Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a life-threatening virus that can lead to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). It is a disease that deteriorates your immune system, making you more vulnerable to other complications and health conditions.
HIV is transmitted through various means including, unprotected sex, contact with infected blood, and maternal to fetal transmission.
What are the different stages of HIV?
HIV is a slow progressing virus that infects your immune system. Depending on the level of HIV progression in your body, it can be split into multiple stages that include:
This is the first stage of the virus. During the acute stage, the disease shows very mild symptoms that include:
- Weight loss
Acute HIV can last around 3-4 weeks before it progresses to the next stage. The amount of virus in your bloodstream during this stage is very high. Hence, although this is the initial stage, the virus’s spread and progression are more than during any other stages. If your doctor finds out that you have the disease at this stage and begins your HIV treatment, it can prove to be life-saving.
This is the second stage of the progression of HIV. During this stage, you might not experience any symptoms, but the virus will still be present in your body. This stage can last for a few years. The progression of HIV during this stage largely depends on your immune system.
This is the stage of HIV where things start to get more serious. During this stage, the virus continues to multiply and deteriorate your immune system, making you weaker and more at risk of developing complications. Some of the common symptoms that you may experience during the third stage of HIV are:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Weight loss
- Oral yeast infections
After a span of around 8 to 10 years, untreated HIV develops into AIDS. By the time you get AIDS, your immune system is drastically damaged. This makes you vulnerable to several fatal infections and cancers. Some of the signs of AIDS include:
- Chronic diarrhea
- Skin rashes or bumps
- Unexplained fatigue
- Recurring fever
- Unusual lesions or persistent white spots on your tongue or in your mouth
- Swollen lymph glands
- Persistent, unexplained fatigue
When to see a doctor for HIV
If you see or experience any of the signs and symptoms mentioned above, you should see a doctor without further delay. Your doctor will conduct a few tests to diagnose your condition. This will help the doctor provide early treatment, which can prove to be life-saving in HIV. The earlier you get diagnosed, the earlier the treatment starts and reduces the progression. You can request an appointment with Apollo Hospitals for diagnosis and treatment with the best medical services.
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What are the causes of HIV?
HIV is a virus that can spread through unprotected sex, contact with infected blood, and from pregnant mother to fetus . In all such situations, infected blood enters your body via different means.
Having unprotected sex
While having sex with an HIV infected person, their blood, semen, or secretions can enter your body. They can also enter through vaginal tears that are common during sex or from mouth sores.
Sharing IV needles and syringes with an infected person can cause HIV. This problem majorly arises in illegal drug users who share needles.
If blood from an infected person is transfused into your body, you may develop HIV. This is an extremely rare scenario as most doctors and hospitals allow only healthy people with no infection or disease to donate blood and screening is thorough .
During pregnancy or breastfeeding
Babies of mothers having HIV are at a high risk of getting the disease. Taking treatment for HIV while pregnant can help reduce the chances of disease transmission from mother to baby. The virus can also be transmitted during breastfeeding.
Can HIV be completely cured with proper treatment?
There is no cure for HIV to date. Once you get infected by the virus, it will remain within your cells until the very end. Although you cannot completely cure the disease, there are several HIV treatments called antiretroviral therapy (ART) that can help control the virus’s progression and let you live a long life despite having HIV. Some of these HIV treatment medications include:
Non-Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NNRTIs)
NNRTIs are one of the most common HIV treatments that your doctor will prescribe from the very first stage. Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs) turn off a protein needed by HIV to make copies of itself .Some of the common NNRTIs are Rilpivirine, Doravirine, and Efavirenz.
Nucleoside/Nucleotide Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTIs)
NRTIs also prevent HIV from making its copies. They are faulty versions of actual building blocks essential for replication. The most common NRTI drugs include Abacavir, Emtricitabine, Zidovudine, and Tenofovir.
Protease Inhibitors (PIs)
PIs are drugs that inactivate protease, a drug that is essential for HIV replication. Common examples of these drugs include Lopinavir/Ritonavir, Atazanavir, and Darunavir.
These are the drugs that disable a protein named integrase. This protein is useful to HIV for infecting CD4 T cells. CD4 T cells, in particular, are the ones infected by HIV. Raltegravir, Bictegravir, and Dolutegravir are some of the common examples of these drugs.
- These are the HIV treatment drugs that prevent the entry or fusion of HIV with CD4 T cells. Common examples are Maraviroc and Enfuvirtide.
What are the common complications of HIV?
Although modern-day HIV treatment has helped many people survive for a long time, it can lead to several infections, cancer, and other health complications when left untreated. Some of these common complications include:
It is a fungal infection leading to severe illness. Doctors can easily treat Pneumocystis Pneumonia now with modern-day treatments for HIV. It is one of the most common causes of pneumonia in HIV patients.
Candidiasis, also known as thrush, is an infection that inflames your mouth. It also causes a thick, white-colored coating on the surface of your tongue, vagina, mouth, and esophagus.
TB, short for tuberculosis, is an infection and the most common cause of death in HIV patients.
Lymphoma is a common cancer seen in people with HIV. It begins in your white blood cells, and the most common symptom includes swelling of lymph nodes.
It is a tumor that appears as pink, red, dark brown, or black lesions, depending on the skin color. Kaposi’s Sarcoma infects blood vessel walls and, sometimes, internal organs as well.
HIV can lead to inflammation of kidney filters. It is also referred to as HIV-Associated Nephropathy (HIVAN).
HIV can lead to neurological complications, including depression, anxiety, dementia, confusion, among others. The most common sign of neurological complications includes sudden behavioral change.
How to prevent HIV?
The best way to prevent HIV is to avoid its causes. For instance, since HIV can spread through sex, using condom protection can help prevent the virus’s spread. But if you have already got the virus, the best thing to do is take HIV treatment early. Some of the other common prevention methods include:
- Using a new condom for every intercourse
- Using a clean needle always
- Male circumcision
- Regular check ups if your HIV positive and pregnant. If you take treatment during pregnancy, you can cut your baby’s risk significantly.
- Tell your spouse/partner if you are HIV positive .
- Use treatment as prevention (TasP). If you are living with HIV, taking HIV medicines can keep your partner/spouse from becoming infected with the virus..
There is no permanent HIV treatment to cure the disease. Hence, it is best to visit the best doctor for treatment that can help reduce the virus’s progression and prevent it from turning into AIDS. You can reach out to Apollo Hospitals for testing , consultation and medical help. Early diagnosis and constant treatment are what can help you lead a healthy life despite having HIV.
Frequesntly Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Does HIV spread through kissing?
No evidence supports the spread of HIV through saliva while kissing. It is also not contagious by touch ; hence, it won’t spread by touching an infected person’s lips or other body parts.
- How can condoms prevent the spread of HIV?
HIV is spread through sores and openings in the vagina and genital secretion while having sex. Condoms can help cover the sores and prevent the genital secretion from entering the partner’s body to prevent the spread. However, you need to ensure that the condom is used correctly and does not slip or break.
- Is it necessary for pregnant women to get tested for HIV?
It is not a necessity but a strong recommendation to get tested while pregnant. If a pregnant mother with HIV is taking medical treatment, the chances of transmission to her baby reduces significantly.