Some facts about the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Human immunodeficiency virus also known as HIV is a condition in which progressive failure of the immune system allows life-threatening opportunistic infections and cancers to thrive. Without treatment, the average survival time after infection with HIV is estimated to be 9 to 11 years, depending on the HIV subtype.
In most cases, HIV is a sexually transmitted infection and occurs by contact with or transfer of blood, pre-ejaculate, semen, and vaginal fluids.
The infection spreads from person to person when certain body fluids are shared, usually during vaginal or anal sex, or when sharing drugs you inject.
It can also be passed from dirty needles tattoos and body piercing. It can be spread through oral sex, too, although the chance is small.
Mothers can pass HIV to their child during birth when the baby is exposed to their infected blood, or in their breast milk. But in some areas of the developing world, it’s safer for moms with HIV to breastfeed for a few months rather than to give a newborn formula with potentially contaminated water, especially if they are receiving treatment for HIV
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FIRST STAGE: ACUTE HIV INFECTION
Most people don’t know right away when they’ve been infected with HIV. But they may have symptoms within 2 to 6 weeks after they’ve gotten the virus.
This is when your body’s immune system puts up a fight. It’s called acute retroviral syndrome or primary HIV infection.
The symptoms are similar to those of other viral illnesses, and they’re often compared to the flu. They typically last a week or two and then go away.
Early signs of HIV include:
- Aching muscles
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
- A red rash that doesn’t itch, usually on your torso
- Ulcers (sores) in your mouth, esophagus, anus, or genitals
- Headache and other neurological symptoms early testing is important for two reasons. First, at this stage, levels of HIV in your blood and bodily fluids are very high.
- This makes it especially contagious. Second, starting treatment as soon as possible might help boost your immune
- system and ease your symptoms.
- A combination of medications (called HIV drugs, antiretroviral therapy, or ART) can help fight HIV, keep your immune system healthy, and keep you from spreading the virus.
- If you take these medications and have healthy habits, your HIV infection probably won’t get worse.
SECOND STAGE: Clinical Latency/ Chronic
At this point, it’s possible for people to still not experience any symptoms or even feel better after experiencing flu-like symptoms. Clinical latency,
also known as chronic HIV infection, is when the body is at low levels. People without treatment could remain in this stage for 10 to 15 years.
If you’re taking ART, you might stay in this phase for decades. You can pass the virus on to other people, but it’s extremely rare if you take your medicines.
THIRD STAGE: AIDS
Stage 3 HIV, also known as AIDS, is the most advanced stage of the condition. This occurs when the person’s immune system is badly damaged and can no longer fight off infections.
People who take antiretroviral therapy can maintain a low viral load and may never develop stage 3 HIV. Other factors that affect whether this stage develops include age, genetic
factors, and the strain of the virus.
Symptoms of stage 3 HIV can include:
- Weight loss
- Night sweats
- Chronic diarrhea
- A persistent cough
- Skin problems
- Mouth problems
- Regular infections
- Serious illness