Frequently Asked Questions
What is HIV?
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a type of virus that damages the immune system of the body. The immune system is responsible for fighting against the infection and foreign bodies that harm the body. If an individual is infected with HIV, the virus kills CD4 cells hence immune cells called T cells die. Over time, due to lack of immune cells, the body is infected with various infections and cancers and the body cannot fight back. There are several ways through which HIV can be transmitted and they are:
- Breast milk
- Vaginal and rectal fluids
However, HIV cannot spread through the air, water, or casual contact. Currently, there is no cure for the virus hence HIV is a lifelong condition. The medical care for the individual with HIV includes anti-retroviral therapy helps in managing the virus and infections caused due to it and the life expectancy can be increased for many years.
If the virus goes undetected and an individual doesn’t receive medication, a serious condition called AIDS (Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome) is developed. At this stage, the immune system is too weak to fight other infections and diseases.
What is AIDS?
AIDS develops in a patient who has HIV and is the most advanced stage of HIV. But if an individual having HIV doesn’t mean they’ll develop AIDS as well. A healthy adult has 500 to 1500 per cubic mm of CD4 cells, during HIV this count drops to 200 per cubic mm or less, then an individual develops AIDS. An individual with AIDS develops an opportunistic infection or cancer (rare). Antiretroviral treatment prevents AIDS from developing in HIV patients. If AIDS does develop it makes an individual vulnerable to a wide range of infections such as:
- Kaposi’s sarcoma
- Oral thrush
- Toxoplasmosis (parasitic brain infection)
- Cryptococcal meningitis
The shortened life expectancy in AIDS isn’t directly because of the virus but because of the other opportunistic disorders that become impossible to treat as a result of lowered immunity.
How is HIV transmitted?
HIV is transmitted through contact of bodily fluids such as:
- Breast milk
- Vaginal and rectal fluids
Some of the ways through which the HIV virus can be transmitted are:
- Through vagina and anal sex
- By sharing items of injection drug use such as needles and syringes, etc
- Use of same tattoo instrument that hasn’t been sterilized between uses
- From mother to the fetus during pregnancy, delivery or labor
- Pre-mastication (chewing the food before feeding it to the baby)
- Through blood transfusion or organ transplant
- Oral sex
HIV cannot spread through the following ways:
- Skin to skin contact
- Hugging or shaking hands
- Air or water
- Sharing food or drinks
- Through saliva, tears or sweat
- Sharing towels, toilets or bed
What are the causes of HIV?
- The variation in the virus that infected African Chimpanzees is HIV.
- Scientists believe that when people consumed infected chimpanzees’ meat the SIV (Simian immunodeficiency Virus) jumped to humans as HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) after mutation. This phenomenon occurred in the 1920s.
- In Africa, this virus spread from human to human for several decades and eventually it spread across various parts of the world. The first strain of HIV was found in blood samples by scientists in 1959. In the United States HIV hit the consciousness of the population in the 1980s whereas it existed since the 1970s.
What are the tests to diagnose HIV and AIDS?
- Antigen/Antibody test
- Antibody tests
- Nucleic Acid Test (NAT)
What are the symptoms of HIV and AIDS?
Early symptoms of HIV are:
- Upset stomach
- Swelling of lymph nodes
- Skin rash
- General aches and pain
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
- Weight loss
- Recurrent oral or vaginal yeast infection
- Sore throat
- Night sweats
How can HIV be prevented?
Following are the ways to prevent HIV:
- Safer sex
- Get HIV tests done
- Test for STDs
- Use contraceptions
- Limited sexual partners
- Avoid sharing needles, syringes
- Consider post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)
How to cope with HIV/AIDS?
To make the coping process of HIV easier:
- Relatives or guardian of the patient should make sure that they make patient health as top-priority
- Focus on their emotional state
- Usage of safer methods for sex
- Counsel with a healthcare provider for Pr-EP or PEP
- Surround them with their loved ones
- Get support by joining HIV support groups, etc