HIV
Physical Health

IS HAVING HIV THE DEAD END?

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HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)

Human Immunodeficiency Virus, HIV feels like a dead end whenever it is discussed by anyone or when it is printed in bold or uppercase font. Simply put, it is a condition in which your immune system has been compromised as a result of an HIV viral infection.

It is thought that a certain chimpanzee species in Central Africa is where humans first contracted HIV. According to studies, the human-chimpanzee transmission of HIV may have begun as early as the late 1800s. The virus that affects chimpanzees is known as the simian immunodeficiency virus. When people killed these chimpanzees for food and came into touch with their sick blood, it was likely transmitted to humans.

HIV progressively expanded over Africa over many years, then to other regions of the world.

WHAT DOES HIV DO IN THE BODY?

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) preys on the immune system and erodes people’s resistance to a variety of illnesses and cancers that healthy immune systems are better able to combat. Infected individuals eventually lose their immunological capacity as the virus kills and damages immune cells. CD4 cell count is commonly used to assess immune function.

HOW DOES HIV PROGRESS INTO AIDS?

Before developing into AIDS, an Human Immunodeficiency Virus infection can last for years with little to no symptoms. When the CD4 T cell count drops below 200 or you get an AIDS-defining complication, such as a severe infection or malignancy, AIDS is diagnosed.

How HIV Is Spread/ Transmitted?

HIV may only be acquired by direct contact with body fluids that are infected with the virus, injured tissue, or mucous membranes on the rectum, vagina, entrance of the penis, or mouth.

HIV-transmitting bodily fluids include:

  • Blood 
  • Sperm (“cum”)
  • Premenstrual fluid (“pre-cum”)
  • Urinary fluids
  • Sexual fluids
  • Mother’s milk

The virus can also be spread, but less frequently, via

  • A woman who spreads an infection to her child during pregnancy, delivery, or lactation.
  • Oral intercourse, particularly when there is ejaculation in the mouth.
  • Bloodborne pathogens from mouth sores and bleeding gums, such as those caused by “deep” open-mouth kissing, skin-cracking bites, and consuming food that has been prechewed by an HIV-positive individual.
  • Needles and other devices that penetrate the body that contains HIV.

STAGES OF HIV INFECTION AND ASSOCIATED SYMPTOMS

First stage: Acute HIV infection symptoms.

Most people don’t immediately recognize their Human Immunodeficiency Virus infection. However, people could start showing symptoms between two and six weeks after contracting the virus. Your body’s immune system fights back at this point. It is often referred to as initial HIV infection or acute retroviral syndrome.

The signs and symptoms are frequently linked to the flu since they are comparable to those of other viral infections. They usually last a week or two before disappearing. Precursors to HIV include:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Sore muscles
  • Unwell throat
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • A red, non-itching rash that often appears on your torso
  • Fever
  • Mouth, esophagus, anus, or genital ulcers (sores)
  • Headache and other neurological signs

Go to a doctor and request an HIV test if you have any of these symptoms and believe you may have had to contact an HIV-positive person during the previous two to six weeks. The timing of testing is crucial for two reasons.

  • First off, you have very high amounts of HIV at this time in your blood and body fluids. It is very infectious as a result. Second, beginning your course of therapy as soon as you can may assist strengthen your immune system and reduce your symptoms.
  • Antiretroviral treatment, often known as ART, is a mix of drugs that can help you fight HIV, maintain a strong immune system, and prevent you from transmitting the disease. Your HIV infection won’t likely worsen if you take these drugs and practice healthy behaviors

SECOND STAGE: Clinical tardiness/ Latency signs

The flu-like symptoms will go away after your immune system succumbs to HIV. But your body is engaged in a lot of activity. This stage of HIV infection is known to medical professionals as the chronic phase.

Your immune system’s reaction is coordinated by cells in your body known as CD4 T cells. Untreated HIV will kill CD4 cells and devastate your immune system during this period. Blood tests can be used by your doctor to determine how many of these cells you possess. Without therapy, your CD4 cell count will decline and you’ll be more susceptible to contracting more infections. This period might last for decades if you are taking ART. Although it is possible to spread the virus to others, doing so is quite unlikely if you take your medications.

Most folks don’t have visible or palpable symptoms. An individual may be HIV-positive but unaware of it.

