HIV/AIDS is a condition that has affected many people all over the world. It is surrounded by various misconceptions on its causes and symptoms. So what does AIDS mean? Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a medical condition that is caused by Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). The illness weakens the immune system; an action that makes people more vulnerable to diseases and infections.
Researchers have revealed that the origin of the virus was in West Africa. HIV and AIDS were first identified in the early 1980s. Both the syndrome and the virus are commonly referred to as HIV/AIDS. People suffering from HIV infection later develop AIDS, a condition that makes them get easily attacked by numerous opportunistic diseases, which may ultimately lead to his demise.
As mentioned earlier, HIV is a virus that attacks the white blood cells. AIDS on the other hand is a syndrome or medical condition that appears in the advanced stages of the virus. In many cases, lack of treatment causes HIV infection to progress, eventually leading to AIDS. However, not all people with a HIV infection develop AIDS.
Through HIV testing, the infection can be identified in its early stages. Such a patient should use prophylactic drugs (preventive) that slow the rate of replication of the virus, delaying the occurrence of AIDS. It is important to note that an AIDS patient still has the HIV virus and can therefore infect other people.
HIV is transmitted in three main ways. The first is through sexual intercourse. Transmission occurs when an uninfected person makes contact with sexual secretions that are infected. This may occur during unprotected vaginal, anal and oral sex, or sharing of sex toys.
Blood transmission is another way through which infection may occur. Developed countries have employed strict protection procedures which lower the possibility of accidental infection in healthcare. However, the risk is still high among drug users. HIV can be passed on when reusing and sharing contaminated syringes. People who receive and give tattoos are also at risk if proper care is not taken.
Lastly, a mother can also infect her child. Perinatal transmission may occur during pregnancy, childbirth, or even breastfeeding.
There are common myths that exist about HIV/AIDS. It is important to remember that HIV cannot be transmitted by shaking hands, casual kissing, hugging, touching unbroken skin, sneezing, sharing cutlery, sharing towels and casual contact.
The symptoms of the illnesses are as a result of various infections caused by parasites, viruses, fungi and bacteria. Some people do not show any symptoms for several years while others may develop symptoms that are similar to those for flu, 2-6 weeks after infection. The symptoms that develop during early infection are fever, joint pains, chills, sweats, sore throat, muscle aches, a red rash, enlarged glands, weakness, tiredness, and weight loss.
Once the initial symptoms have disappeared, no further symptoms will occur for many years. An infected person will appear healthy and feel well. At this time, the virus is silently developing and damages our immune system.
When left untreated, the virus weakens our ability of fighting infections. An individual becomes vulnerable to various serious illnesses. The signs and symptoms associated with this period are blurred vision, dry coughs diarrhea, night sweat, fever, weight loss, swollen glands, shortness of breath and permanent tiredness. This infection stage is now known as AIDS.