Last Updated on June 4, 2020 by Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT
How do you get HIV-AIDS/How can you get it? Causes:
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a type of virus called a retrovirus that changes a cell’s DNA. The retrovirus destroys the immune system and thus massively weakens the body’s ability to fight disease and infection, even common infections like flus and colds. AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is an acquired syndrome, or a group of symptoms, that is caused by infection with the human immunodeficiency virus.
Two conditions must be met for the virus to pass from one person to another:
- The virus must be present in sufficient quantity. Five bodily fluids: blood, pre-ejaculate, semen, vaginal fluid, and breast milk can carry enough virus to cause infection. Saliva, tears, sweat, urine, feces, and vomit (unless they are mixed with blood) do not ordinarily contain enough virus to cause infection.
- The virus must have a way to get into the bloodstream. It can enter the body through the mucus membranes that line the vagina and rectum; directly into the blood from a shared needle; through skin via any open cut, wound, or scratch; through the mucus membranes in the eyes and nose; and through the opening of a man’s penis. Oral sex, rimming, fisting, fingering, and deep kissing are considered lower-risk activities for transmission than penis-in-vagina and penis-in-rectum sex, unless blood is involved.
How to tell if you have HIV? Symptoms:
Initial infection may have symptoms that resemble mononucleosis or the flu within 2-4 weeks of exposure, but for most people, HIV infection does not show any symptoms for extended periods of time; and for some, it is asymptomatic for years.
When symptoms are present, they may include:
- Sore throat
- Mouth sores or ulcers
- Aching or stiff muscles and joints
- Swollen glands
- Rashes or eczema
- Yeast infections
- Rapid weight loss
How to know if you have it? HIV Tests:
The human immunodeficiency virus is diagnosed with a saliva or blood test that looks for antibodies. Because it can take up to three months or more for antibodies to appear, a negative test should always be repeated, and an annual or semiannual HIV screening is strongly advised for sexually active people.
Relief spells (Rolaids?!) HIV Treatment:
Antiviral therapies (ART) may allow people to live with HIV for decades, possibly for a normal life span. The goal of ART is to reduce the amount of human immunodeficiency virus in the blood to undetectable levels. Achieving this allows the T-cell levels to rise, sometimes back to normal levels, enabling the body to resist opportunistic infections.
ART used to require taking multiple pills in multiple doses, but now it is sometimes as simple as taking one pill once a day. The increasing effectiveness of HIV treatment has dramatically reduced death rates and improved quality of life, and HIV is now often a manageable long-term illness. In addition, people who take their ART very consistently, without missing doses, are far less likely to pass the virus to a partner.
To compliment the highly effective antiretroviral medications, some people with the human immunodeficiency virus or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome use acupuncture, Chinese herbs, meditation, yoga, massage, and many other holistic approaches to healing. Some people find that these help reduce the side effects of the medications, bolster the immune system, and help cope with the stress of illness.
What’s going to happen to me?!!?! Expectations:
HIV is a chronic medical condition that can be treated, but not yet cured. There are effective ways to prevent complications and delay, but not always prevent, progression to AIDS.
Almost all people infected with the human immunodeficiency virus will develop AIDS if not treated. However, there is a small group of people who develop AIDS very slowly, or never at all. These patients are called long-term nonprogressors.
Things to be aware of… HIV & AIDS Complications:
- Chronic wasting (weight loss) from HIV infection
- HIV lipodystrophy
- Opportunistic infections
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Did this information help you or was this consistent with your experience? Are we missing something pertinent you think should be included in this in-depth description? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!