The way individuals react to certain strains of viruses or diseases can vary immensely. Our bodies are all unique and it’s no different when discussing HIV and AIDS.
This subject is a very sensitive topic that is often hushed in the medical community because of many years of rumors and false ideas surrounding the problem.
The symptoms and causes of HIV and AIDS can differ, some individuals might not even experience symptoms at all for decades. Which is all the more reason why communities need to be educated on the facts that surround this health risk. It’s time to push aside the rumors and pay attention to the facts that can’t be disputed.
In this article, we’ll be covering everything you need to know about HIV and AIDS, the causes, symptoms, treatments, and more. This article should be used to help you understand the facts behind this health condition and learn that it’s more than just the harmful rumors that are spread from the uninformed.
Before we begin discussing the causes of HIV and AIDS, it’s key to know that there are three stages of the infection. We’ll be briefly covering these stages so you can have a general perspective and timeline of how this infection unfolds throughout an individuals life.
Stage 1 occurs after the beginning of the infection, it often is mistaken for the flu, but sometimes no symptoms will ever occur, which can make diagnosing this infection very hard. Often times when it feels like flu, it will even dissipate like a normal cold/flu would. This causes many people to ignore going to the doctor or getting tested.
Stage 2 has the possibility to last up to 10 years or more, during this decade of time, many people do not feel anything different whatsoever. This is why it’s crucial that you regularly get checked with your doctor to be tested, because the sooner you are diagnosed the more likely you are to live a long and healthy life.
Stage 3 is the period of time after 10 or so years where the immune system starts to shut down. Your immune system at this point is so badly damaged that you will no longer be able to fight off something as simple as the common cold, let alone diseases.
What Causes HIV and AIDS?
There are two most common ways to contract HIV and AIDS. This virus can be spread by infected semen, blood or vaginal fluids, which can be easily spread through unprotected sex, and sometimes protected sex as well. The other most common way is by sharing needles with someone who has been infected.
Like we mentioned above, because of the first two stages of HIV and AIDS basically goes unnoticed in many cases, people go on about their lives without ever being diagnosed and end up spreading the infection to other individuals.
This is why it’s very important to regularly get checked throughout the years, just to be safe and to protect others from the virus as well. Especially if you’re regularly having unprotected sex.
The progression from HIV to AIDS is long, but because of the undetected symptoms, it can come quicker than you might think. HIV typically turns into being diagnosed as AIDS after ten years when the virus is untreated by proper medication.
When the virus turns into the much more serious version of the infection, you will be susceptible to common ailments that can cause death, when normally they would be unnoticed by someone with a healthy immune system.
This viral infection can also be transmitted from a mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth, and/or breastfeeding, which is another reason why some children grow up with the virus from a very young age.
The rumors and misconceptions of this virus only being spread from sexual acts has been extremely damaging to many individuals, especially children at a young age. Many people are uneducated when it comes to this viral infection, hopefully with the wealth of knowledge we can access in today’s world, that will change.
- There are a number of causes of HIV that we should all be aware of, but one of the most common that many people tend to overlook is unprotected sex.
- It can also be transmitted through blood, genital fluids, semen, or even the breast milk of an individual with HIV, all things to consider before exposing yourself to these risks.
- Another common cause that should not be overlooked is sharing syringes or needles with someone infected with HIV.
What are the Symptoms of HIV and AIDS?
While many don’t always experience symptoms of HIV and AIDS, there are different signs of these symptoms when they are felt with certain individuals. We’ve gone ahead and broken them down into the stages in which they occur:
In the Acute HIV phase, this is the common phase where people experience cold like symptoms. This will occur generally around 2-3 months after contracting the viral infection and will usually last around a few weeks before going away.
- Many people experience awful headaches and migraines, this can cause you to struggle with focus or working properly because of how intense they tend to be.
- Often times people will experience a fever, very similar to a regular flu symptom.
- Individuals will also experience intense muscle and joint pain, your body will constantly feel like it’s tense.
- If you have sensitive skin you will most likely experience rashes on your stomach, back, arms, and throat.
- A sore throat can also occur, often leaving the individual struggling to breathe through their mouth, similar to strep throat.
- Similar to the symptom above, many will experience swollen glands that can cause intense pain when eating or drinking.
Also known as clinical latent infection, chronic HIV is the extension that some people experience where the swollen glands will continue to swell. This is the only symptom during this period and like we said not many individuals actually experience this phase of the viral infection, but it is very possible.
This is the phase that typically lasts around 10 years if you’re not receiving therapy and medication for your HIV. While this phase can last decades longer if the patient is on medication, it varies for each individual.
If the untreated virus is left alone after around 10 years, symptomatic HIV will start to take place. This is when you will usually experience infections in the body, as well as symptoms that we’ve listed below:
- Often times the fever will return, but on a much more intense and extreme scale than in earlier stages.
- You will often be very tired and exhausted, even if you have been resting for long periods of time. Nothing can really help this symptom, because your body at this point is very weak.
- The swollen glands will continue to occur but of course much worse than earlier stages of the viral infection.
- People usually experience constant diarrhea, even when they can’t stomach much.
- Weight loss will begin to occur because of it being hard to keep food settled in your stomach and the diarrhea.
- Because of the swollen glands and dry mouth, many will experience thrush, also known as an oral yeast infection. This can be extremely painful and often times will induce vomiting.
