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HIV/AIDS

 

AIDS or acquired immune deficiency syndrome is a terminal condition caused by the HIV or human immunodeficiency virus which attacks the immune system of the body especially the cells known as CD4 lymphocytes responsible for fighting off infection.
AIDS is the later stage of HIV infection when the number of immune system cells left in the body drop below a particular level leaving the body with very little defense against opportunistic infections and various cancers.

Causes
HIV is found in the blood, sexual fluids and breast milk of an infected person. A person can get infected by various means such as:

  • Unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected person
  • Contact with an infected person's blood
  • Use of infected blood products
  • Contaminated needles and syringes
  • From mother to child

Symptoms
The symptoms change according to the phase of the disease.
In the first 2 to 6 weeks of contracting HIV, flu like symptoms may be noticed which subside over the course of time:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Rash

No symptoms may be noticed for 8 to 9 years after which serious symptoms develop during the later stage of infection:

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Soaking night sweats
  • chills and fever
  • Dry cough and shortness of breath
  • Chronic diarrhoea
  • Persistent white spots or unusual lesions on your tongue or in your mouth
  • Red, brown, pink or purple lesions on the skin
  • Bruising more easily than normal
  • Headaches
  • Blurred and distorted vision
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Profound weakness
  • Severe numbness or pain in the hands or feet, the loss of muscle control and reflex, paralysis or loss of muscular  strength
  • An altered state of consciousness, personality change, or mental deterioration
  • Children may grow slowly or fall sick frequently

Treatment
There is no cure for AIDS. Some antiretroviral medication can slow down the progression of HIV to AIDS but in a few cases, it is noticed to have become ineffective after using for several years. However, in many cases it has improved the general health and quality of life of the patients. This medication is expensive, needs to be taken life long and has very uncomfortable side effects.

Prevention

  • HIV counseling and testing
  • Avoid contact with the blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk of an infected person
  • Know the HIV status of any sexual partner
  • Use a new condom every time you have sex
  • Do not share needles or syringes
  • Use a sterile needle
  • Be cautious about blood products
  • Male circumcision