Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a type of virus that can cause a disease called AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). The infection affects the immune system, the body’s natural defenses against disease. If left untreated, serious illnesses can occur.
Normally harmless infections, like the flu or bronchitis, can get worse, become very difficult to treat, or even lead to death. In addition, the risk of cancer is also increased.
What sets HIV apart from other viruses is that it affects the immune system by taking control of the cells that coordinate the immune response when a virus occurs. Thus, HIV uses CD4 cells to spread the virus while damaging and destroying the cells. In doing so, HIV undermines the immune system, which acts to fight it from within.
Transmission of HIV
HIV is spread through body fluids: blood, semen, vaginal fluids and breast milk. These body fluids only transmit HIV if they come into contact with an area that lets it enter the body, like a mucous membrane. Healthy skin is impermeable to HIV.
Most often, the virus is contracted through unprotected sexual activity or in the past through the exchange of needles among people who inject drugs. The risk of transmission by kissing with the exchange of saliva is zero.
In most industrialized nations, gay sex (between men) is the most important route of HIV transmission. However, the heterosexual transmission has increased significantly since the start of the epidemic.
Important Facts on HIV / AIDS
- About 35 million people around the world are living with HIV today. Two-thirds of them reside in sub-Saharan Africa.
- The number of people living with HIV is increasing worldwide, with 2.5 million new infections per year and 1.5 million deaths.
- There is considerable improvement in the effectiveness of treatments.
HIV-AIDS, an Increasingly Well-Treated Disease
We now know that an HIV-positive person that is well-cared has an extremely low risk of transmitting the virus during sex. However, certain conditions need to be met:
- Treatment is taken regularly,
- It causes an undetectable viral load (or viral load below the threshold of 50 copies/ml in plasma for more than 6 months and on the last most recent test,
- You perform a regular viral load test at least every 3 or 4 months
- The couples do not have other sexually transmitted infections.
No treatment currently cures AIDS or eliminates HIV from the body. Even when it becomes undetectable by exams, it does not mean that the virus has been eradicated from the body.
That said, with the right treatment, an HIV-positive person can now live a long time. However, people with HIV remain susceptible to transmitting it throughout their lives, especially if they are not treated well. Untreated, HIV infection leads to AIDS and ultimately leads to death.
Symptoms And Evolution Of Infection To AIDS
1st phase – primary infection
In the weeks following infection, about a third of those affected have symptoms similar to those of the flu: fever, headache, sore throat, redness on the skin, fatigue, muscle pain, etc. These symptoms disappear by it selves, even without any treatment.
2nd phase – asymptomatic infection
The virus can lie dormant in the body for many years without causing symptoms. So the person may feel like they are well, but are at risk of transmitting HIV. This phase is usually 1 to 3 months after infection.
3rd phase AIDS phase (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) or symptomatic infections
If left untreated, the person experiences one or more symptoms related to HIV infection (fatigue, diarrhea, swollen glands, weight loss, night sweats, fever, etc.).
4th phase –
If the number of immune cells (CD4 T cells) becomes very low and the body can no longer fight other infections or diseases, the diagnosis of AIDS is made. Symptoms become more obvious and constant.
In addition, Opportunistic infections can cause serious health problems. Opportunistic infections are infections that are usually not serious but become serious in people with very weak immune systems.
Opportunistic diseases include, for example, candidiasis, pneumonia, tuberculosis, herpes infections, and also cancers.
Research has shown that cardiovascular disease is more common in people with the disease because their body has a higher degree of inflammation. It is known that inflammation is involved in the formation of plaques in the artery walls, which can interfere with the flow of blood. In addition, cognitive degeneration (for example, Alzheimer’s disease) related to HIV infection has also been reported.
HIV is not transmitted in the following ways:
You can’t get it by a handshake, sweat or tears. It is not carried by insects. It is not contracted on toilet seats, or by swimming in public pools, sharing food, or using the linen, towels, or telephone of an infected person.