Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome are two different entities, often misunderstood to be one. This article will discuss HIV and AIDS in detail.
HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system by destroying a type of white blood cells (called CD4 cells) by making copies of itself inside these cells. As the primary function of these CD4 cells is to defend the body from illnesses, it gets progressively harder for a person affected by this virus to fight off even minor infections and diseases, let alone cancer.
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) refers to a set of symptoms caused by HIV. To determine if the person has AIDS, the criteria is a CD4 cell count of fewer than 200 cells per mm 3. The same would range between 500 to 1,600 cells in a normal healthy individual. Without treatment, HIV worsens in three stages: acute HIV infection, clinical latency, and finally, AIDS.
Research shows that the earlier the HIV is detected, the sooner the ART therapy can be started, and the better will be the viral load control and hence, the quality of life. So, regular testing for HIV is important. Knowing your HIV status is also necessary to prevent spreading the infection to others.
HIV belongs to a group of viruses known as a retrovirus. The virus infecting an individual contains a DNA structure, which gets mixed up with the DNA of the host body. Thus, this mix-up makes it difficult to form a treatment plan. This is why there is no cure for HIV infection. But some medications can prevent viral multiplication in the host body. Antiretroviral drugs are given to prevent the multiplication of viruses, thereby reducing the viral load. It will enable the host’s immune system to repair itself. But this does not mean the infection can be permanently cured. Its complications can only be controlled.
Acquired immunodeficiency virus (AIDS) is a life-threatening condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The only way out of this is prevention. Once infected, the damages are going to be permanent. No drugs can cure the infection completely due to DNA mixing up ability. Be aware and stay safe!
The four stages of HIV infections are:
- Seroconversion illness.
- Asymptomatic HIV.
- Symptomatic HIV.
- Late-stage HIV.
HIV is a viral infection that multiplies and captures cells within the host. AIDS, on the other hand, is a syndrome (a group of symptoms) usually caused by a virus. HIV, over a period of time, depletes the immune symptom and may ultimately progress to AIDS.
HIV generally causes a short, flu-like period that usually occurs 2 to 6 weeks after infection. HIV then remains asymptomatic for several years. The symptoms last for about 1 to 2 weeks, and then the features settle down. During the next several years of being asymptomatic, the virus remains active and multiplies. This period can be as long as a decade when the immune system gets progressively damaged, after which HIV can lead to AIDS.
During the first month of being infected with HIV, people may feel feverish, achy, and sick, basically flu-like. These symptoms usually last for a few weeks, after which the symptoms settle down.
Currently, there is no widely available permanent cure for HIV, but the symptoms can be controlled with a management protocol. ART (anti-retroviral therapy) is the most popular treatment method. In mid-2022, a permanent treatment cure was introduced in Israel where a single injection containing genetically engineered B-lymphocytes secrete HIV-neutralizing antibodies in the body. By 2025, the research is expected to progress in gene and cell therapies.
AIDS, basically, kills the immune system making it difficult to fight off infections. A suppressed immune system makes the body vulnerable to opportunistic infections, like tuberculosis, toxoplasmosis, and pneumonia, which makes various organs dysfunctional.
Initially, HIV presents as flu which usually lasts for less than a month. Untreated, HIV turns into AIDS over a decade by attacking and taming the immune system.
Some of the facts about HIV are
- Anyone can get HIV.
- HIV has caused more than 4 million deaths till now.
- One can have HIV and not be aware of it.
- Prevention of HIV is essential.
- HIV is controlled by antiretroviral therapy (ART).
- All kinds of contacts are not infectious.
- HIV can infect both sexes.
- HIV is a complex disease.
- HIV home-test kits are available.
If someone has a cut on the hand, then it is theoretically possible to get HIV. But practically, HIV cannot transmit by touching as the virus does not survive outside the body.
Increased AIDS awareness and preventive means can result in a decrease in infection rates as AIDS has caused deaths in the count of millions. Awareness also leads to a diagnosis of unaware individuals and can also prevent the progression of HIV to AIDS.
In the 1980s, AIDS was known as Gay-Related Immune Deficiency (GRID) because misconception, bias, lack of knowledge, and stigma forced an association of the condition with individuals with a same-sex sexual preference.
Condoms can make a man feel better by delaying ejaculation and preventing STDs (sexually transmitted diseases).
Wearing more than one condom is counteractive. Wearing even two condoms leads to friction between condoms and increases the risk of contraceptive failure by condom tears.
HIV is a viral infection caused by a group of viruses (lentivirus within the family of retroviridae) - a retrovirus. Untreated, HIV tames the immune system leading to AIDS.
In the initial stages, HIV has signs like:
- Muscle aches and joint pain.
- Sore throat and painful mouth sores.
- Swollen lymph glands, mainly in the neck.
- Weight loss.
- Night sweats.
Individuals can test themselves with a commercially available HIV test kit. An absolute diagnosis is obtained by antibody tests, antigen/antibody tests, and nucleic acid tests (NAT).
Last reviewed at:
28 Jun 2022 - 4 min read
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