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HIV-Aids: Symptoms, treatment and risks

What is Aids?

Acquired immune deficiency syndrome or Aids, is the last stage of an HIV infection and is a medical condition.

It is during the last stage of HIV that opportunistic infections, and tumors that rarely affect people who have working immune systems will be affected and can lead to death. That is since people with Aids have such badly damaged immune systems that they get an increasing number of severe illnesses.

HIV infection can cause AIDS to develop. However, it is possible to be infected with HIV without developing AIDS. Without treatment, the HIV infection can progress and, eventually, it will develop into AIDS in the vast majority of cases. Once someone has received an AIDS diagnosis, it will always carry over with them in their medical history.

Symptoms

AIDS is defined in terms of either a T cell count below 200 cells per µL or the occurrence of specific diseases in association with an HIV infection.

In the absence of specific treatment, around half of people infected with HIV develop AIDS within ten years. The most common initial conditions that alert to the presence of AIDS are flu like illness at the early stages, then pneumocystis pneumonia , cachexia in the form of HIV wasting syndrome, and esophageal candidiasis. Other common signs include recurring respiratory tract infections.

Opportunistic infections may be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites that are normally controlled by the immune system.Which infections occur depends partly on what organisms are common in the person’s environment. These infections may affect nearly every organ system.

People with AIDS have an increased risk of developing various viral-induced cancers, including Kaposi’s sarcoma, Burkitt’s lymphoma, primary central nervous system lymphoma, and cervical cancer. Kaposi’s sarcoma is the most common cancer occurring in 10 to 20% of people with HIV. The second most common cancer is lymphoma, which is the cause of death of nearly 16% of people with AIDS and is the initial sign of AIDS in 3 to 4%.

Both these cancers are associated with human herpesvirus. Cervical cancer occurs more frequently in those with AIDS because of its association with human papillomavirus (HPV). Conjunctival cancer, that is of the layer that lines the inner part of eyelids and the white part of the eye, is also more common in those with HIV.

Additionally, people with AIDS frequently have systemic symptoms such as prolonged fevers, sweats, mainly at night, swollen lymph nodes, chills, weakness, and weight loss. Diarrhea is another common symptom, present in about 90% of people with AIDS. They can also be affected by diverse psychiatric and neurological symptoms independent of opportunistic infections and cancers.

Treatment

This is the stage of HIV infection that occurs when your immune system is badly damaged and you become vulnerable to opportunistic infections. When the number of your T cells falls below 200 cells per cubic millimeter of blood, you are considered to have progressed to AIDS. You are also considered to have progressed to AIDS if you develop one or more opportunistic illnesses, regardless of your CD4 count.

Without having proper HIV treatment, people will progress to AIDS. And they will live for about 3 years.

Once you have a dangerous opportunistic illness, life-expectancy without treatment falls to about 1 year.

Antivirals can be helpful for people who have AIDS when diagnosed and can be lifesaving. Treatment is likely to benefit people with HIV no matter when it is started, but people who start antivirals soon after they get HIV experience more benefits from treatment than do people who start treatment after they have developed AIDS.

In the US, most people with HIV do not develop AIDS because effective ART stops disease progression. People with HIV who are diagnosed early can have a life span that is about the same as someone like them who does not HIV.

People living with HIV may progress through these stages at different rates, depending on a variety of factors, including their genetic makeup, how healthy they were before they were infected, how much virus they were exposed to and its genetic characteristics, how soon after infection they are diagnosed and linked to care and treatment, whether they see their healthcare provider regularly and take their HIV medications as directed, and different health-related choices they make, such as decisions to eat a healthful diet, exercise, and not smoke.

Complications

As the common misconceptions about AIDS and HIV are diminishing, the stigma of the condition persists in many parts of the world. People infected with the virus may feel excluded, rejected, discriminated, and isolated.

Being diagnosed with HIV can be very distressing, and feelings of anxiety or depression are common.
Also people with AIDS can have a high viral load and are highly infectious.

About Jacques Dippenaar

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