You might have seen Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington in ”Philadelphia” or perhaps you just finished reading Freddie Mercury’s autobiography, or you may have had your first encounter with the list of famous sexually transmitted diseases. Regardless, you might be interested in finding out more about the most famous one - HIV.
What is HIV?
HIV is an abbreviation for Human Immunodeficiency Virus and, as the name suggests, it’s a viral infection causing weakness in the immune-system of the host it attacks. As far as we know, there are two types of HIV:
HIV-1 (the most widespread)
This dissection goes on though, with these two types being further divided into several groups, subtypes and strains, which we won’t focus on this time. Either way, the virus is a vicious one, attacking human immune-cells, leaving the affected person virtually defenseless against other, mundane, infections and diseases, which previously were no match for the body.
How is HIV transmitted?
How do I know if I have HIV?
The only way to know if you really have HIV or not is obviously to get tested, but there might be some signs that may indicate infection. Primary infection, also known as “acute HIV” develops in a manner similar to the flu, around a couple of weeks after the virus first enters the host.
What are the common symptoms of acute HIV?
fever headache aching joints and muscles swollen lymph glands (on the neck in particular) sore throat rash
As the infection progresses, the virus now remains in the body, inside the white blood cells of the immune system that it has infiltrated. At this stage, one might not feel any symptoms at all and it can take years for it develop into a more severe form. During this time all of the symptoms mentioned above may occur, along with unexplained weight loss, ”odd” infections, such as fungal infections of the lungs or oral cavity. Lastly, when the immune system has been critically damaged and AIDS finally occurs, one might experience symptoms such as: recurring fever, skin rashes, persistent lesions and white spots, persistent cough, frequent infections and profuse nocturnal sweating.
If you experience any of the symptoms listed above or if you think there is a chance you might have HIV, please contact a healthcare professional as soon as possible. You can find the closest hospital in our AITOPYA app.
What can I do to prevent HIV?
Practice safe sex - use condom or other form of barrier protection
Avoid use of illegal drugs - especially sharing needles
Use pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) - if you are in a relationship with someone who is HIV-positive, PrEP is a daily treatment consisting of a pill, which contains some drugs that don’t allow the virus to spread through your body.
Good to know!
Research indicates that over 36 million people worldwide are infected with HIV, with the biggest amount of afflicted individuals in sub-saharan Africa including countries like South Africa and Lesotho, Botswana, Mozambique, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and several others.
HIV carries a stigma in many social contexts, but it is important to remember that normal interaction with infected individuals usually does not spread it and thus hugging or shaking hands with someone shouldn’t be a problem. Furthermore, today the life expectancy of someone with HIV is just the same as for someone without it, and living well with HIV, under the right treatment regimen, is definitely possible.
I hope this article has been a useful read and managed to answer the most important questions, but if you suspect you may have been infected with HIV, or if you are at risk of contracting it because of your environment, please do not hesitate to see a healthcare professional as soon as possible. If you are wondering where the nearest clinic is located, you can find it in AITOPYA app. Other good resources, to learn more about HIV include Mayoclinic and CDC.
If you have any further questions you would like to have answered about the disease from our doctors, leave a comment below and we will try to either reply to it or maybe cover it in a future segment on this disease.
Health yourself to a better future with AITOPYA!
Michel Montano M.D.