HIV

HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the T-cells. HIV gradually destroys those cells until the body is unable to fend off infections and disease. If left untreated, HIV can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), the last stage of HIV infection where opportunistic infections or cancers can exploit a weak immune system and have fatal consequences.

The human body can never get rid of HIV completely, even with treatment. Therefore, once you contract HIV, you have it for life. However, with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled. Over one million people currently live with HIV in the United States; one in seven are not aware of their status.

HIV

HIV medicationsHIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the T-cells. HIV gradually destroys those cells until the body is unable to fend off infections and disease. If left untreated, HIV can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), the last stage of HIV infection where opportunistic infections or cancers can exploit a weak immune system and have fatal consequences.

The human body can never get rid of HIV completely, even with treatment. Therefore, once you contract HIV, you have it for life. However, with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled. Over one million people currently live with HIV in the United States; one in seven are not aware of their status.

Available HIV Medications

Atripla Truvada Norvir
Reyataz Tivicay Combivir
Epivir Viread Complera
Stribild

What Is AIDS?

AIDS is the most critical phase of HIV infection. The immune systems of individuals with AIDS become depleted to the point where they contract an increasing number of extreme illnesses.

In the absence of treatment, HIV advances in stages, overwhelming the immune system and deteriorating over time. The three stages of HIV infection are:

  • Acute HIV infection
  • Clinical latency
  • AIDS

However, by using HIV medicines consistently, patients can prevent HIV from progressing to AIDS and live longer healthier, and more productive lives.

Causes of HIV

HIV medicationsHIV is a virus spread through specific body fluids that attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the CD4 cells, known as T-cells. HIV is transmitted by the following:

  • Blood
  • Semen
  • Vaginal secretions
  • Anal fluids
  • Breast milk

The primary causes of fluid transfer include:

  • Unprotected anal or vaginal intercourse with a person who has HIV
  • PrEP, a preventive HIV medication for people at high risk of infection
  • Sharing equipment for illegal injectable drugs, hormones, and steroids with a person who has HIV
  • Women with HIV who are pregnant or have recently given birth can transfer the disease to their children during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding

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HIV Symptoms

It is through infection by other bacteria, viruses, or parasites that cause the more extreme symptoms of HIV. These symptoms can come about from the immune system defending against an array of viruses or infections.

The early symptoms of HIV infection may include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Joint pain
  • Achy muscles
  • Sore throat
  • Sweats, especially at night
  • Enlarged glands
  • Red rashes
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Unintended weight loss

Some people with HIV do not experience symptoms for months or even years after contracting the virus. During that time, the virus will continue to evolve and damage both the immune and organ systems. Without medication to hinder the replication of the virus, this slow process can persist for up to ten years or more.

Symptoms of late-stage HIV infection may include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Dry cough
  • Persistent fever over 100 °F that lasts for weeks
  • Permanent fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chronically swollen glands
  • White spots on the tongue or mouth

During late-stage HIV infection, the risk of developing a life-threatening disease increases significantly.

HIV Treatment

HIV treatment involves taking medicines that slow the progression of the virus. HIV is called a retrovirus, and the drugs used to treat it are called antiretrovirals (ARV); they are typically given in conjunction with other ARVs, a therapy known as antiretroviral therapy (ART). Many ART drugs have been employed in the past twenty-five years and are the primary reason why AIDS-related deaths have dipped significantly.

If taken correctly, antiretroviral therapy can dramatically prolong the lives of many people infected with HIV, keep them healthy, and lower their chances of infecting others considerably. Today, someone diagnosed with HIV and treated before the disease is far advanced can live almost as long as someone who does not have HIV.

Working with your health care provider to develop a treatment plan will help you learn more about HIV, manage it effectively, and make decisions that help you live a longer, healthier life. HIV treatment will also significantly reduce your chance of transmitting HIV to your partner(s).

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