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Understanding HIV And AIDS: Check Causes, Symptoms, Getting Tested And More!

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HIV is the short for human immunodeficiency virus – A virus that is known to cause AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). HIV affects the immune system, which makes the patient more susceptible and vulnerable to a bunch of infections and other diseases. As the syndrome advances, the risk of contracting varied infections increases considerably. Since HIV is spread through body fluids, sexual contact is considered as one of the prime causes of AIDS. It is now possible to get HIV test through a self-collection kit, which detects for HIV-1, HIV-2 and p24 antigens within 10 to 90 days of infection. Here’s what you need to know about HIV.

AIDS and HIV decoded

HIV virus attacks the CD-4 cells of the immune system, and HIV infection can eventually lead to AIDS. With that said, just because someone is HIV+ doesn’t mean he/she already has AIDS. The latter is the syndrome that’s caused by the HIV virus. If left untreated, HIV will lead to AIDS in most cases.

Causes at a glance

HIV can pass from infected person to other healthy individuals through sexual contact and blood transmission. With antiretroviral therapy (ART), it is possible to prevent the HIV virus from developing further. The rate at which the infection progress can vary from one person to another. Some people have better resistance to certain strains of HIV, which can affect its progression. Sexual contact is the most obvious factors that leads to HIV infection. From semen to rectal fluid and oral mucous membranes, any form of body fluid can cause HIV. Unprotected sex, including oral, anal and penetrative sex, is typically the reason behind contracting HIV infection. Sharing intimate toys with someone who is HIV-positive can also spread the infection.

An expecting mother can transmit HIV to the unborn baby. Newborns can get HIV through breastfeeding or during childbirth. Blood transmission can transmit HIV virus, although this is extremely rare in developed countries, in particular. People who reuse syringes or have been using someone else’s syringes to inject drugs are likely to be at higher risk.

The symptoms

Many people with HIV infection have no symptoms at all, often for months. However, in majority of cases, patients can have symptoms of flu, often after two to six weeks of getting infected. In early stages of HIV infection, symptoms may include fever, chills, joint pain, sweats and muscle aches. Patients often feel tired continuously or have unintentional weight loss, coupled with enlarged glands. After the initial symptoms, they may not be any symptom at all for a few months or years, during which the virus attacks the major organs and immune system, eventually leading to AIDS. AIDS is also known as stage 3 HIV, and the symptoms may vary, including vision issues, chronic diarrhea, constant fever, tiredness and dyspnea.

Using the HIV test kit

Your doctor can recommend a HIV test if required, but you can choose to buy a HIV test kit, if you want to get tested confidentially. Keep in mind that your blood must be collected and checked in a lab, so the kit basically includes everything that’s required to collect blood. The test allows to detect HIV-1, HIV-2 and p24 antigens, often within 90 days of exposure. (with 5th generation test HIV can be detected after 28 days) If you have an active sex life, especially with more than one partner, you have to get tested for HIV at least once in a year. The labs will ensure confidentially at all times.

HIV treatment and related facts

There is no vaccine or cure for HIV. It is easy to understand why the talk around HIV is so important. HIV treatment just helps in stopping the progression of the condition, and if the treatment is followed as suggested, patients with HIV infection can lead a healthy life. HIV antiretroviral treatment is extremely important. Studies have revealed that patients who have reduced viral load have no risk of transmitting the virus sexually to a HIV- partner. HIV virus is typically treated with antiretrovirals (ARVs), which helps in fighting the growth of the infection. Patients can live well with HIV infection, often with a combination of “highly active antiretroviral therapy” and “combination antiretroviral therapy”. HIV testing is important and necessary, especially if you are sexually active and have had sex with someone with an unknown STI background.

HIV can be prevented, and that’s what the red ribbon is all about. Avoid having sex without protection. It is also important to avoid needle sharing and drug injection. Exposure to body fluids must be avoided at all costs. Check online to know more on HIV testing.

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