Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a virus that affects and damages a person’s own immune system - the same immune system that fights off common infections If left untreated, this virus can progress up to 15 years and eventually damage T Cells, which are a type of immune cells making the people affected by it vulnerable to even common illnesses and even cancer.
That the first AIDS cases occurred in the USA and that the HI virus was discovered almost simultaneously by two research groups was only a little more than 30 years ago. Since then, HIV infection has developed into a disease that spans countries and continents and is one of the greatest medical problems of our time.
According to UNAIDS (United Nations Joint Programme to Reduce HIV/AIDS), at least 36.9 million people worldwide were infected with HIV in 2017, including 1.8 million children under 15. In Europe, 397 new HIV-positive diagnoses were registered in 2018. This figure is similar to that of recent years. This means that at least one person is infected with HIV every day.
HIV is identified as one of the prevalent sexually transmitted diseases around the world. It can be transferred from human to human, mostly through the following:
There are many ways as to how body fluids can be transferred, some of these ways are the following:
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), is one of the worlds’ common sexually transmitted diseases. This is prevalent in most people who are engaged in sexual activities such as oral, anal and vaginal sex and have multiple sexual partners.
Some people who acquire this disease may not be aware that they have the disease as it can be asymptomatic or the symptoms may appear at a later stage of the disease. Below are some helpful questions and their answers if you’re looking to check the symptoms of someone who is possibly HIV-positive.
Around 65% of the people who have been diagnosed with HIV experience symptoms two to four weeks after contracting the virus. Commonly, these symptoms are similar to symptoms of flu and occur within days up to weeks. Most HIV-positive people recover from such symptoms. The remaining 35% of the people with HIV do not have any symptoms or observations experienced as this time it is still an early stage of HIV.
If you have multiple partners or you have risks of acquiring HIV, it is better to get tested.
There are three major stages of HIV that are recognized. These are as follows:
This is the stage where the first flu-like symptoms appear and happens usually within two to four weeks after being exposed to the virus. Not all HIV-positive people experience symptoms but those who do experience the following:
A person with HIV may experience one or a few of the symptoms and those symptoms may appear within days or weeks after experiencing it.
This stage occurs after the Acute HIV Infection and before the onset of the AIDS stage. The symptoms that occur in this stage are more evident and severe and evident. These symptoms include:
However, some people may still experience no symptoms at this stage - this is when HIV presents its self as a latent infection and this stage can last up to a decade.
This is the final stage of HIV and the person has CD4 levels below 200 cells per cubic millimeter. By this stage, the symptoms are severe and can interfere with daily life. The symptoms will be listed in the question below.
Symptoms may occur to both men and women but studies show that vague symptoms may appear on men than women. These symptoms are unspecific and are just bearable which is why they are usually mistaken as flu or another condition. Here are some of the symptoms that most men who have HIV experienced:
Most men who have multiple partners and are engaging in sexual activities with other men are at high-risk so if you have any experience with the symptoms above, it is highly recommended to get tested.
While most symptoms experienced by men can be experienced by both men and women, there are some symptoms that are more evident in women. Such symptoms include:
The HIV virus belongs to the so-called retroviruses. In order to multiply, this virus type integrates its genetic material into that of the host cell. The host cell is reprogrammed in such a way that it produces the components for new virus particles itself. The HI virus attacks T-helper cells, in particular CD4 lymphocytes or CD4 cells.
CD4 lymphocytes are white blood cells (leukocytes) and play a crucial role in the coordination of immune defence. The HI virus directly destroys a certain proportion of T-helper cells and also impairs their functions. The less functional CD4 cells are found in the blood, the more severely the immune system is affected.
As the disease progresses, the number and functionality of the helper cells decrease, resulting in the immune system's inability to protect the organism from disease. As a result, the patient's health deteriorates dramatically and, in the absence of treatment, he or she dies.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a lentivirus that causes damage and failure of the immune system. HIV is characterized by the virus killing CD4 Cells. CD4 cells are a type of immune cells called T-Cells. Over a period of time, these CD4 cells are killed by the virus and consequently weakens the person’s immune system making them susceptible to opportunistic infection and cancer - both of which can be life-threatening.
A debate among the scientific community since the emergence of HIV in the 1980s is the origin of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. The closest strain that is found to be identical to the HIV strain on humans is the Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) which occurs in chimpanzees.
In a study conducted by the Department of Medicine of the University of Alabama, they concluded that the virus has jumped from chimpanzees to humans. The chimpanzees developed SIV when they ate two different species of monkeys carrying different SIV strains.
