HIV and AIDS – There is a misconception that HIV and AIDS are the same thing, which unfortunately, is still prevalent. This misconception is not only wrong but also leads to stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV.
As the name suggests, HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that affects the body’s immune system because it uses CD4 T lymphocytes, or “helper T cells,” a type of white blood cell that triggers the immune system to fight infection. HIV uses CD4 cells to multiply and spread throughout the body, destroying them in the process.
HIV and AIDS
How is HIV transmitted?
HIV is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). It is transmitted through body fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal fluid, as well as breast milk. But it cannot be passed through saliva, sweat or direct skin contact. Therefore, HIV cannot be transmitted through closed mouths or “social” kissing, hugging, shaking hands, sharing toilets or sharing objects such as cups, plates, cutlery or bed sheets.
Also, HIV cannot be transmitted through insects or pets.
Anal or vaginal sex without a condom, sharing needles, syringes or other drug-injections, sharing sex toys, and mother-to-child transmission are the most common ways HIV is transmitted.
What are the stages of HIV?
If left untreated, people with HIV can progress from no symptoms to ill health and end-stage HIV, also known as AIDS.
Stage 1: Acute HIV infection
Within two to four weeks of HIV infection, some people may experience a minor illness that is often mistaken for the flu.This is called seroconversion disease or essential or intense HIV infection.
Flu-like side effects can include fever, chills, rash, night sweats, muscle aches. The duration of these symptoms can range from a few days to a few weeks, while some people show no symptoms at all.
These symptoms alone are not enough to suspect you may have HIV. But if you have these symptoms and think you may have been exposed to HIV, you may want to consider getting tested.
Stage 2: Chronic HIV infection
In this stage, also known as asymptomatic HIV infection or clinical latency, HIV is still active, but it grows to a very low level.While some people can tolerate this stage for 10 to 15 years without showing any side effects, others may go through it quickly.
When starting prescribed HIV medication, people may never progress to stage 3, AIDS. Otherwise, the viral load – the amount of HIV in the blood – increases and the person eventually progresses to AIDS. Also, if diagnosed and treated at this stage, people can keep their viral load at low or undetectable levels and live long and healthy lives. In this case, the possibility of HIV transmission to HIV-negative partners through sex is also eliminated or reduced to a very low risk.
Stage 3: Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
This is the late and most extreme stage of HIV infection.
And a person is considered to have progressed to AIDS when the CD4 cell count falls below 200 cells per cubic millimeter of blood (200 cells/mm3).
Many of the severe symptoms and illnesses that occur during this stage are the result of opportunistic infections, which often occur after the body’s immune system is compromised.
Symptoms of AIDS include rapid weight loss, muscle pain, joint pain, rash, swollen lymph nodes in the armpits, groin, or neck, prolonged diarrhea, sores in the mouth, anus, or genitals, red, brown, pink, or red, brown, or pink skin on or under the face, face, Purple spots on the nose, or inside the eyelids and more.
However, thanks to advanced medical procedures, AIDS can be prevented. According to a report by hiv.org, most HIV-positive people in the United States who receive treatment do not develop AIDS. So if you suspect you may have HIV, getting tested is a smart choice. The sooner HIV is diagnosed, the sooner you can take HIV medication as directed and keep your viral load at undetectable levels.
Guidelines for reduce the risk of HIV infection
There are many ways to prevent and reduce your risk of contracting HIV, and education plays an important role in this.
Contrary to popular belief, testing is not something to be afraid of. Even if someone is HIV-positive, current treatment regimens can reduce the viral load in the blood to undetectable levels; And perhaps this is the best thing to do against HIV stigma.
1. Using a condom: This is the first and most effective protection that comes to mind. It can be used very well during vaginal and anal sex, intercourse and for oral sex performed on men. Because HIV can be transmitted from pre-cum, vaginal secretions, and anus, condoms should not be removed at any stage of intercourse.
2. Using lubricants: They can make sex safer by reducing the chance of vaginal or anal tears due to friction or dryness, as well as condom tearing. But it’s important to note that only water-based lubricants should be used with condoms because oil-based ones can weaken the condom’s latex and cause them to break or tear.
3. Not sharing needles, syringes, etc.: To prevent the spread of HIV or any other STI, you should avoid sharing needles and injection equipment. This is valid in any context, including using prescription drugs and getting tattoos or piercings.