Human Immunodeficiency Virus is the virus that causes HIV and overtime may cause AIDS or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. AIDS causes the failure of the immune system progressively which makes the body vulnerable to life-threatening infections like Cancer. If there is no treatment the average survival time for a human being infected with the virus is nine to eleven years. As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1.1 million Americans have this disease. The sad part is that currently there is no cure for HIV but the good part is that there are medications to reduce the effect.
How does HIV occur?
HIV happens because of transfer of blood, vaginal fluids, semen and when the infected mother breastfeeds her baby.
What are the first signs of HIV infection?
The first signs symptoms of HIV infection are nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, cough, rapid weight loss, shortness of breath, rapid and extreme weight loss, chills, fever, sweating at night, lesions or abrasions in the genitals, mouth, nose and under the skin, memory loss and in some cases neurological complications.
HIV symptom timeline:
The stages of HIV are –
- Acute stage
- Chronic stage
- AIDS or the last stage
When HIV advances it starts killing the cells which help the body fight infections. This infection does not appear suddenly or overnight but it takes time. The speed at which the infection becomes severe depends upon person to person. In some of them, it can be as quick as few months while in others it can take ten years. Not all the patients progress to the third stage of HIV as there are medications which can delay this. These medicines are Combination Antiretroviral Therapy or ART. This medicine is most helpful when started early.
There is a problem when there are no symptoms at all. A person may have HIV infection for years but is ignorant about it. This is a serious issue as HIV infection without symptoms is as dangerous as HIV infection with very apparent symptoms. Symptoms in very early stages appear only when the destruction of cells in the body of the patient is immense. That is why regular HIV tests are essential even for healthy people.
There are many patients who are living normal lives with HIV. They see a healthcare regularly and are on regular medication.