Monday, April 15, 2024

What is HIV/AIDS?

HIV/AIDS, or human immunodeficiency virus infection/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, is a chronic, potentially life-threatening condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). HIV attacks the immune system, specifically targeting CD4 cells (a type of white blood cell), weakening the body's ability to fight off infections and diseases.

HIV is transmitted through certain bodily fluids, including blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. The most common modes of transmission include unprotected sexual intercourse (both vaginal and anal), sharing contaminated needles or syringes, and transmission from an HIV-infected mother to her child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding.

Without treatment, HIV infection progresses through several stages:

Acute HIV infection: The initial stage of HIV infection, also known as acute retroviral syndrome, occurs within the first few weeks after exposure to the virus. Symptoms may resemble those of flu or mononucleosis, including fever, fatigue, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, rash, headache, and muscle aches.

Chronic HIV infection: After the acute stage, HIV enters a chronic asymptomatic stage, during which the virus continues to replicate and gradually weaken the immune system. Many people with chronic HIV infection do not experience symptoms for years, although they remain infectious and can transmit the virus to others.

AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome): AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV infection, characterized by severe immune suppression and the development of opportunistic infections and certain cancers. The diagnosis of AIDS is made based on specific criteria, including a CD4 cell count below a certain threshold or the presence of specific opportunistic infections or cancers.

HIV/AIDS is a manageable chronic condition with appropriate medical care and treatment. Antiretroviral therapy (ART), a combination of medications that suppress HIV replication, is the cornerstone of treatment for HIV/AIDS. ART helps control the virus, prevents disease progression, preserves immune function, and reduces the risk of transmission to others.

In addition to ART, supportive care and management of opportunistic infections and other complications are important components of HIV/AIDS treatment. Regular medical monitoring, adherence to medication regimens, and lifestyle modifications (such as practicing safer sex and avoiding substances that weaken the immune system) are essential for maintaining overall health and quality of life for people living with HIV/AIDS.


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