HIV and AIDS – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

HIV is a disease that is a frightening specter for many people. Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV is a virus that causes HIV disease. This HIV virus attacks a person’s immune system and causes the body to become weak.

A person suffering from HIV does not always mean that he also suffers from Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). It can take years for a person with this virus to develop into AIDS. HIV/AIDS is an incurable disease.

However, with currently available drugs such as antiretroviral drugs, it is very possible for someone who has HIV or AIDS to have a normal life with optimal quality of life.

HIV disease first emerged in Africa, Haiti and the United States in 1978. While in 1979 the United States reported rare cases of infection. However, at that time scientists did not understand that the rare infections were based on a disease called AIDS. According to the Directorate General of PPM and PL Ministry of Health of the Republic of Indonesia, the cumulative statistics of HIV/AIDS cases in Indonesia from 1987 to 2010 totaled 20,564 people with 3,936 deaths.

Causes of HIV/AIDS

The cause of HIV is a type of retrovirus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). The HIV virus that causes HIV/AIDS is a virus that can weaken a person’s ability to fight infection and cancer.

There are 2 types of HIV viruses, namely HIV-1 and HIV-2. HIV-1 is more virulent than HIV-2. Each tension strikes in a different geographical area but the symptoms displayed are the same. People with the HIV virus are said to have AIDS when they have certain infections or cancers or when the CD4 (T cell) count in the body is less than 200. The CD4 count is determined by a blood test in a laboratory.

HIV/AIDS transmission

After you know the cause of HIV/AIDS, you also need to know how HIV is transmitted. The most common transmission is through sexual contact or through transmission between syringes that are generally carried out by drug users to the placenta of the mother to her fetus.

Is skin contact with patients will transmit HIV/AIDS. The answer is no. Therefore, avoiding patients with symptoms of HIV such as unwilling to shake hands is something that does not need to be done.

AIDS

Once you know about HIV disease, the next thing you also need to know is AIDS. AIDS is a more advanced stage of HIV infection. When CD4 cells, which are part of the immune system, go down to very low levels, the person’s ability to fight infection is lost.

There are several conditions that occur in people with HIV infection who have symptoms of immune system failure such as AIDS. So, who has to undergo an HIV test?

People who are considered high risk for exposure to the HIV virus, such as injecting drug users and multiple sex partners to women who are pregnant. Anyone who has been exposed to a syringe or significant blood exposure from a person known to have HIV or from an unknown source must be tested as well.

In HIV disease there is what is called a “window period” or when someone has just been infected with HIV. HIV symptoms are very vague or even have not appeared.

In fact, when in fact this disease is already in him, but when tested in the laboratory, his blood gave negative results. Why does this happen? Because the HIV virus is not strong enough and large in number to show itself as positive.

It is precisely this which is dangerous, and if the person is indeed at risk, it is advisable to have another HIV status checked in the next 6 months while waiting for the window period to finish.

Symptoms of HIV/AIDS

Some people get flu-like HIV symptoms within one month of being infected. These symptoms usually disappear within a week to a month. A person can have HIV disease for many years before feeling sick and looking like a healthy person in general, without showing HIV symptoms that are too obvious.

During the disease, people can get a yeast infection on the tongue and women can easily get severe vaginal yeast infections or pelvic inflammatory disease. Shingles is often seen early, often before a person is diagnosed with HIV disease.

Signs that HIV has become AIDS include:

  • Fever that does not heal.
  • Night sweats.
  • Feeling tired all the time (not from stress or lack of sleep).
  • Feeling sick all the time.
  • Drastic weight loss.
  • Swollen lymph glands which are like lumps in the neck, groin, or armpits).
  • Sprue that does not heal.

Typical infections that rarely occur in healthy people but can occur in people with AIDS:

  • Kaposi’s sarcoma, a skin tumor that looks like dark or purple spots on the skin or in the mouth.
  • Mental changes and headaches caused by fungal infections or tumors in the brain and spinal cord.
  • Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing due to lung infection.
  • Dementia.
  • Malnutrition.
  • Chronic diarrhea.

HIV diagnosis

If the screening results indicate the patient is infected with HIV, then the patient needs to undergo further tests. In addition to ensuring screening results, the following tests can help doctors know the stage of the infection, and determine the appropriate treatment method. Just like screening, this test is done by taking a patient’s blood sample, to be examined in the laboratory.

One of those tests is CD4 cell count. CD4 cells are part of white blood cells that are destroyed by HIV. Therefore, the smaller the CD4 cell count, the greater the chance that someone will get AIDS.

Under normal conditions, CD4 cell counts range from 500-1400 cells per cubic millimeter of blood. HIV infection develops into AIDS when the CD4 cell count results below 200 cells per cubic millimeter of blood.

Meanwhile, in order to ascertain whether the patient is infected with HIV, an HIV test must be carried out such as:

  • Antigen test

The antigen test aims to detect p24, a protein that is part of the HIV virus. Antigen testing can be done 2-6 weeks after the patient is infected.

  • Antibody test

This test aims to detect antibodies produced by the body to fight HIV infection. Although accurate, it takes 3-12 weeks for the amount of antibodies in the body to be high enough to be detected during the examination.

HIV/AIDS treatment

HIV/AIDS treatment is expected to be able to help people with HIV. Unfortunately, until now there has been no cure for the complete cure of HIV/AIDS. However, with the current HIV/AIDS treatment, the spread and growth of this disease in the body can be suppressed and slowed by antiretroviral drugs.

Without treatment, almost everyone with HIV will fall into AIDS. When someone discovers that he/she has HIV, it is likely that the person does not start deciding to take medication immediately, even though HIV/AIDS treatment must be started as soon as possible.

The decision to start antiretrovirals is seen by a person’s past medical history, the length of time they have been infected, the CD4 T-cell count, and current health conditions, and the commitment to adhere to procedures for taking drugs to suppress the development of the virus that causes HIV/AIDS in the body.

Patient compliance is very important considering that HIV/AIDS treatment with ARVs is taken for life and once it is not compliant, it is feared there will be a reaction of resistance or immunity of the virus to ARV drugs while to find this drug requires years of research.

Currently scientists are researching and developing HIV vaccines. The two main types of HIV vaccines that are currently being investigated are vaccines for prevention and therapy. With the vaccine, HIV infection as a cause of HIV/AIDS is expected to be suppressed.

By taking ARVs, a pregnant mother with HIV will not pass on to the baby she is carrying. However, it is better if the person with HIV needs to consult a doctor specifically to plan the delivery up to the right method for giving birth and breastfeeding because the virus that causes HIV/AIDS is in his body.

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