What is HIV / AIDS?

While the news media does not present too many stories on AIDS/HIV anymore it does not mean this disease is no longer in existence. AIDS is still very real and is a very real threat. There is still no cure for AIDS or HIV and is still a very real danger.


AIDSHIV, or the human immunodeficiency virus, has infected every country in the world. It originated in Africa but has become a worldwide problem. Currently, according to recent public health information, there are currently 40 million people in the world that are affected with HIV. Since this epidemic hit public health, there have been 40 million people that have died from this virus or complications from this. The area hit the hardest by HIV and AIDS is sub Sahara Africa. This area alone has 70% of the new HIV infections. In the United States there are around 1 million people that are currently infected and there are 50,000 additional people that are infected each year.


Facts and Misconceptions about HIV and AIDs


Many people think that HIV is an epidemic for the homosexual community. As it turns out 85% of HIV transmission are in the heterosexual community. People can get this virus from unprotected sexual contact from infected people. This includes vaginal sex, anal sex, and even oral sex. The AIDS virus thrives in the blood, semen, and vaginal fluids. AIDS can be contracted from people that share needles and intravenous drug use. At one time a person could contract AIDS through blood transfusion. They were unknowingly given infected blood. That has changed in modern times and blood for transfusion use is tested and retested to make sure it is clean. About half of the new infections are in women.

Transmission of HIV / AIDS


The most common transmission of HIV/AIDS is through sexual contact with a person that is infected. The virus enters the body through the walls of the vagina, the mouth, or the anus. AIDS can also be passed from a mother to her baby during birth. It is also dangerous for infected mothers to breast feed their baby. HIV/AIDS is not spread through the air. A person cannot get this virus by sharing food, towels, or bathrooms with an infected person. They cannot get it by swimming in the same pool as an infected person. HIV is not spread through saliva unless there is blood in the saliva.

Signs and Symptoms of HIV / AIDS


HIV-statisticsMany people with HIV do not know they are infected. They may not have symptoms right away. Some of the more common symptoms resemble the flu. Early symptoms may include a fever, a bad headache that is persistent, rashes, swollen lymph nodes, and even ulcers especially in the mouth. As the virus progresses from HIV to AIDS a person will notice more severe infections. Pneumonia is common as well as is also a brain infection called toxoplasmois. This can interfere with information processing and will put a person at an increased risk for a stroke. Mycobacterium avium complex is also common. This will cause diarrhea and weight loss. A weakened immune system will also put a person at risk for serious health conditions. A person is a great risk for developing lymphoma which is a lymphatic form of cancer. A person can also get cancer in their soft tissue cells. This is known as Kaposi sacrcoma. Spots that are brown, red, and purple in color will appear on the body. As the immune system in the body gets weaker there is a greater chance of a person getting these conditions.


Seeking Treatment for HIV / AIDS

If a person has unprotected sex or has used intravenous drugs they should get tested for HIV. If a person is coughing up blood, has severe chest pain, weakness, seizures, and other conditions a person should get tested right away. A person should also make their health care provider aware of these symptoms and any behavior they engaged in that may put them at an increased risk for developing HIV.

HIV Testing

HIV can be detected using a blood test. There is a HIV antibody test, an RNA test, and a combination of these tests that can see if the virus in present in the body. No test is perfect however. Some of these tests have been known to give a false negative result. It may take up to six weeks to three months for the virus to be detected. If a person feels that they are at risk they should be tested three months later. If a blood test shows up positive for HIV a person will be given additional screenings. This includes the enzyme immunoassay test and tests that will use additional body fluids in order to screen for this disease. A person can now test for HIV at home. Drug stores offer HIV testing kits. A person will prick their finger and put the blood on a filter strip. This strip is sent in a protective envelope to a lab for testing. If the test comes back positive additional testing is needed and will be confirmed with the Western blot test.

Possible Treatments for HIV / AIDS

While there is no cure for this disease there a several drug cocktails that can suppress it in the body. A person who uses this different treatment may see a reduction in symptoms and illnesses as well. People that use glutathione will help the body maintain its defense system and will help the body fight off common illnesses. This is especially important with HIV since it compromises the immune system and the body is not able to fight off common illnesses.  Glutathione can also help the body build and repair tissue and help support the immune system.

While there is no cure for HIV/AIDS, medicine to help suppress this condition has come a long way. This virus is preventable if a person takes certain precautions. HIV/AIDS is still a virus to be feared and kills many people each year. A person should take measure to protect themselves so they do not contract this virus.