What is HIV/AIDS?
- HIV is a virus that infects humans. It attacks your immune system causing it to malfunction and makes you very ill. HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus, the virus that causes AIDS.
- AIDS is a serious medical condition comprising of a variety of diseases that occur because HIV interferes with your body’s ability to fight off other infections. AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.
How HIV affects your body
How is HIV diagnosed?
What are the symptoms of HIV/AIDS?
- Acute infection occurs shortly after HIV first enters your body. HIV infects your CD4 cells and rapidly multiplies. Within a week or two, the infection takes hold and signs and symptoms of fever, headache, fatigue, and swollen lymph glands make many people feel like they are getting the flu. At this time, your immune system is operating at full throttle, aggressively fighting the infection, and typically, after a few weeks, the flu-like symptoms will pass and you will start producing HIV antibodies.
- Clinical latency as its name suggests, is generally a time without symptoms. During this stage, your immune system and HIV have come into balance and the infection is partially controlled. However, HIV continues to slowly multiply and as time passes it steadily kills off your CD4 cells making you increasingly immunodeficient. A key point here is that during this time most people with HIV don’t look or feel sick, and may not even know that they are infected.
- AIDS starts when your immune system has become so weak it can no longer protect you from infection by other organisms and diseases. You may experience any or all of the following symptoms: rapid weight loss, night sweats, extreme fatigue, swollen lymph glands, chronic diarrhea, sores in your mouth, anus or genitals, pneumonia, brown or purplish lesions on your skin or in your mouth, memory loss and depression.
|CD4 cells per microliter of blood||AIDS-defining diseases|
|Around 500||Fungal infections (Candida): The first opportunistic infections that you are likely to get if you have HIV are minor fungal infections caused by an overgrowth of Candida, the fungus that causes diaper rash in babies. Candida infections commonly occur in the mouth and throat (oral candidiasis or thrush), airways and lungs, or vagina (vaginal candidiasis). This fungus typically forms white patches on your gums, tongue and lining of your mouth, and can make it so painful to swallow that you lose your appetite. An infection in your vagina will cause itching or burning, and soreness and redness accompanied by a thick white discharge.|
|500 to 200||Kaposi’s sarcoma: Kaposi’s sarcoma is a tumour caused by a human herpes virus. The tumour usually appears as purplish lesions on the skin of your legs or face, or inside your mouth, and can spread to other parts of your body without you knowing it. If the cancer spreads to your guts or lungs, it can cause bleeding or difficulty with breathing that can be life threatening.|
|200 to 100||Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia: Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia is a type of pneumonia that severely affects the lungs and is the most common opportunistic infection in people with AIDS. Signs and symptoms of pneumocystis can include shortness of breath, fever, dry cough and chest pain. It usually takes weeks or months to develop, but can be life threatening if not treated.|
|100 to 50||Cytomegalovirus: Cytomegalovirus is everywhere and it is thought that most people throughout the world have been exposed to it, but mostly didn’t notice. Nevertheless; like HIV, once you have the virus you have it for life. If you are HIV infected and have low CD4 cell counts, you should not be surprised if you get a cytomegalovirus infection in your gut, or your eyes (cytomegalovirus retinitis), where it may lead to blindness if you don’t get treatment.|
|less than 50||Mycobacterium avium complex: Mycobacterium avium complex exists everywhere in the environment and can infect the lungs and intestines of people with severe immunodeficiency. It can be deadly if it spreads to other parts of your body.|
How do you get HIV?
- HIV spreads from one person to another when certain body fluids (blood, semen, vaginal secretions, rectal fluids, and breast milk) from an HIV infected person come into contact with a mucous membrane in the nose, mouth, rectum, vagina, or penis of an uninfected person. Vaginal, anal, and oral sex all set the scene for HIV to spread from one person to another.
- This most commonly happens when HIV contaminated needles or syringes, or other drug injecting equipment is shared by injection drug users.
How likely are you to get HIV?
- If your HIV infected sexual partner has another sexually transmitted disease such as herpes, hepatitis or tuberculosis.
- If your HIV infected sexual partner has particularly large numbers of HIV circulating in their bloodstream (a high viral load).
- If you frequently have unprotected sex with a partner you know is infected.
- If you frequently have unprotected anal or vaginal sex with multiple partners when you are unsure as to whether or not they have HIV infection.
How to avoid getting infected with HIV
- always use a condom
- get tested regularly - this is a must if you are having sex with someone you know has HIV, or if you are worried you might have been exposed to HIV, and
- never share intravenous needles, syringes, cookers, cotton, cocaine spoons, or eye droppers if you use drugs.
How do you treat HIV/AIDS?
- CD4 tests that measure your CD4 cell count.
- Viral load tests that measure the number of viruses in your bloodstream, and
- Drug resistance tests that find out whether or not the HIV you are infected with is resistant to any of the anti-HIV medicines that are available.
Consider the following:
- You might be one of the millions of people who use a lubricant during sex. If you are using latex condoms, you can have safer sex if you use a water-based lubricant rather than an oil-based lubricant. Why would that be? Oil-based lubricants like Vaseline, can weaken latex, making it more likely to break. So, only choose an oil-based lubricant if you are using polyurethane condoms.
- You might think that forgetting to take your HIV medicine now and then is not a big deal, but it is! Why would that be? HIV can multiply very quickly and sometimes it mutates, meaning it evolves into a new form. Forgetting to take your HIV medicine increases the chances that your HIV will multiply and mutate into a drug resistant form. If this happens, your HIV medicine will no longer work very well and HIV will do more damage to your immune system.