HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is a type of viral infection that happens to an infected person over a period of time. Hence, AIDs is a condition caused due to the virus in humans leads to a progressive failure of the immune system. Early screening leads to early detection of HIV.
How the Virus Works?
The virus enters our body through four primary routes:
- Unprotected sexual contact with an infected person. It is pretty common among homosexual males, occurring via the anal route since the anal mucosa is highly susceptible to the virus.
- Intravenous drug abuse and sharing of needles. (actually, drugs abusers have high-risk sexual behavior, and frequent exchange of needles among themselves, thus inoculating themselves directly with the virus)
- Via infected blood transfusion products.
- Via infected mother to the baby during pregnancy. The virus can cross the placenta and easily infect the baby.
- By accidental needle pricks. This is a common mode in health professionals while taking blood samples from patients or dealing with a bleeding patient or during operations.
The virus, after gaining entry, easily infects CD4+ cells. And that is your body’s prime infection-fighting soldier. With that, our body becomes susceptible to all kinds of infections. Especially the ones we could have easily fought off with intact immunity. HIV is an open invitation to all sorts of pathogens to attack a defenseless body.
In medical parlance, they say that the only symptom that HIV cannot produce is pregnancy. It simply translates to the fact that HIV can manifest as literally any symptom.
World Health Organisation has divided AIDS into various stages, depending upon its severity. And it is a pretty complex staging system.
Clinical Stage 1:
Mostly asymptomatic, but may show generalized lymphadenopathy (which are lymph nodes of abnormal sizes).
Interestingly, if you get the screening done in the days following infection (that is when you know that you might have acquired an infection). There are high chances that you may have a negative test result. The catch with HIV is that it stays in the Window Period for a few weeks, sometimes as long as 3 months. Window Period is basically that time when the body has not produced the markers of infection yet, although infection is very well present. Therefore, a re-testing after the window period should Always be done to rule out infection. Life, and HIV, always have ways of surprising us in nasty ways.
Clinical Stage 2:
It marks the beginning of troubles. An infected person in the 2nd stage might start experiencing unexplained weight loss. They might begin to get recurrent infections in the chest with running nose, persistently high temperatures, prolonged diarrheas. These conditions literally drain all fluids out and leave you dry like a prune. Skin lesions especially herpes is very common.
Clinical Stage 3:
This is the start of life-threatening infections. Lesions such as white plaques on the tongue and oral mucosa and thrush make life utterly infernal. Also, Pulmonary Tuberculosis is extremely common. In fact, TB is the major killer of people living with HIV, not just in India but also worldwide. Bacterial causes of pneumonia and severe bacterial and fungal infections are a common occurrence.
Clinical Stage 4:
HIV Wasting Syndrome, Pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia is a characteristic infection. It happens to immunocompromised individuals. Rare infections sprout all over the body of the patient, and cancers become common too. We might not be seeing an effective cure in the near future, but it surely has a good treatment. A proper, standard therapy can lower the virus levels in the blood to undetectable levels, hence significantly decreasing morbidity and deferring mortality. In fact, a decent therapy can make an HIV patient lead an utterly normal life.
Here is What you Really Need to Know:
- HIV is a totally preventable disease. Due to which medical institutions have a department called ‘Preventive and Social Medicine.
- You should totally avoid the risk factors mentioned above.
- You should seek medical help if you have such drug addictions. Leaving the detestable habit of drug abuse is totally possible, given you want to do it. There are medicines to decrease craving. And there are Rehabilitation Centers that are extremely supportive and help people lead better lives.
- You should immediately seek medical advice is suspected of being infected with HIV.
- The results of tests are kept very confidential, and hence, no threats to your privacy arise.
Hence, early diagnosis gives you a clear picture of your HIV status.