HIV

Overview

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus, a virus that directly attacks and weakens the body’s immune system often resulting in eventual death or perpetual illness. Often seen as a Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD), HIV also has the potential to spread through blood-contact contamination. It also could be given to a child through the mother during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Currently, there is no cure for HIV, though the disease can be controlled by a regimen of modern medications. HIV infection rates are high in some underdeveloped parts of the world. Cases in Africa countries alone compose 60% of total cases worldwide. HIV and AIDS are separate classifications of the same disease. HIV becomes AIDS when the infected individual’s white blood count reaches a specific low number and marks a distinct progression of the disease.

Symptoms and diagnosis

Symptoms of HIV can be challenging to spot, as many traits of HIV infection also coincide with common illnesses such as the flu. Signs of HIV infection are: fever, muscle soreness, rash, headache, sore throat, mouth ulcers, swollen glands (usually on neck), night sweats, joint pain, and diarrhea. Often the body can be infected with HIV and show no symptoms despite the virus growing in large numbers in the blood stream. If not detected in time, infection usually progresses to AIDS in roughly ten years. AIDS symptoms include almost all of the ones associated with HIV, though they are more severe and include white tongue lesions, high fever, severe fatigue, blurred vision, weight loss, and skin rashes/bumps. HIV is a disease that is extremely challenging to diagnose without proper testing. If it is a possibility that exposure to the virus has taken place, seek medical testing immediately.

Causes

The exactly origin of of HIV is remains unknown, though it is thought to come from contamination in chimps butchered and hunted in Africa. HIV can be contracted from various forms of direct contamination with infected bodily fluids such as blood, semen, and vaginal secretions. HIV can be contracted from activities such as having unprotected sex, sharing needles, receiving a blood transfusion, and from infected mother to child during pregnancy. HIV progresses to AIDS after the infected individual’s white blood count drops below a certain level and the ability to fight off disease weakens. HIV cannot be passed from person to person through activities such as hugs, handshakes, and kisses. Continue reading for Prevention information . . .

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