What you need to know about HIV/AIDS: Stages, causes and treatments
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a form of a virus that affects the immune system, causing it to weaken, and result in a life-threatening situation with time. Once the person is diagnosed with HIV, there is no known cure to fully eliminate the disease, however, your lifespan can be extended with effective medicinal treatments.
According to a study, India has the third largest HIV epidemic in the world, with 2.1 million people living with the disease. That is why awareness around HIV is needed more now than ever.
Debunking the misconception: HIV and AIDS are not the same things
People who are diagnosed with HIV, not necessarily have AIDS too. However, the HIV virus can lead to AIDS if timely attention is not provided. It is particularly spread through bodily fluids that directly affect your immune system that may be acquired during unprotected intercourse, blood transfusion, etc.
AIDS is the most aggressive form of HIV infection, which leads to degeneration of the immune system, causing fatalities.
Stages of HIV infection
HIV starts with an acute infection called the preliminary stage, which is followed by clinical latency or asymptomatic HIV infection. This phase is hardly detected as the patient does not produce any symptoms. However, the disease continues to develop, even if undetected.
If left untreated during this time, the infection gets aggressive and the virus starts breaking the immune system. When the CD4 cells fall below 200 cells per cubic millimeter of blood (200 cells/mm3), it is clinically declared that the person has acquired AIDS. AIDS is also confirmed when a person develops several opportunistic illnesses (illnesses occurring more often due to weakening of the immune system) irrespective of the CD4 count.
Can HIV be treated?
HIV can be treated to an extent if diagnosed timely, and patients can lead a normal life. Currently, the most effective treatment available for HIV is antiretroviral therapy or ART. The treatment does not completely uproot the virus from the body but increases the longetitivity of lives of people that are diagnosed with HIV, along with decreasing the chances of the patients affecting others.
It is advised that the person should seek immediate medical assistance on seeing emergency warning signs that indicate the presence of HIV, as the timely diagnosis can be lifesaving.