HIV infection is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus. The virus causes the weakening of the immune system, which makes the individual highly prone to viral infections, diseases, and certain types of cancers. It happens in three different stages.
First Stage Of HIV
In the first stage, the individual may not even be aware that they have caught the infection. This stage is called acute HIV infection, wherein the individual may develop some common flu-like symptoms such as headache, fever, or rash. This stage lasts around 2 to 4 weeks.
Second Stage Of HIV
As the infectious pathogens multiply, the infection slowly progresses toward the second stage. Which is termed chronic HIV infection. During this stage, the individual may remain asymptomatic throughout. But the virus remains highly active. This period can last for up to 10 years or so.
Final Stage Of HIV
The last stage is the severe stage that leads to acquired immune system deficiency syndrome (AIDS). It causes serious damage to the immune system, which increases the individual’s vulnerability to opportunistic infectious viruses and cancers which can have life-threatening impacts.
Let us look at the factors that can contribute to HIV infection.
Having sex with an HIV-positive individual.
Engaging in unprotected sexual activity with an individual infected with HIV will certainly lead to the transmission of the disease. This is the most obvious reason why an individual becomes HIV positive. Any kind of risky sexual behavior increases the possibility of spreading this deadly infection.
When an individual becomes intimate with an HIV-positive person without using any protective barrier, their body fluids get exchanged during the act. This contact with body fluids like semen, vaginal discharge, urine, blood, etc. can lead to transmission of the virus. Therefore, sex with an infected person leads to the spreading of disease.
First, it is necessary to avoid sexual contact with multiple people. It enhances exposure to HIV. Secondly, it is always necessary to use a protective barrier such as a condom, which prevents the exchange of body fluids.
Sharing of medical equipment
Illicit injection drugs and sharing of medical equipment like needles, injections, syringes, and similar stuff with an individual having HIV will certainly lead to the transfer of the virus. Such equipment can get stained with the body fluids of the infected individual. When healthy individuals reuse this equipment, they come into contact with the virus. This is why while using any medical equipment, it is necessary to ensure it is completely sterile and virgin.
Mother-to-child HIV transmission
The developing fetus has a risk of developing HIV during the gestational period because the virus can enter the placenta and get to the fetus. The mother having HIV must strictly get antiretroviral treatment (ART) and take medications as prescribed by the medical professional. This treatment will reduce the chances of HIV transmission to the fetus.
Moreover, the risk of HIV spreading is also high while delivering the baby. The blood of the HIV-positive mother can come into contact with the baby, which increases the baby’s risk of HIV. In such cases, the medical professionals suggest a safe delivery via surgical methods, that is cesarean section. This type of delivery will protect the child from coming into contact with the mother’s blood.
In addition, the virus can also get transmitted to the baby via breast milk, therefore, breastfeeding must be strictly avoided during such cases.
What happens during HIV?
The virus starts damaging the immune system soon after exposure. The individual develops some symptoms such as fever, rash, a sore throat, and flu-like symptoms. It causes gradual damage over the years and as it progresses, the individual can transmit it easily to another person by having unprotected sex or exchanging the body fluids such as urine, semen, vaginal secretions, and blood, by mistake.
During the initial stages of HIV, the individual is highly likely to spread it to others. Apart from flu-like symptoms, they may also experience muscle pain, fatigue, mouth ulcers, and night sweats. During the chronic stage, the virus keeps multiplying and attacking new cells. Which leads to the weakening of the immune system.
When the immune system gets completely damaged, the individual susceptibility to opportunistic viruses and bacterial infections increases. They may easily develop diseases like pneumonia, tuberculosis, certain types of cancers, meningitis, and hepatitis.
How does HIV treatment work?
HIV treatment is called antiretroviral treatment (ART), which involves therapy and medications. Time-to-time therapy will help in reducing the levels of the virus in the body. This will also prevent the spreading of the virus to others. It slows down the damage and multiplication of virus cells in the body.
The healthcare professional will perform some screening tests, which involve blood tests. They will check for the number of antibodies and antigens. Which will reveal whether the individual has contracted HIV. To confirm the test results, they may suggest repeated screening tests to arrive at a conclusion. Based on the test results, they may suggest some other tests for confirmation.
If the results come out to be positive, they will immediately begin the ART treatment, which will prevent immune system damage and viral transmission. They will prescribe HIV medications and conduct therapies, which will help in managing the condition to a great extent.