Currently, there are two types of HIV that have been deeply studied:
Transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) can be done in specific activities only. Most of these activities involve the exposure or exchange of bodily fluids and the sharing of equipment that causes exposure to the bloodstream. Below are some of the common mode of transmissions of HIV:
Based on the identified modes of transmissions above, these are the people who have increased chances of acquiring HIV/AIDS:
Most of the factors that increase the risk of women acquiring HIV/AIDS are the same as men however below are the most common risk factors:
Generally, men also have the same risk factors as women, especially if they are engaging in sexual activities. However, men have a higher risk of getting HIV if they have:
An HIV infection can be divided into three phases.
When the HIV virus enters the body, it triggers a defensive reaction. However, the immune substances (antibodies) formed in the process are not able to eliminate the virus because, on the one hand, they cannot penetrate the host cell and, on the other hand, the virus constantly changes its surface structure as it multiplies, so that it no longer recognises the antibodies. Thus, the HI virus remains in the body for life.
After infection, the pathogen initially multiplies explosively. This early phase of the disease often goes unnoticed by those affected. In 40-90 percent of cases, the so-called acute HIV disease develops a few days to weeks after infection.
The most common symptoms are:
After about two weeks these complaints disappear again. At the end of this phase, the number of T-helper cells has recovered and the amount of virus in the blood has decreased considerably.
This is followed by the latency phase. Without therapeutic intervention, it lasts on average about ten years. In this phase, those affected are free of HIV-related symptoms because the body's own defence system can keep the virus under control to a large extent. Nevertheless, the immune system has to deal with the HI viruses on a daily basis and at some point it loses this battle: the viral load increases and the number of T-helper cells decreases.
This increasing weakening of the immune system heralds the symptomatic phase. First, the dwindling ability of the immune system to function becomes apparent in the form of complaints such as night sweats, fever attacks and diarrhoea. Many of those affected also suffer from fungal infections of the mucous membranes (e.g. oral cavity), other skin symptoms (e.g. shingles) and swelling of the lymph nodes.
If the immune system is further weakened, it is no longer able to defend itself against pathogens that do not pose any danger to healthy people. Then the affected persons develop so-called AIDS-defining diseases. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome" is a defined group of diseases that are characteristic of an advanced stage of HIV infection.
These include pneumocystis pneumonia (a form of pneumonia), fungal diseases or infections with viruses such as herpes zoster or herpes simplex. Cancer diseases are also favoured by immunodeficiency.
In addition, HIV also damages the brain and nervous system, which leads to brain performance disorders that begin slowly and inconspicuously. Once the full picture of AIDS has been reached, those affected die sooner or later without therapy from one or a combination of these diseases.
With HIV being an immune system-damaging disease, there are many complications in your health and lifestyle that come along with it. These complications can be life-threatening and can interfere with daily life depending on the severity or nature of the complication. Below are some of the common questions and its respective answers with regards to complications of having HIV and AIDS:
There are many possible complications that an HIV-positive person may encounter because of their weak immune system. Below is a categorized list of these complications:
These are common infections that may affect even those people who are not diagnosed with HIV. Most of these infections can be treated with proper medication if diagnosed early.
Opportunistic Infections are classified as infections that have severe effects on people who have weak immune systems - this includes people who are diagnosed with HIV. Due to the weak immune system, the body is having a difficult time fighting off HIV-related opportunistic infections and consequently, they can be life-threatening. Below is a list of some of the opportunistic infections observed in HIV-positive population:
Since AIDS is already the final and advanced stage of HIV, there are more severe complications that come with it. Some of this include:
There are no major specific complications for men, however, all complications above may occur to men who are diagnosed with HIV.
HIV is diagnosed by a specific blood test or mouth swabs. These tests look for specific antigens and antibodies which indicate the presence of the human immunodeficiency virus. Note that the emergence of these antibodies only within 23 to 90 days after contracting HIV.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) cannot be eradicated once it enters a person’s body. However, there are many scientifically-proven effective ways on how to treat and manage it in order to have a comfortable and productive life. Depending on the condition and progression of HIV, there are various options on how to manage it. Here are some questions and answers about the treatment options of HIV and AIDS:
This is considered an emergency HIV drug that is to be taken within 24 to 72 hours of being exposed to the virus. This is no different from antiretroviral drugs (ART) but this treatment means the consumption of ART after being suspected to be exposed from HIV.
PEP requires a prescription from a doctor but any healthcare provider can give it to you as long as you have sufficient information about your potential exposure to HIV
There are no life-threatening and severe side effects of PEP but may cause nausea to some people.
