While HIV and AIDS are linked together, they are two separate diseases which have different methods of treatment.
HIV is a virus that destroys the immune system (the system that protects the body from invaders) of humans over time. CD4 cells, which are one type of immune cells called T cells, are infected by HIV and killed off by it, opening up the body to be more vulnerable to various types of other diseases, conditions, and worse, cancers.
HIV is only transmitted through certain body fluids like:
- vaginal discharge
- rectal discharge
- blood, usually from needles or blood transfusion
- breast milk
Other ways HIV can be transmitted are:
- anal sex — the rather well known way of transmission, especially among homosexuals
- vaginal sex without using protection
- using tattoo equipment (needles) without proper sterilization
- from a woman to her baby during pregnancy, labour, or delivery
- through “pre-mastication,” (chewing a baby’s food for easier consumption)
HIV can’t spread through physical contact and isn’t air-borne or water-borne. It also can’t be transmitted through:
- physical contact
- sharing food or drinks
- saliva, tears, or sweat (unless contaminated with semen, vaginal discharge and blood of a person with HIV)
- sharing a toilet, towels, or bedding
- mosquitoes or other insects
There is no cure for HIV and it will live with the host for the rest of his or her life. HIV can be managed through antiretroviral therapy along with medical care.
AIDS is developed when a person with HIV has not undergone medical treatment and allowed the condition to worsen and become severe. The immune system will be too weak fend off against other diseases at this point. According to CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) a person with AIDS will have a lifespan of no more than 3 years if no medical attention was received.
Life expectancy can be extended with antiretroviral therapy, making one’s life as long as someone who does not have HIV, thus the therapy is vital to many patients who want to live as long as possible.
The common symptoms of acute HIV are:
- lymph nodes that are swollen
- frequent aches and pains
- skin rash
- sore throat
- stomach pain
As HIV progresses on, the symptoms that accumulate are:
- shingles (a painful rash caused by infection)
- pneumonia (infection of one or both lungs)
- night sweats
- weight loss
- vaginal or oral yeast infections
As stated above, AIDS is a disease that develops after the most severe stage of HIV.
On average, a healthy adult has a CD4 count of 500 to 1,500 per cubic millimeter. When a person contracts HIV, their CD4 will be progressively killed off by the virus. AIDS is the result when a person is diagnosed with CD4 count of less than 200 per cubic millimeter.
A person can develop an opportunistic infection like pneumonia once he or she is diagnosed with AIDS and in rare cases develop cancer because his or her immune system is down. Because of this, a person’s life span can be shortened from severe opportunistic illness.
Within a decade, a person can progress from HIV to AIDS if left untreated. Antiretroviral drugs can help a patient with HIV in preventing the development of AIDS.
The successful progression of AIDS means the immune system is considered too weak to fight off most other viruses, leaving one extremely vulnerable to other diseases like:
- Kaposi’s sarcoma
- cryptosporidiosis, an infection caused by aparasite that attacks the intestines
- oral thrush, a fungal infection in the throat and mouth
- CMV (cytomegalovirus), a type of herpes virus
- cryptococcal meningitis, a fungalbrain infection
- toxoplasmosis, a parasitic brain infection
The life expectancy of a person is shortened as a result of the diseases and the consequences it brings with it from the immune system being crippled by AIDS, not AIDS itself.
The best way to prevent contracting HIV and progressing on to AIDS is by practicing safe sex. Yes, that means using a condom. Other preventative measures are:
- Get screened for HIV and get your partner to get screened to be sure
- Limit sexual partners, especially people you don’t know, to lower the chance of contracting HIV
- Stay away from drugs that requires you to use needles
Do note that to date there is no known vaccine for HIV or AIDS!
6th May 19:09