Difference between HIV and AIDS

AIDS is the 6th leading cause of deaths among people in the United States, specifically among people in the age group of 25 -44. The World Health Organization has stated that more than 25 million people in the world have died since the infection was first detected.

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Causes of AIDS

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the causes of AIDS. The virus attacks the immune system and renders the body susceptible t many life-threatening infections, disorders and cancers. Common viruses, bacteria, parasites, yeast etc that do not cause serious illnesses in people with healthy immune system can cause grievous illnesses among people because of their weakened immune system. HIV is found in semen including pre-seminal fluid that is found on the tip of the penis before ejaculation, blood, saliva, spinal fluid, nervous system tissue, vaginal fluid and breast milk. However, only blood, semen, vaginal fluids and breast milk transmit HIV virus to others.

How is HIV Virus transmitted?

HIV is transmitted through

1. Sexual contact: Vaginal, Anal or Oral.

2. Blood: During blood transfusion or needle sharing. The cases of HIV transmission through blood transfusion is almost negligible now in the United States

3. Through breast milk, transferred from mother to child

4. Other rare methods: Artificial insemination with semen of the infected donor and organ transplantation with infected organ.

Myths about AIDS, HIV

HIV or the AIDS virus is not spread through:

1. Casual contact like hugging or kissing on the cheek or holding hands

2. Touching items that were previously infected with the virus.

3. Mosquitoes.

AIDS and blood or organ donation:

AIDS is not transmitted to the person who donates blood or organs. This is because those who donate organs or blood is not in direct contat with the one who receives them. In these cases, sterile needles are used which nullifies any cause for concern. However, HIV can be transmitted to a person who is receiving blood or organ from infected donor. To reduce this risk, there is regular screening of donors, blood and tissues by programs that cause awareness on blood and organ donation.

HIV risk factors and people

1. People who take drugs through needles and who share them.

2. Sexually active people who do not use protection like condoms and are into high risk activities like anal sex or using injected drugs.

3. People who have unprotected sex, especially with people who are strangers and prostitutes.

4. People who received blood transfusion or blood clotting products between 1977 and 1985, the period before screening for the virus was done.

5. Infants born to HIV infected mothers

Difference between HIV and AIDS

AIDS starts with HIV infection. There may be no HIV symptoms for ten years or longer, hut the infection can still be transmitted in this symptom-free period. If the infection is not detected, the immune system can slowly weaken leading to the development of AIDS.

If HIV is not treated, it can lead to AIDS. Some patients develop AIDS very slowly or do not get them at all. These patients are known as nonprogressors and may seem to have genetic differentials that may prevent the virus from damaging their immune system. Acute HIV infection progresses in the period between a a few weeks to months to asymptomatic HIV infection which has no symptom and can then move to early symptomatic HIV infection. Finally, it progresses to AIDS which is defined by a CD4 T-cell count below 200 cells/mm3, an advanced HIV infection.

AIDS Symptoms

The common symptoms of AIDS that have their immune system disrupted by HIV virus include:

* Fever

* Sweats (particularly at night

* Chills)

* Swollen lymph glands

* Weakness

* Weight loss

Initial infection with HIV does not produce any symptom. But some people can suffer from flu, sore-throat, skin rash, bloated lymph nodes two to four weeks after contracting the virus. Some people who get HIV are able to stay free of any symptoms for years till they develop AIDS.

Note: Initial infection with HIV may produce no symptoms. Some people, however, do experience flu-like symptoms with fever, rash, sore throat, and swollen lymph nodes, usually 2 – 4 weeks after contracting the virus. Some people with HIV infection stay symptom-free for years between the time they are exposed to the virus and when they develop AIDS.

Tests and Diagnosis of AIDS

AIDS testing is to be kept confidential, according to law. People with AIDS find that their CD4 cell count has decreased. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says a person is diagnosed of AIDS if they have a CD4 cell count below 200 cells/mm3 even if they do not have an ‘opportunistic infection’. CD4 cells are also called as T-cells or Helper Cells.

Some of the disease that are common with CD4 count below 200 cells/mm3:

* Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, “PCP pneumonia,” or Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia,\

* Candida esophagitis — painful yeast infection of the esophagus

* Bacillary angiomatosis — skin lesions caused by a bacteria called Bartonella, which may be acquired from cat scratches

Diseases with CD4 count below 100 cells/mm3:

* Cryptococcal meningitis — fungal infection of the lining of the brain

* AIDS dementia — deterioration of mental function, caused by HIV itself

* Toxoplasma encephalitis — infection of the brain by a parasite, known as Toxoplasma gondii , which is regularly found in cat feces; causing lesions (sores) in the brain

* Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy — a brain diseae caused by the IC virus that results in a severe dipping in mental and physical functions

* Wasting syndrome — tremendous weight loss and loss of appetite, caused by HIV itself

* Cryptosporidium diarrhea — excessive diarrhea caused by one of the parasites that infect he gastrointestinal tract

Diseases common with CD4 count below 50/mm3:

* Mycobacterium avium — a blood infection by a bacterium associated with tuberculosis

* Cytomegalovirus infection — a viral infection that can have an effect on almost any organ system, especially the large bowel and the eyes

Apart from the CD4 count, a test known as HIV RNA level (or viral load) is used to diagnose HIV and AIDS. Basic screening lab tests and regular cervical Pap smears can also check and monitor HIV infection, due to the augmented risk of cervical cancer in women with weak immune system. Anal Pap smears can detect potential cancers in both HIV-infected men and women, but they are yet to be deemed accurate enough.