STAGE 3: PROGRESSION TO AIDS( acquired immunodeficiency syndrome)

The most severe form of Human Immunodeficiency Virus infection is AIDS. This often occurs when your CD4 T-cell count falls below 200 and your immune system has been severely compromised. You might get an opportunistic infection, which strikes more frequently and worsens in those with compromised immune systems. Some of them are also referred to as “AIDS-defining conditions,” including Kaposi’s sarcoma, a kind of skin cancer, and pneumocystis pneumonia.

To diagnose AIDS, doctors will consider several symptoms, including the CD4 count, the viral load, and the presence of opportunistic infections.

  • Weight loss without a clear cause
  • Skin lesions that are purplish and that don’t go away
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Severe and persistent diarrhea
  • Infections with yeast in the mouth, throat, or vagina
  • Being constantly exhausted
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in your groin or neck
  • More than a ten-day duration of fever
  • Sweats at night
  • Unexpected bruising or bleeding

Even though the evolution of the HIV illness is defined in stages, someone doesn’t need to advance from Stage 1 Infection to Stage 4 AIDS. The symptoms of HIV infection may be treated, and some medications can stop an individual from getting AIDS. The phrase “long-term non-progressors” refers to a group of HIV-positive individuals who have not yet developed AIDS despite receiving no medical treatment.

Without treatment, people with AIDS have a life expectancy of roughly three years, or fewer if they get another virus. But at this point, HIV can still be cured. You can live a long life if you start taking HIV medications, continue taking them, follow your doctor’s recommendations, and adopt healthy behaviors.

Diagnosis of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

Rapid diagnostic assays with same-day findings can be used to identify HIV. This makes it much easier to correlate early diagnosis with care and therapy. Self-tests for HIV are another option for people. Confirmatory testing must be performed by a certified and trained health or community worker at a community center or clinic because no single test can fully diagnose HIV positive.

HOW CAN YOU PREVENT HIV

  • Preexposure prophylaxis, PrEP can cut your risk of contracting HIV through intercourse and injectable drug use by at least 74% and about 99%, respectively. Cabotegravir (Apretude), the first injectable PrEP to lower the risk of sexually transmitted HIV infection in persons at extremely high risk, was recently authorized by the FDA. You must continue to engage in safe sex since they cannot stop the spread of other STIs.
  • Every time you have sex, use a fresh condom. Every time you engage in anal or vaginal intercourse, use a fresh condom. A female condom can be used by women. Make sure the lubricant you use is water-based if you do. Condoms can become brittle and shatter when exposed to oil-based lubricants. Use a dental dam, which is a piece of medical-grade latex, or a nonlubricated, cut-open condom during oral sex.
  • If you have HIV, let your sexual partners know. It’s crucial to inform all of your sexual partners, both present and former, that you have HIV. They’ll have to be examined.
  • Utilize a fresh needle. If you inject illegal substances, ensure sure the needle is sanitary and don’t share it. Utilize the needle-exchange services in your neighborhood. To stop using drugs, think about getting treatment.

TREATMENT FOR HIV

Antiretroviral therapy, sometimes known as ART, for HIV treatment is taking medication as directed by a medical professional. HIV therapy helps you maintain your health by lowering the level of HIV in your body. HIV cannot be cured, but it may be managed with medication. Within six months, the majority of people can suppress the infection.

The prevention of the spread of other STDs is not achieved with HIV therapy.

As soon as feasible following a diagnosis, begin HIV therapy. No matter how long they have had HIV or how healthy they are, everyone with HIV should receive treatment. HIV will continue to damage your immune system if therapy is put off. Delaying treatment increases your chance of getting sick, contracting HIV from partners, and having AIDS.

there are several HIV therapy options,

There are now two methods of HIV treatment: tablets and injections. For those who are just starting HIV therapy, pills are advised. Those who have been virally suppressed for at least three months or have had an undetectable viral load may think about getting injections.

Why should one be consistent in medication?

HIV therapy lowers the level of the virus in the blood (viral load).

You can keep your viral load low by taking your Human Immunodeficiency Virus medication as directed. Having fewer than 200 HIV copies per milliliter of blood is known as low viral load or viral suppression. The viral load after HIV therapy may be so low that a test might miss it (undetectable viral load). If your viral load decreases after beginning HIV therapy, it is a sign that the medication is having an effect. Every once in a while, skipping your HIV medication gives the virus the chance to grow fast. You can get sick as a result of this weakened immune system.

