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What we have to say about your health and well being
30
Nov 2015
HIV and AIDS by Marzieh Rabiee

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a subgroup of retrovirus that attacks and weakens the immune system leading to development of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

HIV is transmitted through:

  • Sexual contact- Unprotected anal or oral sex with a HIV carrier partner
  • Sharing needles for injection of drugs
  • From mother to baby- pregnancy, childbirth, and breast feeding
  • Blood transfusion and organ transplant
  • Occupational exposure- Health care providers accidentally pricking themselves with infected needles

Symptoms

Depending on the stage of the disease, patients may experience different symptoms.

Early stage

This is within 2-4 weeks after being infected by the HIV. The most common symptoms of this stage are flu like symptoms such as fever, sore throat, body rash, lethargy, headache, and muscle and joint pains. Such symptoms may last a few days or a few weeks. It is important to remember that some people may not experience any symptoms at all.

Clinical latency stage

During this stage which may take up to 10 years the virus is active and progressively damaging the immune system, however no particular symptoms are observed.

Progression to AIDS stage

If left untreated during the early or clinical latency stage, the disease can progress into the AIDS stage which is the final stage of infection. At this stage symptoms such as rapid weight loss, pneumonia, chronic diarrhoea (lasting more than 1 week), Skin problem, extreme and unexplained tiredness, recurring fever and night sweats, recurrent infections, and sore of mouth, genitals, and anus may be experienced.

Diagnosis

HIV is mainly diagnosed through blood test which can be carried out in:

  • Local sexual health clinics
  • GP surgeries
  • Hospitals

They are also available by post and over the counter at some pharmacies where a small fee is required.

Treatment

The human body is unable to fight HIV and no treatment has been found to completely cure the condition, however those affected can lead a long and healthy life.

The aim of treatment is to reduce the level of HIV in blood, thus allowing the immune system to repair and prevent related illnesses.

Those affected by HIV within the last 72 hours can receive emergency anti- HIV medication, also known as PEP, to prevent infection. This is a month long treatment with serious side effects and is not guaranteed to work. PEP is available in sexual sex or genitourinary medicine clinics, as well as hospitals.

HIV is treated with antiretroviral (ARV) medicines. A combination of ARVs is usually provided to prevent development of resistance by HIV. To increase compliance to treatment some ARVs are made into one pill.

Prevention

To prevent HIV infection it is important to reduce the risk of exposure. This is achieved through:

  • Protected sex- using condoms, lubricants, dental dams, and having linited number of sexual partners.
  • Avoiding share of needles and syringes
  • Screening for HIV in pregnancy

Living with HIV

  • Review your medication regularly
  • Avoid exposure to other infections by having the seasonal flu jab, pneumococcal and vaccination
  • Stop smoking
  • Regular exercise

References:

http://www.aidsmap.com/files/file1000883.pdf

http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/HIV/Pages/living-with.aspx

https://www.aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/hiv-aids-101/signs-and-symptoms/index.html

http://www.hivaware.org.uk/facts-myths/faqs-myths

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