HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a serious virus that can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) if it is left unmanaged with medications. Unfortunately the body cannot get rid of the virus HIV.
Although there is not a cure for HIV, there are effective ways to control and manage the virus.
What is HIV?
HIV is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system. It specifically attacks the T cells (CD4 cells) which are very important in helping the body fight off infections. When HIV is untreated the amount of T cells in the body are drastically reduced, making the individual susceptible to get infections. The longer that HIV goes untreated the weaker the immune system gets, making the body incredibly weak and unable to fight off infections and diseases. This leads to the latest and most serious stage of the infection, AIDS.
The symptoms of HIV initially are not that serious, but if the virus is left untreated the symptoms get worse and more debilitating. There are three stages of HIV including the early stage, the clinical latency stage and AIDS. The symptoms will be different based on what stage of HIV a person is experiencing.
Within the first two to four weeks of becoming infected with HIV symptoms will be similar to the common flu. These initial symptoms can last a few days or even weeks. HIV may not be detectable in HIV tests at this point, but it is still infectious.
- Sore throat
- Muscle aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
Clinical Latency Stage
HIV is active in this stage, but reproduces at much lower levels. Individuals may experience minimal symptoms if any. This stage of HIV can last ten years or longer, and those who are on medications can stay in this stage for many decades because they are treating the virus.
This is the final stage of the HIV virus. This happens when the virus has weakened the immune system, producing more serious symptoms.
- Rapid weight loss
- Night sweats
- Chronic diarrhea
- Extreme tiredness
- Skin blotches
- Swelling of lymph glands
- Mouth sores
- Genital sores
Getting tested for HIV is the only way to know for sure if an individual has it. Although it may be an extremely scary time it is imperative to know if a person has the virus so that it can be treated effectively and not be transmitted to others. HIV testing can be done at the doctor’s office, drop-in medical clinics, substance abuse clinics, hospitals, and community health centers.
If an individual tests positive for HIV they will create a treatment plan with their health care provider to manage symptoms and reduce the risks of transmitting it to others. If the individual tests negative for HIV, education about preventing the transmission of HIV will be provided.
Although there is not a cure for HIV, there are many ways that the virus can be controlled. The most common and effective way is using the medication called antiretroviral therapy (ART). This medication can help to extend the lives of people with HIV and help them to stay strong and healthy. This medication can also drastically reduce the chance of transmitting the virus to others.