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HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a viral pathogen that attacks the immune system and shatters the body’s overall defence system to fight against infections and germs . Consequently, as the virus continues to attack the immune system, its functions start to deteriorate and lead to immunodeficiency.
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDs, is the most advanced and final stage of infection caused by HIV. The gradual progression of AIDS can completely destroy your immune system, exposing you to several medical conditions and certain cancer types.
HIV is a global issue, with approximately 1.5 million people being affected in 2021 and death of about 6.5 lakh . Although it is a severe and incurable syndrome, with advanced treatment and healthcare, people suffering from this condition can live a long and healthy life.
|Symptoms||Fever, sore throat, body rash, joint pain, fatigue, muscle pain, swollen glands, rapid weight loss, extreme tiredness etc.|
|Complications||Invasive cervical cancer, lymphoma, tuberculosis, pneumonia, histoplasmosis, behavioural changes, confusion and loss of memory, other neurological problems, etc.|
|Causes||Through the transmission of the HIV virus via unprotected sexual contact, sharing needles, breastfeeding, labour, etc.|
|Onset||2 to 6 weeks after being infected with the virus.|
|Diagnosis||Antibody test, antigen/antibody test, nucleic acid test|
|Prevention||Practising safe sex using condoms, not sharing needles and syringes, using new and sanitised needles for injections, PrEp medications, etc.|
|Medication||Antiretroviral therapy (ART)|
Here is a complete overview of HIV infection, its symptoms, causes, types, complications and treatment. Take a look.
HIV can have several symptoms and may vary from person to person. In addition, the symptoms may also differ depending on the stages of HIV infection. There are three stages of HIV, and their symptoms are given below  .
The HIV symptoms of the first stage or acute HIV infection start 2 to 4 weeks after the infection, and they include the following:
Note that these symptoms may last for days or weeks, and many people may remain asymptomatic during this stage.
The second stage, known as chronic HIV infection or clinical latency, may or may not be symptomatic. The symptoms may be non-specific, including:
Finally, symptoms of the final stage, i.e., AIDS, include the following:
HIV is a retrovirus virus variant that is primarily found in African chimpanzees. Therefore, scientists believe that chimpanzee meat contaminated with the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) caused humans to contract the virus from chimpanzees. Consequently, the virus changed its character into what we currently refer to as HIV once it entered the human population, possibly in the early 20th century .
Over the period of many decades, HIV was transmitted from person to person throughout Africa and eventually to other continents. It was first detected in 1959.
Coming to how HIV-AIDS is caused in the human body; the virus is found in body fluids such as semen, vaginal fluid, bloodstream, as well as breast milk of affected individuals. When the virus is transmitted to another person, it attacks the T cells of the immune system. This gradually weakens the immune system, which is then unable to fight off other diseases.
Apart from knowing the cause, it is also essential to understand how HIV spreads from person to person to understand and break its pattern. Here are the following transmission pathways for HIV:
There are generally two types of HIV, HIV – 1 and HIV – 2 . Both types have a similarity in their genetic structure and also have the same way of transmitting.
However, HIV – 1 is more frequently found all over the world, whereas HIV – 2 is more specific to West Africa and has lower transmissibility.
Availability, transmissibility and progression of the HIV – 1 are higher, and it has a higher viral load than HIV – 2 .
Being diagnosed with HIV can be hard to take as it is a life-changing condition. Therefore, take your time to process the news before seeking help from an allied service provider to support you through the early post-diagnosis period.
Next, after HIV diagnosis, visit your primary healthcare provider who has experience dealing with HIV and has your medical history and reports.
Ensure that you visit a certified doctor at the earliest to start treatment. Early treatment can lead to a long and healthy life, reducing the viral load along with your symptoms .
There is only one way to find out if you have HIV, i.e., through a medical test, as the symptoms are nonspecific and may be caused due to opportunistic infections.
The three main types of diagnostic tests for HIV are as follows  :
An antibody test looks for HIV antibodies in your blood, urine or saliva. To do this, the lab technician will collect a small sample of your blood, urine or saliva and send it to the diagnostic lab. It may take between 2 weeks to 6 months to find the HIV antibodies after you have been infected with the virus.
In this test, a professional draws a sample of blood from your vein to test for both antibodies and antigens of HIV. This is the most common and recommended test for HIV due to accurate results.
You can also opt for a rapid antibody/antigen test that uses a finger stick to show the results from a small blood sample.
The nucleic acid test is carried out to find the presence of the actual HIV virus in the bloodstream. To do this, a certified medical professional will collect a sample of blood directly from your vein and send it for lab testing.
This test shows not only the presence of HIV in the body but also its viral load (amount of virus present in the blood).
NAT is also the fastest HIV test and is recommended if you have recently been exposed to a possibility of transmission. You can also opt for it if you have the early symptoms but have been tested negative in the other tests.
