The virus, HIV, is transmitted through the exchange of body fluids either by sexual intercourse or by blood. HIV, once in the body, attacks the immune system and makes it weak so that the body can get more susceptible to other infections and diseases. When HIV stays in the body for too long and totally impairs the immune system, it advances to AIDS.
HIV is transmitted through body fluids such as semen, blood, breast milk, and vaginal secretions. These are the strongest media through which the virus is transmitted. Other fluids such as urine and saliva can also contain the virus, but they are not strong enough to transmit the infection.
HIV infection through Sexual Intercourse
The most common mode of getting infected with HIV is through sex. When there is body fluid exchange, and these fluids come in contact with mucous membranes of the rectum, urethra, and vagina. This means that HIV infection does not only occur through vaginal sex; it can also be transmitted through anal sex, and anal sex has the greatest risk of infection. A woman is at a higher risk of getting infected when having sex with a man. Also, the bottom (receiving) person is at a higher risk of infection when a man is having sex with a man.
HIV is also very commonly found in the blood, and it is transmitted from. One person to the other through the sharing of needles, razors, syringes, etc. Infection is also possible through blood transfusion, but that is highly unlikely thanks to the thorough testing of blood donors and the treatment of donated blood using heat.
If a mother is HIV positive, there is the possibility that she might infect her child during pregnancy, birth, or lactation. The risk of infecting the child is about 30%, but with antiviral therapy, it can be reduced to 1%. Such a mother should also not breastfeed the child to prevent infection.
Symptoms of HIV and AIDS
There are various phases of HIV which take place over a specific period. The first phase is known as Acute HIV Infection, and in this phase, up to 70% of people experience the symptoms. This phase is about two to three weeks after getting infected, and the symptoms can last for up to three weeks. It is usually mistaken for flu, which is why many people fail to recognize it. Some of the symptoms are below;
- Muscle and Joint pain
- Neck pain
- Swollen Lymph Nodes
Usually, before the end of the first phase of the infection, most of the infected individuals already feel healthy. The concentration of the virus (viral level) also gets stable at a lower level than at the point of the primary infection. The level of the virus during the primary phase determines the progress of the disease. HIV is characterized by reduced immunity, fungal, bacterial, parasitic, and viral infections, which continue until the body’s immune system is completely damaged, and it reaches the last stage known as AIDS. The progression of the disease has a higher rate in people who have left their HIV untreated, and according to studies, more than 50% of infected individuals do not experience any symptoms during the first ten years of getting infected with the virus. The remaining percentage get AIDS after two years.
A newly infected person can only be diagnosed after a month, at least. During this time, antibodies would develop, and the virus level will be high enough for detection. HIV tests are most reliable except in rare cases where false-positive results occur. What this means is that anybody who tests positive at a time should repeat the test after six weeks to be certain about their status.
Treatment of HIV
HIV has no known cure at the moment, but there are treatments that can slow down the progression of the disease. Modern triple therapy, which involves using three antiviral drugs, help infected patients live normally without falling sick incessantly.
Prevention of HIV
The best way to prevent HIV is to have protected sex (using a condom) every time, whether it is oral, vaginal, or anal. This is especially important for men who have sex with men. Things like razors, syringes, and needles should not be shared, and anyone who suspects that they may have been exposed to infection can avail of any of the preventative treatments available. If you suspect that you have been exposed to infection, make sure you take a viral medicine called for PEP. It is a treatment that lasts for four weeks to reduce the risk of getting a full-scale infection.