Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
What is AIDS?
Acquired immune deficiency syndrome or AIDS, also known as advanced HIV infection. AIDS manifest series of symptoms which are due to the effects of HIV infection. AIDS is a more severe version of HIV, so it still has similar effects, but it is more amplified. This is considered as HIV infection’s last stage and could lead to death when it has progressed so much or when it’s untreated for a long time.
Having HIV infection or being infected with it is not totally similar to AIDS. A lot of those that have been infected with HIV infection were asymptomatic or did not show any signs and symptoms for several years. With HIV infection, the immune system is gradually weakened. When your immune system has been significantly damaged due to HIV infection, other bacteria, and viruses that normally doesn’t affect you will now make you sick and cause you health problems. These infections are known as opportunistic infections.
What Causes AIDS?
Anyone who is infected with HIV also has the possibility of progressing to advanced HIV infection or AIDS. Anybody who does high-risk activities may acquire HIV infection, even when the infected person is asymptomatic. The infection can be transferred, mainly, through specific bodily fluids such as vaginal fluid, semen, breast milk, and blood. A lot of people acquire HIV infection through the following activities:
- Breastfeeding an infant by an infected mother.
- Using syringes used by someone who is infected.
- Having unprotected sexual intercourse with someone who is an HIV-positive.
Having blood transfusion from an HIV-infected person is also a sure way to transfer infection. However, you will not be infected with HIV infection when touching or getting in contact with an infected person’s saliva and tears.
Signs and Symptoms of AIDS
AIDS’ symptoms occur due to the immune system’s weakening and the decreasing number of CD4+ or T helper cells. The CD4+ cells are the main fighters of infection in the immune system and these cells are the first ones destroyed by the virus when a person initially is infected with HIV. Some symptoms that you may experience are the following:
- Mental disorders and loss of memory
- Loose bowel movement or Diarrhea
- Night sweating and fever that is recurring
- Dry coughing
- Lymph glands found in the
- Smudges found in the mouth, eyelids, or nose that comes in red, pink, and brown.
- White spots in the mouth, tongue, and throat.
- Losing weight fast
Those who have been diagnosed with AIDS are more susceptible to various types of infections, also known as opportunistic infections due to its weak immune system. The immune system is weakened because the number of CD4+ cells is going down. Its decline is caused by the attacks of the virus to these specific cells.
The symptoms you’ll possibly experience are difficulty in swallowing, seizures, loss of weight, loss of vision, etc.
The infection progresses to AIDS only when the body’s immune system it has been severely damaged. If the percentage of CD4+ cells in your body is below 14% or if it is below a count of 200, then you are positively infected with HIV. When you are infected with opportunistic infections, then you are also considered to have sex. The most common opportunistic infections that are associated with AIDS are:
- Pneumocystis pneumonia
- Kaposi’s sarcoma or cancer on the skin
Other symptoms related to AIDS are tumors in the brain, unexplained weight loss, and other problems. When left untreated, the infection could be fatal. HIV infection is uniquely different from every person.
There is no complete remedy to get rid of AIDS as of today. However, even if drugs don’t completely get rid of AIDS, it can still provide relief from symptoms and complications. What the drugs do is they decrease the amount of HIV in your body and help your immune system to function as normal as possible.
Having a treatment plan is one way to effectively reduce symptoms of HIV infection. Your doctor will help you create a treatment plan fit for your situation and would consider some factors such as the stage of infection, commitment to doing therapy and existing health concerns.
There are various drugs that have already been approved to help in treating AIDS. The medications prescribed by the doctor must be followed strictly. Your commitment is crucial in your treatment process. Each person responds differently with medications and side effects will depend. Even if there is no way to get rid of AIDS, the medications used in the treatment are highly effective.
Prevention from AIDS
Since HIV infection is transmitted through specific bodily fluids, make sure that you keep yourself protected by practicing protected sex. You can do these by using condoms when having sexual intercourse and avoid having sexual intercourses with strangers and people whom you doubt. The only sure way that you can never get infected with HIV is by not engaging in sexual intercourse at all.
There are sexual activities that are very much safe to perform with regards to HIV infection. Activities such as touching someone’s genitals, dry humping or rubbing each other’s body, kissing, masturbation, oral sex with a dental dam or condom, and usage of sanitized sex toys are activities considered to have no risk at all and there are no cases of HIV infection being acquired through these activities.
The activities considered to be a lower risk from HIV infection are French kissing especially when the infected person has mouth sores or bleeding areas, usage of condom during vaginal and anal intercourse, and performing oral sex without any form of protection. There have been a few cases of HIV infection that were acquired through these activities.
Activities that are considered to be high risk or most likely to acquire HIV infection is when having vaginal or anal sex without using any form of protection like condoms or PrEP. Most cases of HIV infection were because of these activities.
It’s easier for HIV to be transmitted when a person has any sort of skin opening like cuts and sores in the skin. If you have a herpes outbreak, make sure that you do not engage in any form of sex.