AIDS treatment (HAART)

There is no cure for AIDs even after a lot of years of research. But there are quite a few treatments that can keep the symptoms in check, prolong life in people who have developed HIV symptoms and prevent it from becoming AIDS. HAART is not a cure but a formidable treatment for AIDS. Haart or Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy can be effective in reducing HIV particles found in the blood stream. HAART AIDS treatment is a combination of many antiretroviral medications that can be used to suppress the multiplication of HIV viruses in the body. This is done by measuring viral load or quantity of virus in the blood and then preventing the virus from getting replicated so that the T-cell count improve and the immune system is able to fight infections.

HAART may not cure HIV but it has met with enough success in the past 12 years to register its claim as the best treatment for HIV-AIDS. There is proof that if HIV levels are contained and the CD4 count remains high above 200 cells/mm3, the patient will not contract AIDS and life can be prolonged and improved as well. However people with HAART can spread HIV virus through sex and infected needles.

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One may bear in mind that HIV virus can develop resistance against HAART, seen in cases of people who do not take medication regularly or on schedule. One can find through genetic test if the HIV strain has become resistant to particular drug. This information can be a good base for the doctor to find out the best drug therapy for the infected person and even adjusting the drug regiment if it does not work. These tests are to be performed at any time, a particular treatment strategy does not meet with adequate, targeted results or even before starting with the HIV treatment. There are not many drug combinations that can be used to suppress the HIV strain that may become resistant to a particular drug(s).

HAART treatment though effective has side-effects. Since HAART is a set of various medications, they have their own side-effects too, which may be:

• Uneasiness and sick feeling

• Weakness

• Headache

• Fat on the back or abdomen

• Nausea

If a particular set of HAART medications are used for a prolong period, it can raise blood sugar levels and fat level and increase the risk of heart-attack. So a doctor that prescribes HAART drugs should find out if the patient has developed side effects. Also, the health care provider should have the patient take routine blood tests that measure the CD4 counts and HIV viral load every 3 months. The target should be to make the CD4 count as normal as possible and to restrain HIV virus in the blood to a level that it cannot be detected. Antiretroviral treaetment can be effective in people who have developed AIDs as well. Pregnant women who are on effectual treatment at the time of delivery, and who have untraceable viral loads, give HIV to their baby with 1 percent risk, comparable to 20% of the time if these medications are not given.

There are still some antiviral medications that are being tested as we speak. There are medicines given to prevent opportunistic infections if the CD4 count is low. This can keep AIDS patients healthier for longer periods of time Medicines that stimulate cell growth like Epogen (erthythropoetin) and Neupogen or G-CSF (filgrastim) are used to treat low white blood cell count and anemia linked to AIDS.

In the US, many people are able to survive for long periods after diagnosis due to HAART, considering there is no cure for AIDS. Due to HAART, there has been a huge increase in the amount of people with HIV remaining alive for long. However, HIVD medications are not so liberally available or ill-affordable in the developing world which has increased the spread of AIDS in these countries. Back to TopPossible Complications

AIDS prevention

.1. Practice safe sex, use a quality condom. A typical condom can prevent HIV transmission by 80 percent. The male latex condom without the use of oil-based lubricants is the best available technology to prevent HIV spread and other sexually transmitted infections. Oil-based lubricants like petroleum jelly can dissolve the latex and make the condom porous. If lubrication is needed, go for water-based lubricants. Female condoms made from polyurethane, latex and nutrile can be quite effective in preventing HIV infections. However, they are not as widely available as male condoms and the cost is also on the higher side. Abstinence is the only 100 percent proven way to prevent HIV virus spread through sexual activity.

2. Do not have contact with another person’s blood Wear masks, goggles and protective clothing when you have to come in contact with infected people who are bleeding or injured.

3. Do not share needles or syringes. Use new sterile ones.

4. If the person is HIV positive, he or she should not donate blood, plasma, sperm or body organs.

5. Infected person should let his or her sexual partner know about their HIV positive status. They should not exchange body fluids and take preventative measures like condoms or dental dams (six inch piece of thin latex that prevent exchange of bodily fluids during oral sex)

6. HIV infected women should not breast feed because HIV can be transmitted to infants through breast milk.

7. HIV positive womenw ho want to become preganant should seek counseling and become aware about the risk to their unborn children and how the baby may get infected. There are certain medicines that can effectively reduce the risk of infection begin spread to the baby during pregnancy.

8. AIDS and sexual activity: The highest risk of AIDS in sexual activity comes from unprotected anal intercourse. The least risky sexual activity for HIV is receiving oral sex. Female to male transmission is less risky compared to male to female transmission. Performing oral sex on a woman who does not have her period is the least risky of all activities as far as exchange of bodily fluids is concerned.

9. If you feel that you may have been in a condition that can give risk to HIV, get medical attention immediately. A quick course of antiviral drugs can reduce the chances of infection and even nullify it This is known as post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), performed in prevention spread of the virus in health care workers who may be susceptible, injured with needle sticks and also in case of rape victims.

Famous People who Died of AIDS

Check out some of the famous people and celebrities who died of AIDS

1. Freddie Mercury: The lead singer of the Queen band, died in 1991 due to complications from Bronchial Pneumonia.

2.  Arthur Ashe:   He is the only African-American to have won  Grand Slam at Wimbledon. He died in 1993.

3. Issac Asimov: Did you know that Issac Asimov wrote his first novel at the age of 11? The father of Science fiction as he is called, authored many books including I-Robot. Issac Asimov died in 1993 due to AIDS complication that affected his heart and kidney.

4. Rock Hudson: One of the most good-looking men in the world ever, Rock Hudson was an American heart throb. Nobody knew that he was suffering from AIDS til he died in 1994.

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