HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a virus that damages cells in the immune system and weakens the body’s ability to fight everyday infections and diseases.
Meanwhile, AIDS or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome is the term used to describe a number of infections from potentially life-threatening diseases that occur when the immune system has been severely compromised by the HIV virus.
AIDS is not contagious, however the HIV virus can be passed from one person to another and may lead to AIDS.
There is no cure for HIV. However, doctors can perform treatment to extend the patient’s life. Through proper treatment, people with HIV can survive without experiencing AIDS.
Causes of HIV / AIDS
The HIV virus is found in fluids in the body of an infected patient and can be transmitted to others. These fluids include semen, vaginal fluids, blood, and breast milk. However, transmission cannot occur through saliva, sweat, and urine.
The most common method of transmission of HIV is through unprotected sex. Additionally, the spread of HIV can also occur from:
- Syringes and other injection equipment.
- Transmission from mother to baby during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding.
- Blood transfusion. However, this has the lowest risk compared to other factors.
Although having sexual contact potentially triggers the spread of the HIV virus, the spread will only occur if an infected partner secretes fluids, either blood or semen, into the body of an uninfected partner.
The HIV virus is a fragile virus and cannot survive long outside.
When the body has the HIV virus, it destroys white blood cells that play an important role in helping your body fight against diseases. After years, the virus will continue to attack white blood cells until it turns into AIDS, when the immune system weakens.
When to See a Doctor for HIV / AIDS?
Patients with HIV / AIDS can consult with an infectious disease specialist. The HIV virus can only be detected through a special HIV test. The examination involves taking blood and saliva samples to diagnose the infection.
HIV test types include:
- Antibody test. The fastest test to detect HIV virus.
- Antigen test. Antigen is a substance contained in the HIV virus and can usually be detected within a few weeks after exposure to the HIV virus.
- Nucleic acid tests (NATs). A test to look for any viruses in the body. This test is the most definitive test that will clearly confirm if a person has HIV.
HIV test results, whether positive or negative, should be repeated over a period of 1 to 3 months after the patient is exposed to HIV infection. Self-test can be done at the clinic and at home.
HIV testing at the clinic will usually be conducted by taking a blood sample. The blood draw process only takes a few minutes, but the patient must wait for the results that will take a few days.
Meanwhile, self-test can be done by purchasing a testing kit at a pharmacy or online. The results of the test can be seen in a few minutes.
Symptoms of HIV / AIDS
Most people have a flu-like illness that lasts 1 to 2 weeks. Flu will be experienced about 2 to 6 weeks after exposure to HIV infection.
After the flu disappears, HIV may not cause other symptoms for years even though the virus has slowly damaged the body’s immune system. This means that many people with HIV don’t even realise they are infected.
When the immune system weakens due to HIV virus, the condition will develop into AIDS. When AIDS appears, patients may experience symptoms such as:
- Chronic diarrhea.
- Recurrent fever.
- Weight loss.
- White patches on the tongue and mouth
- Swollen lymph nodes
Treatment for HIV / AIDS
The HIV virus is not curable. No treatment can be taken to completely remove the virus. Treatment will also be more complex if HIV has progressed to AIDS.
Doctors’ treatment typically focuses on preventing HIV from developing further and causing AIDS. Usually, antiretroviral or virus-fighting types of drugs are used to treat HIV patients. These drugs work by stopping the virus from growing, allowing the immune system to repair itself and prevent further damage.
This type of medicine usually comes in tablet form and must be taken every day for a long period of time. Doctors will also provide many combinations of other drugs for consumption by people with HIV. This combination functions to suppress and defeat the HIV virus.
Patients who have been taking combination HIV drugs for a long time may have low HIV levels, but the virus does not go away completely. However, during examination, the virus may no longer be detected due to decreased levels.
Treatment Cost for HIV / AIDS
The cost for HIV / AIDS treatment varies, depending on the severity and the treatment method chosen.
For more information regarding the estimated costs of HIV / AIDS treatment, contact Smarter Health.
Prevention of HIV / AIDS
HIV and AIDS prevention can be done by protecting oneself from people who are infected. Preventive measures include:
- Use protection during sex.
- Routine examinations and tests for pregnant women or nursing mothers.
- Take HIV / AIDS preventive drugs when living with an infected person.
- TakE HIV / AIDS preventive drugs specifically to reduce the risk of transmission through sexual contact
- Use a new and hygienic syringe when doing blood transfusions. Avoid using shared needles with other people.
- Immediately consume preventive drugs routinely within 28 days after exposure to the virus. Early consumption can prevent the virus from developing and growing in the body.
Home Remedies for Patients Diagnosed with HIV / AIDS
Taking care of HIV and AIDS patients at home is key to prevent transmission to other household members. Household members can take special medications to reduce their risk of getting HIV and AIDS if they live with an infected person.
Moreover, HIV and AIDS patients and household members need to exercise regularly to improve their health. It is important to maintain the health of everyone involved.
Patients with HIV must also routinely consume a combination of medications prescribed by the doctor. Apart from preventing the development of AIDS, it is also to reduce the risk of transmission to other people who are not infected.