Usually, most people take PEP once or twice for a span of 28 days. This is not an ideal medicine for people who are frequently exposed to HIV (e.g. having a partner who is HIV-positive). The PEP should also be used for emergency purposes only.
Antiretroviral drugs or therapy work by suppressing the virus, its progression and its effect on the body. While this type of drug does not completely eradicate the virus from the body of an HIV-positive person, it helps decrease the risk of complications and improves the quality of life. The purpose of the drugs is to reduce the viral load of a person to undetectable levels, so if an HIV-positive person who has been taking ART for a period time subjects himself to HIV-test, there is a chance that he might be diagnosed as HIV-negative - but this does not mean that HIV is no longer existent in his body, it simply means that the viral load of HIV is so low that it is no longer detectable.
It prevents HIV from spreading and multiplying over a person’s body so the person’s healthy cells, which include CD4 cells are protected instead of being targeted by the virus. Treatment from HIV may require a combination of different types of antiretroviral drugs and there are already medicines that contain combined classes of these drugs. If treatment is effective, it is expected that the viral load within an HIV-positive person will decrease within 6 months.
There are many different types of ART and each of them differs based on the type of enzyme or the site of the enzyme that they act on. See below for these categories:
How It Works
Enzyme Acted On
Prevents HIV from entering targeted cells (CD4)
Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs)
Blocks viral reverse transcriptase - an enzyme required to replicate HIV
Viral Reverse Transcriptase
Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs)
Blocks viral reverse transcriptase - an enzyme required to replicate HIV
Viral Reverse Transcriptase (different site)
Blocks the transmission of genetic material from HIV to CD4 cells
Impedes HIV protease which is required to replicate HIV
Treatment is monitored by periodic monitoring of CD4 cells and viral load.
For patients that have a higher risk due to age or condition, kidney and liver function tests are done.
Depending on the condition of the person, there are various side effects that can happen once HIV medicines are taken in a regular manner. Below are some of the most common side effects:
If another medication for another illness is to be done, one must consult her GP to ensure that there are no harmful interactions to your HIV medicine.
Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, or simply known as AIDS is a syndrome that can develop in people who have human immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV). The nature of HIV is to kill CD4 cells - the same cells that are part of the immune system and fights infections. The normal quantity of CD4 cells in a healthy person ranges from 500 to 1500 per cubic millimeter, if a person has a count of less than 200 per cubic millimeter - they are diagnosed with AIDS. Usually the progression from HIV to AIDs averages in about ten years. A person can only acquire AIDS if they have HIV but not all those who have HIV can have AIDS. People who are diagnosed with HIV at an early stage and managed properly have lower chances of getting AIDS.
AIDS is an advanced stage of HIV has no cure. For people diagnosed with AIDS, they have the same treatment options as those who have HIV-1 or have a combination of different antiretroviral drugs and medication for their complications. Their treatment is based on the severity of their complications and how much the virus has spread throughout their body.
With Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) becoming rampant and prevalent around the world, different health institutions and organizations have developed and disseminated various information on how to prevent spread and acquisition of HIV. We’ve listed down a list of informative prevention methods below:
Avoidance of any sexual activities is the most effective (100%) method of preventing HIV. If you think you’re at risk of having HIV or by personal choice you want to wait before being sexually committed - abstinence will surely prevent a person from getting HIV. The most common mode of transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (e.g. chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea) is through sexual activity so being abstinent will surely prevent any person from acquiring such diseases.
If you have engaged in any activity - sexual activity or sharing of medical paraphernalia that might have exposed you to the virus, you can reach out to the nearest medical facility, ideally between 24-72 hours, to stop being fully infected by HIV. This medication is en emergency HIV medicine that if administered correctly can prevent a person from being infected with HIV.
This is a prevention strategy aimed at individuals who are at high risk of acquiring HIV. This method requires administering medicine to be taken daily. This preventive approach is recommended to people who are at high risk of acquiring HIV such as those who are:
Stop sharing equipment (e.g. needles and syringes) with other people - especially if you live with an HIV-positive person to conduct medical procedures that require the usage of any equipment that is exposed to bodily fluids. If any of these procedures are done in a public or shared facility - make sure that the needles and syringes are new and sterile.
Although it happens rarely; if you are going to receive blood donation or any blood component. Most hospitals do screening on this but make sure to get firsthand information and confirmation that your donor has been screened properly for any blood-transmitted diseases.
