Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is caused by Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). The condition leads to a weakened immune system making an individual susceptible to infections and tumors. AIDS is now considered a pandemic disease.
According to World Health Organization, an estimated 33.3 million people are living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. About 2.6 million people worldwide are newly diagnosed with HIV each year and 1.8 million annual deaths happen because of AIDS.
HIV is transmitted through direct contact of mucous and body fluids such as blood, semen, preseminal fluid, vaginal fluid and breast milk. The virus can also be transmitted via the blood stream. The virus can be transmitted by oral, anal or vaginal intercourse, blood transfusion, hypodermic needles, breastfeeding, childbirth and pregnancy.
HIV and AIDS are closely related to a point that they are considered the same. HIV and AIDS are different from each other. When you get HIV, you do not automatically have AIDS. To be able to be considered an AIDS victim, an HIV patient needs to show three things. The three things include:
- a CD4 cell count of less than 200
- a CD4 cell percentage of less than 14%
- any AIDS indicator illness
HIV targets the CD4 cells of the body. CD4 cells play an important role in the immune system. It is known to fight infections and regulate immune responses. When HIV spreads and kills CD4 cells, the body will be susceptible to many infections eventually leading to AIDS.
Most cases of HIV eventually lead to AIDS. There are several medical interventions that will slow down the progression of HIV infection to AIDS but not cure for the infection.
Symptoms related to HIV include fever, diarrhea, fatigue, yeast infections, mouth sores, headache, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, rashes and muscular stiffness.
When HIV leads to AIDS, the patient can still manifest signs and symptoms of HIV together with AIDS related symptoms and complications. The patient can have Pneumocystis pneumonia, esophagitis, unexplained chronic diarrhea, toxoplasmosis, encephalitis, meningitis, progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, dementia, colitis, extrapulmonary tuberculosis and retinitis.
AIDS is also known to cause such tumors as Kaposi's Sarcoma, Burkitt's lymphoma and primary central nervous system lymphoma.
AIDS can also increase the risk of tumors such as in Hodgkin's disease, anal carcinomas, rectal carcinomas, hepatocellular carcinoma, lung cancer and head and neck cancer.
There is no available vaccine and cure for HIV. The Current management for HIV infection is antiviral therapy. HAART or the highly active anti retroviral therapy is beneficial to HIV patients since its introduction in 1996. The typical regimen includes two nucleoside analogue reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NARTIs or NRTIs) and either a protease inhibitor or a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI).
Regular diagnostic exams are conducted to check the CD4 count of patients in response to these medications. The goal of these therapies is to prevent complications, improve quality of life, and slow down the progression of the HIV to AIDS. Some rare cases of HIV have not developed to AIDS using this kind of therapy.
The major cause of HIV today is unprotected sex. The use of condoms is known to reduce the occurrence of HIV and other STDs. Furthermore, practicing monogamy will help in preventing infections.
In the health care area, professionals can prevent getting infected with AIDS by using gloves, protective eye wear, gowns and mask.
Frequent hand washing is also a must and one needs to make sure that sharp objects such as needles and razors are disposed properly.
Infected mothers should not perform breastfeeding to their babies because breast milk can transmit the virus.