The greatest strategy to stay healthy and safeguard others is to achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load.

Following the directions on your HIV medication can help avoid drug resistance.

When persons with HIV don’t take their medications as directed or skip doses, drug resistance begins to develop. The virus can alter (mutate), which may reduce your ability to successfully treat HIV. In addition, drug-resistant forms of HIV can spread to other people.

HIV therapy minimizes the spread of the disease to others

You cannot transmit HIV through intercourse if your viral load is undetectable. It lessens the chance that HIV may spread through the sharing of needles, syringes, or other injection supplies. An undetectable viral load also stops perinatal transmission. The risk of transmission can be as low as 1% if an HIV-positive individual takes their medication as directed during pregnancy, and childbirth, and provides HIV therapy to their unborn child for 4 to 6 weeks after birth.

While it considerably decreases but does not eliminate the risk of HIV transmission during breastfeeding,

Are there any side effects of HIV treatment?

Some people may have adverse effects from HIV medication. But not everyone encounters negative impacts. Vomiting and nausea are the most frequent adverse effects.

  • Diarrhea
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Mouth ache
  • Headache
  • Rash
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Short-term discomfort at the injection location (for shots)

If HIV therapy makes you unwell, consult a doctor. To assist you to manage the adverse effects, your doctor may prescribe extra medications or modify your HIV treatment regimen.

What tests are used to keep an eye on HIV?

Blood tests will be used by a medical professional to track HIV infection. These tests assist your doctor in deciding whether to alter your course of therapy.

Test of Viral Load

The level of HIV in your blood is called the viral load.

A viral load test will be used by your doctor to ascertain your viral load. Your body contains more HIV when your viral load is high. This indicates that your immune system is not effectively battling HIV. Before starting a new HIV medication and between 2 and 8 weeks after starting or switching medications, you should get a viral load test every 4 to 6 months.

CD4 Number

The quantity of CD4 cells in your blood is known as your CD4 count. Your body uses CD4 cells to combat infections. HIV targets CD4 cells and reduces their quantity in your blood. Your body finds it challenging to fight infections as a result.

Every three to six months, your doctor will check your CD4 count.

HIV STIGMA AND DISCRIMINATION

How does HIV stigma work?

HIV stigma refers to unfavorable perceptions of those who have the virus. The bias that results from classifying someone as a member of a group is what is deemed to be improper in society.

Believing that Human Immunodeficiency Virus may only be acquired by members of specific groups is an example of stigma. Making moral assessments of those who take action to stop HIV transmission or believing that certain individuals deserve to have HIV due to their actions

Discrimination, on the other hand, refers to the actions brought on by stigmatizing attitudes or beliefs. HIV discrimination is the practice of treating HIV-positive persons and those who are not different. and this is not breaking news; it is expressed by individuals either consciously or unconsciously everywhere.

Fear is the main motivator behind HIV stigma and prejudice. This is typically a result of a lack of knowledge, misunderstandings, and a combination of old views about HIV

People living with HIV experience emotional distress and mental illness as a result of HIV stigma and prejudice. People who have HIV frequently absorb the stigma they encounter and start to have a poor opinion of themselves. They could worry that if their HIV status is known, they’ll face prejudice or be treated poorly.

When a person begins to adapt the negative beliefs and stereotypes about persons living with HIV to themselves, this is known as “internalized stigma” or “self-stigma.” Internalized HIV stigma can cause emotions of guilt, disclosure anxiety, loneliness, and hopelessness. People may hesitate to be tested and receive HIV treatment due to these emotions.

How can HIV stigma be combated?

Discussion on HIV

Open discussion of HIV can help normalize the topic. Additionally, it offers chances to dispel myths and educate others about HIV. However, exercise caution while discussing HIV and those who are HIV positive.

Do Something

Through our words and deeds in our daily lives, we can all contribute to the elimination of HIV stigma. Encourage people by acting helpfully.

LIVING WITH HIV

Due to beliefs, stigmas, and even prejudice, living with HIV is not as simple as it may appear, yet one may still go about their daily life. Thankfully, most people are now aware of how serious HIV/AIDS is, and we can all look forward to a brighter future.

If you are diagnosed with HIV, make sure to keep a healthy lifestyle, engage in regular exercise, consume balanced meals, and take your meds without fail.

Make sure to show as much love and support as possible to those who live nearby, both physically, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. They need to be able to function and feel as normal at most.

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