If abstinence and usage of condoms are not feasible, then move to limit your sexual activities or sexual partners. Studies show that
Usage of latex condoms, female condoms, and dental dams during sexual activities decreases the risk of spreading HIV and ensures that your partner is protected if you are HIV-positive. Condoms help in preventing your partner from being exposed to your own bodily fluids (e.g. semen and pre-cum). Although this is not a 100% effective method as condoms may have breakage, this is a good practice to be followed as this also avoids transmission of other sexually transmitted diseases. This prevention method is also applicable in the prevention of acquisition of HIV.
If you are diagnosed as HIV-positive, treatment should start right away to prevent further damage of the virus to your immune system. The treatment should decrease the viral load in your body up to a low level of viral load wherein you are less likely to transmit HIV to another person. Taking and following proper HIV treatment such as ART helps not only the person with HIV but their sexual partners and their community as well.
Once diagnosed with HIV and you have undergone treatment if done properly, your viral load becomes so low that it becomes undetectable (but not gone from your body). Having HIV becoming undetectable indicates that your treatment is working and to monitor this you have to have regular screening of your viral load and CD4 count as well as check for the presence of antibodies for HIV in your blood. Regular screening not only serves as monitoring for your condition but also helps reassure your partner that they have a lower chance of being infected.
Having HIV changes people and this includes their behaviors or response to sexual activities. If you are HIV-positive, avoid activities that might expose people from the virus within your body. This can be done by:
HIV is a lifelong condition that will need to be dealt with always so it is important to have a solid relationship with your general physician - the doctor will have the best medical opinion as to what is the best option for you to handle your condition. Your general physician will also assess and warn you for any activities that will endanger or complicate your condition if you engage in any activities.
With Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) being one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases, there is a truckload of information and studies available on the internet and most of them contain detailed information about every sector of the nature of the virus.
We’ve compiled a list of the commonly asked questions below:
Tests have up to 99.83% accuracy if they are done in the proper time window and with an uncontaminated specimen.
If you have HIV and have undergone treatment early or before AIDS, your life expectancy can be as long as a normal and healthy person. The earlier you are diagnosed, the higher the life expectancy there is.
Having a full-blown AIDS limits a person’s life expectancy from 3 months up to 6 years depending on the complications encountered.
If a woman who is HIV-positive gets pregnant, then there is a chance that they may pass the virus to their child. To avoid this, the woman should take ART immediately as possible and discuss other treatment options that can decrease the risk of transmission of HIV with their ob gyne.
Yes. However, your partner should be aware of your condition and you should protect him or her from acquiring HIV from you by taking treatment or by using condoms.
If you think you have HIV because you have multiple partners or your partner is HIV-positive, you should ask for HIV screening the soonest time possible.
This is dependent on some factors like whether or not the individual is on antiretroviral therapy and their general health background but on the average, it takes about 10 to 15 years to progress to AIDS. It could be longer or shorter. Regular treatment with antiretroviral drugs can reduce HIV viral load to undetectable levels which prevent the progression to AIDS.
No. HIV can only be transmitted through bodily fluids. Below are some of the misconceptions that will not be able to transmit HIV from one person to another:
As of now, there is no cure for HIV/AIDS. Clinical trials for cure and vaccine are ongoing but those who are diagnosed with HIV can undergo the effective treatments that are available and they can have the same life expectancy as other people.
HIV is common in sexually active people aged 13-24. However, you can get AIDS at any age as long as you are exposed to the virus.
Smoking does not increase the chance of acquiring HIV. However, if you are already HIV-positive and you are a smoker, there is a risk for you to get complications that can turn to opportunistic infection and can be life-threatening.
If you have already undergone treatment and your latest HIV screening indicated that there is no viral load in your body - this does not mean that you are HIV negative. It only means that the treatment is working and has brought the virus to undetectable levels.
No. HIV is a lifelong condition and medication should be taken as long as advised by your doctor. If you stop taking the medicine, the viral load of HIV will likely increase and damage your immune system.
The top 3 countries with the highest HIV prevalence are as follows:
According to this, people with CCR5 mutations have innate resistance against HIV. CCR5 is the co-receptor of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. Less than 1% of people are projected to have this kind of resistance.
As they say, the only safe sex is no sex at all, i.e. abstinence. But safer sex involves precautions, methods, or devices employed during sexual activity to greatly lower the chances of HIV transmission, as well as the timely treatment of other sexually transmitted infections.
Safer sex still carries some risk but is much lower than otherwise. These precautions include:
If you consistently and properly use condoms, they are highly effective in protecting against HIV transmission. They equally protect against other sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia and gonorrhea. However for sexually transmitted infections which are spread via skin to skin contact such as genital herpes, genital warts, and syphilis, they are less protective.
