HIV stands for the human immunodeficiency virus. It is one of a group of viruses known as retroviruses. After getting into the body, the virus kills or damages cells of the body’s immune system. AIDS stands for the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. It is caused by HIV and occurs when the virus has destroyed so much of the body’s defenses that immune-cell counts fall to significant levels or certain life-threatening infections develop.
The virus can affect your system by following ways:
- HIV infection is spread by having sex with an infected partner. The virus can enter the body through the lining of the vagina, vulva, penis, rectum, or mouth during sex.
- HIV often spreads among injection-drug users who share needles or syringes that are contaminated with blood from an infected person.
- Women can transmit HIV to their babies during pregnancy or birth.
- People who already have a sexually transmitted infections, such as syphilis,genital herpes, chlamydial infection, human papillomavirus (HPV), gonorrhea, or bacterial vaginosis, are more likely to acquire HIV infection during sex with an infected partner.
- The virus does not spread through casual contact such as shaking hands, sharing bedding, kissing or via swimming pools, or toilet seats.
HIV infection has become a common complication of pregnancy in many countries with more than 600,000 children worldwide being infected annually through maternal to child transmission. Without treatment, around 15-30% of babies born to HIV positive women will become infected with HIV during pregnancy and delivery.
Early HIV symptoms also include fever, headache, tiredness, and enlarged lymph nodes in the neck. These symptoms usually disappear on their own within a few weeks. Later, infections like pneumonia, yeast infection of esophagus, lymphoma (a form of cancer), fever, cough, anemia and other health problems show up as the immune system of the patient weakens considerably
HIV infection is commonly diagnosed by blood tests: HIV antibody test, RNA test, Western blot test.
Several drugs are available to fight HIV infection and its related infections. These drugs are called highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) and have considerably reduced HIV-related problems and deaths. However, medications do not cure HIV/AIDS.