The prognosis of HIV disease has significantly improved over the last few years. In contrast to the initial years when HIV was an epidemic, affected individuals could live only up to 1 or 2 years post-diagnosis.
However, it is now seen that people who have been diagnosed at the early stages may not develop AIDS at all if they take swift treatment and medication  . They are reported to live a long and healthy life as opposed to those with a late diagnosis, who are at a higher risk of mortality.
The primary treatment for HIV is antiretroviral therapy (ART), which involves a treatment regimen of a combination of different medicines.
It is a recommended treatment for all individuals with HIV infection. Although it cannot cure the disease, ART significantly reduces the risk of transmission and improves the quality and length of lifespan.
Benefits of the antiretroviral drugs in HIV treatment include:
However, you may also experience a list of side effects from the HIV medication. They include:
HIV spreads from one person to another through the transmission of body fluids such as blood, saliva, semen, rectal fluids, pre-seminal fluids, vaginal fluids, breast milk, etc. Therefore, you can definitely prevent yourself from catching this infection through proper precaution and awareness.
Some of the preventive measures to avoid HIV infection are as follows  :
Unprotected sex can increase your chances of getting infected if your partner has HIV. This mainly applies if you and your partner are not tested, or you lead a more promiscuous lifestyle. Therefore, the best way to avoid the exchange of fluids is to use a condom during sexual intercourse.
As mentioned above, the risk of getting infected may increase with the number of sexual partners you have. Each partner you choose may have a sexual history from where they could have transmitted the virus. Moreover, you are more likely to get their medical condition or diagnosis in a shorter span. Therefore, it is safe to be in a monogamous relationship. However, it would be best to start off with an HIV test beforehand.
HIV is more likely to spread by oral sex, vaginal sex and anal sex. Therefore, limit these activities without protection or medicines.
If you are a sexually active person, it would be wise to get tested on a regular basis. Tests should be carried out on both partners at the beginning to ensure safety.
If you are taking medication through injection, make sure that the needles and syringes used are clean and new. The needles must be from reliable sources, sanitised properly and disposed of after single use. Moreover, never share the same syringe with another individual.
PrEp stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis. It is a precautionary medication you can take if you do not have HIV but are at a high risk of getting it. This can be helpful for those who have a higher chance of getting infected from regular injection use.
Unlike PrEP, PEP is a post-exposure prophylaxis used in case you have already been exposed to HIV. However, they are mainly used in emergency cases, following prescriptions. Usually, PEP should be initiated within 72 hours after possible exposure to the virus.
If untreated, HIV can cause severe neurological complications in humans, causing several disorders . Although the virus does not directly attack the neurons, it hampers their functions, causing several nervous ailments such as:
Other than these, HIV is a gateway for opportunistic infections if it is left untreated. Some of these major HIV complications include :
The cost of HIV treatment in India is significantly lower than in most other countries. The average price of the first-line treatment may vary from Rs.5,000 to Rs.7,000. On the other hand, second-line treatment may be a little costlier, ranging approximately between Rs.27,000 to Rs.35, 000.
In essence, HIV is a severe syndrome that can diminish the quality of life massively if it goes unaddressed. It may have a severe psychological impact on being diagnosed due to the social stigma associated with this disease even today. Therefore, it is vital that you seek support from your friends and family during this challenging time.
With regular medication as prescribed by your health professional, you can lead a long and happy life. However, medicines for HIV go lifelong, which can be quite a burden. You must have solid health coverage to reduce your financial burden. Get Navi Health Insurance to enjoy cashless treatment at more than 10,000 network hospitals, annual check-ups, unlimited online consultations and many other perks for premiums starting at just Rs.234 per month. Get a quote now!
No, although often used interchangeably, HIV and AIDS are different. HIV is the human immunodeficiency virus that infects your body by attacking the immune system. AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, on the other hand, is the third and final stage of HIV infection, and it is the most severe state with a high viral load and transmissibility to others.
Yes, HIV can be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth as well as through breastfeeding. However, if you are under HIV treatment during pregnancy and avoid feeding breast milk to your child, then you can reduce the risk of passing it on.
No, HIV is neither airborne or water-borne. Moreover, it is not easily transmissible like flu viruses. Instead, HIV is found to be present in the blood and a few other body fluids of the infected person. Therefore, to be infected, there has to be an exchange of body fluids from the affected to the healthy person.
The three stages of HIV infection are as follows: Acute HIV infection Chronic HIV infection Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
The most severe stage of HIV infection is the third stage, also known as acquired immune deficiency syndrome or AIDS. In this stage, the viral load is the highest, and you have a much higher chance of transmitting the virus through others. Moreover, if it goes untreated, people in this stage can survive only for 2 to 3 years.
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