items with anyone else. 

  • If you have had unprotected sex with a person having AIDS ask your healthcare provider for post-exposure prophylaxis. 


Conclusion


AIDS is a sexually transmitted disease. To prevent it, you must practice safety measures during sex. It can become life-threatening due to opportunistic infections and cancers. 


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