AIDS, or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is the term that refers to the late stages of a HIV infection. This stage comes as a result of not treating the HIV infection.
Before we look at AIDS, it is important to look at the infection that leads to this syndrome. HIV transmission is through contact with infected fluids such as sexual fluids, blood and also breast milk. Once the virus gets into the body, it attacks the body’s immune system. This is through fighting CD4 cells which are responsible for fighting illnesses and infections. If the virus destroys the cells to a point where the body cannot fight infections, this is the stage that we refer to as AIDS.
HIV is a small virus that has ribonucleic acid in its genetic material. Once the virus gets into the human cells, it turns the ribonucleic acid into DNA using the special enzymes in the cells. As it reproduces, variations are created due to small mistakes by the virus. These variations make it difficult for the immune system to fight the virus. Since the immune system cannot fight the virus, it turns into a lifelong infection. The variations and mutations also lead to drug resistance in some cases.
Investigations have traced the HIV virus back in Africa. Scientists tend to believe that the virus spreads from non-human primates to humans in the early twentieth century. It’s believed that humans came into contact with chimpanzee blood with the virus. Testing of blood samples shows that there might have been humans who had the virus back in late 1950s.
When the virus gets into the human body, it can spread to other humans through sexual contact. There were infected people who moved from Africa to other parts of the world and this is how the virus found itself around the world. It was in 1981 when US doctors noted that there were many deaths involving young gay men as a result of some cancers and unusual infection. Later, it was found out that the virus entered the country through this population. It is also because the virus is easily transmitted through anal sex. This information led to people believing that the virus was only affecting gay men. It was not until Magic Johnson’s HIV news broke out that people started believing that the infection can affect anyone.
Today, the virus affects everyone regardless of age, race, gender or sexual orientation. Africa is still a major center of the AIDS pandemic with most of the infection cases involving heterosexual intercourse.
AIDS Signs And Symptoms
From a medical point of view, AIDS is not a disease; it is a stage in the HIV infection. People with AIDS have symptoms of some cancers and infections as a result of CD4 cells damage. Tuberculosis is one of the most common infections. There are some people who develop pneumonia that results from pneumocystis jiroveci. This happens in people with a weak immune system and is rare in healthy individuals. People also report other symptoms including changes in mental health, weakness, and seizures. The infections that affect people with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome are referred to as opportunistic infections. This is because they only attack the individual because their immune system is weak.
Weak immunity resulting from acquired immunodeficiency syndrome can lead to unusual cancers such as Kaposi’s sarcoma which affects the mouth, intestine, and respiratory tract. There are also lymphoma cases that link to AIDS. Lymphoma is a cancer involving white blood cells.
Having HIV puts you at risk of developing acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. Behaviors that put you as risk of coming into contact with body fluids of a person with HIV will increase the risk of contracting the virus. These behaviors include sharing drug injection tools, and engaging in unprotected sex. The risk of developing acquired immunodeficiency syndrome increased with time after getting the virus. Some people may develop AIDS in the first year of infection while others take over a decade. When CD4 cells drop to 200 cells/ul is linked to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome complications.
You can reduce the risk of developing AIDS with the use of antiretroviral therapy. Using HIV treatment ensures that HIV is just a chronic disease and not a death sentence. Failing to take the medication as prescribed can lead to drug resistance which is dangerous.
AIDS can only be diagnosed after a HIV test. There is no test for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. In most cases the doctor, after confirming that the patient is HIV positive, will look for AIDS-defining conditions and look at the count CD4 cells.
AIDS treatment involves a focus on the opportunistic infection and the treatment of HIV. A person in this stage will need close medical attention to make sure that they regain a strong immunity and that the virus count is reduced to undetectable levels. The treatment approach depends on the infection the person is dealing with. Keep in mind that there is still no viable cure for HIV through the treatment can give you a long healthy life.