An Intro to HIV
What is HIV?
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a blood-borne infection that targets the immune system. HIV destroys a specific type of white blood cell known as the CD-4 cell. Over time, HIV will reduce the number of CD4 cells in a host , weakening their immune system and making them susceptible to opportunistic infections such as tuberculosis and certain cancers.
When the CD4 count falls below 200, the immune system can no longer function effectively. This stage of HIV infection is also known as Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and can take from 2 to 15 years to develop if no treatment for HIV is started.
HIV continues to be a major global public health issue. However, with increasing access to effective HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care, HIV has become a manageable chronic health condition, enabling people living with HIV to lead long and healthy lives.
Are there Symptoms?
The symptoms of HIV vary depending on the stage of infection. Though people living with HIV tend to be most infectious in the first few months after being infected, many are unaware of their status until the later stages. In the first few weeks after initial infection people may experience no symptoms or an influenza-like illness including fever, headache, rash or sore throat.
As the infection progressively weakens the immune system, they can develop other signs and symptoms, such as swollen lymph nodes, weight loss, fever, diarrhoea and cough. Without treatment, the infection enters the AIDS stage.
When treated, HIV can be prevented from progressing to the AIDS stage. To find out more about HIV treatment, click here.
The most important thing to know about HIV is your own status! Whether negative or positive, there are important steps you can take to take charge of your own sexual health and work towards a long, healthy and full life, and that journey begins with knowing your own status.
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HIV and AIDS are easy to confuse, because they can go hand-in-hand, but they are not the same thing. HIV refers to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) which is the pathogen that causes the illness. Acquired Immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), on the other hand, is the final stage of HIV infection.
The most characteristic feature of AIDS are opportunistic infections. Due to the damage to the immune system, the body can no longer fight off threats, leading to a series of complicated and severe infections and an increased likelihood for certain forms of cancer.
Even at this stage of the illness, it is possible to suppress the virus, which allows the immune system to recover gradually. With continuous ART treatment, people with AIDS can live long and full lives.