Even though they are highly effective, there's still a chance of HIV transmission so it is recommended that you add other methods of prevention to further reduce the risk.
Generally, most condoms are made of latex and polyurethane. The latter is suitable for those who have latex sensitivity or allergies. It is also what female condoms are made of.
These materials have been shown to effectively prevent the passage of hepatitis, herpes virus, and of course the HIV virus. Condoms made of natural substances (lambskin) are not able to do this.
There are some condoms designed for sexual stimulation and not protection against sexually transmitted disease. These typically do not say anything about disease prevention on the package. Also condoms should be of appropriate length, covering the entire penis.
For condoms that are not already lubricated, you may apply some lubricant yourself. Some of them however are already lubricated using jellies, creams, and silicone.
Using a lubricant helps to prevent irritation or breakage while in use. Water-based lubricants are recommended.
Avoid oil based or petroleum based ones as they can cause damage to the latex material, making them prone to micro tears.
Post-exposure prophylaxis is a short-term course of HIV drugs which is taken just after an individual has been potentially exposed to the virus.
It is used only in cases of emergencies and not on a regular basis when exposure is continuous or frequent.
It consists of antiretroviral medication which is highly effective in HIV prevention if taken properly. It should ideally be taken not later than 72 hours post exposure.
To reduce your risk of HIV infection, as an injection drug user you can do the following:
Mother to child transmission otherwise known as a vertical transmission is responsible for a good majority of cases of HIV infection in children aged 0 to 14 years.
This transmission can occur during pregnancy, childbirth, or via breastfeeding. For an infected mother who is left untreated, the chances of infecting the baby is about 15 to 30%. Breastfeeding also increases the chances considerably. With treatment, it comes down low to 5%.
As a means of curbing this, the World Health Organization has recommended a program which offers care to HIV positive women from the time of pregnancy through delivery to breastfeeding.
These services include:
Universal precautions are a set of guidelines which healthcare workers are expected to follow in order to limit the spread of infection from blood and other body fluids, and thus protect their health and that of the patients in their care.
These precautions include:
Numerous drugs are now available for HIV therapy. Most of them work by blocking the activity of enzymes (proteins that accelerate and facilitate chemical reactions) specific to HIV and necessary for it to multiply in its target cells. These cells are represented by a subgroup of white blood cells, called CD4+ lymphocytes (ie lymphocytes that express a molecule called CD4 on their surface), which are a part of the immune system and are essential for adequate defense against infections. The HIV enzymes blocked by these drugs are integrase, reverse transcriptase and protease.
Antiretroviral therapy is able to effectively suppress the quantity (viral load) of the virus in the blood, reducing them almost to undetectable levels, to eliminate the risk of transmission of HIV among sexual partners and the risk of transmission from mother to child during pregnancy and childbirth (vertical transmission of HIV).
For antiretroviral therapy to be effective, it is therefore necessary to ensure that HIV is no longer detectable in the blood. This goal can only be achieved if antiretrovirals from different classes are combined.
Otherwise, HIV continues to be present in the blood, to multiply and weaken the immune defenses, and in a short time, it inevitably becomes resistant to the drugs used, making them ineffective.
It is possible to identify the presence of drug-resistant viruses with specific tests, and in these cases, the drugs against which resistance has been identified are replaced with drugs to which sensitivity has been maintained, usually of different classes.
In any case, antiretroviral drugs are not able to eliminate HIV from the body because HIV remains permanently present in already infected cells. Therapy therefore aims to stop the multiplication of the virus in a lasting way.
Once started, the therapy must be followed indefinitely and cannot be interrupted or taken in a discontinuous way.
There are currently no drugs with prolonged time of action to be taken once a week or a month, and it is therefore necessary to take antiretroviral therapy every day respecting the indicated doses and times.
However, very simple combinations are now available, in which it is possible to take all the therapy provided in a single administration a day, sometimes represented by a single tablet to be taken in the evening.
No. Viruses don't have cures, but symptoms can be controlled with proper treatment.
Viral. AIDS is caused by HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus).
Antiviral Medication. HIV/AIDS is treated with a variety of antiviral medications: fusion inhibitors, protease inhibitors and RT inhibitors are the most common.
AIDS / HIV is Incurable. HIV/AIDS is incurable; as such treatment is aimed at slowing progression and treating symptoms.
Yes. Partners should be informed of your condition and condoms/dams should be used consistently.
No. HIV is incurable; once you are infected, you will carry the disease with your for life.
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