- Herpes will develop as well, in the form of shingles which can be very painful to the touch.
If the individual has received no medication or diagnosis, their HIV will progress until it turns into AIDS. This disease is incurable and can often be deadly because of all the symptoms above and more severe issues we’ve included below.
People who have AIDS can no longer fight back with their immune system, their bodies are weak and can’t even fight against a common cold like a normal individual can usually fight off without even being sick.
Below we’ve included the symptoms you will experience when dealing with AIDS:
- Individuals will experience intense amounts of sweating when trying to sleep, soaking through their clothes, also causing insomnia to occur.
- Experiencing a recurring fever is normal and will not go away at this point.
- Chronic diarrhea will continue to occur as well, causing quick weight loss.
- There will be white spots on your tongue or on and around your mouth, they will be painful and sore.
- You will constantly feel tired and worn out, even after doing nothing.
- There will be mass weight loss to an unhealthy degree that can’t be prevented.
- Your skin will be covered in rashes and bumps, especially those who have very sensitive skin.
There are many other symptoms that are not physical that can occur as well, such as a weakened tolerance when it comes to mental health. From start to end of this viral infection progression your mental state will waiver, because of how stressful and upsetting this infection is.
Many people who have HIV and AIDS will go through long bouts of depression and anxiety, their lives are basically flipped upside down and it will be very hard to continue a day to day schedule without anything changing because of the intense mental health strain.
Mental and emotional health also play a huge role in our lives, if you aren’t healthy emotionally your physical health will suffer, especially when dealing with something as serious as this.
This is why many doctors will suggest that you speak to someone you know and love, as well as seeing a therapist. This can immensely lighten the emotional load on your shoulders.
While receiving these news can normally be life changing, from the moment you’re diagnosed it’s important to understand that you need to put yourself first, your health, your emotions, and what you want out of your life.
How are HIV and AIDS Diagnosed?
Although we’ve covered the many symptoms that come with the various stages of HIV and AIDS, there are certain ways to diagnose this viral infection you should be aware of.
Blood tests are usually the standard way to find out if an individual has HIV. These tests are quite simple, just like any other blood sample, but when they receive the blood they will be looking for the specific antibodies that are unique to the HIV virus.
It’s extremely important that you are tested early if you have had unprotected sex, because the earlier you can catch the virus, the sooner you can be put on a treatment plan customized for you and to keep away the possible complications. You can also prevent spreading the virus to other people as well.
There is a home test option that is the only at home test approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, which is called the Access Express Test, but we will still be recommending that you speak to your doctor if you believe you have been affected by the disease.
There is a test called the ELISA Test, which is specifically used to test for HIV viruses. If you still think you have the virus and come up as negative, your doctor may want you to wait three months to take another test. Be aware that if this occurs you should stop having sex immediately or any other high risk tendencies that could spread this virus.
There are also saliva tests, which usually consists of a cotton pad to swipe saliva from your cheek. This will be sent to a lab and you’ll most likely receive results within the week. You’re also likely be asked to take a blood test after being diagnosed as positive just to be sure.
Lastly there is one other test known as the Viral Load Test, this will measure the amount of the virus in your blood. While this test is usually used for those who are on a treatment plan, it can be used to detect HIV in the blood for very early diagnostics.
What are the Treatment Methods for HIV and AIDS?
There are medications that help prevent the HIV virus from making copies of itself, and it does so by interfering with the different phases of the HIV cycle. Antiretroviral therapy, also known as ART is the use of many different HIV-1 medicines, of which there is also an option to combine them into one pill in some cases.
ART is known to increase the number of white blood cells in your body called CD4+ T-cells, in turn reducing the levels of HIV that aims to destroy those valuable cells and attack your immune system as well.
What are the Complications Associated With HIV and AIDS?
While we have covered quite a bit of the physical and mental complications that are associated with HIV and AIDs, it’s also important to understand the risks that deal with society and the community around you.
Many people are extremely hurtful when it comes to discussing HIV and AIDS, many people assume information they are educated on, just because they’ve heard it time and time again. Many people will place stereotypes on other individuals because of this viral infection and some people will flat out be scared of you.
The way that HIV and AIDS has been portrayed in the media is wrong. It’s wrong because it dehumanizes the individuals that suffer this infection on a daily basis. The disregard this problem has caused for decades is just sad and cruel.
The mass population doesn’t even understand that literally anyone can contract HIV and AIDS, it’s not based on where you live, if you’re rich or poor, no matter what race, gender, or sexual orientation, it happens to anyone.
Just remember before you crack a joke about someone suffering that it’s awful, and remember to stay educated and stay above that kind of idiotic behavior. Don’t try to brush it off as a joke, because any illness like this should never be treated as a joke.
How do You Prevent HIV & AIDS?
There are a few ways to prevent HIV and AIDS that everyone should be aware of. While they are not always a guarantee, they should be practiced regardless before any high risk behavior is to be had.
If you’re with a new partner, talk with them first, discuss whether or not you have the virus and ask if they do. You should always be aware and speak up before you get involved with a new individual.
There is a drug on the medical market that you can ask your doctor about if you feel like this is necessary in your life, it’s called Truvada. It’s generally used similarly to a birth control but specifically for HIV and AIDS.
You should always use a condom, no matter what, no excuses, even if you’re with the same partner. To protect both you and your partner you should never take this lightly.
You should always use a clean needle, whether it’s for drugs (which we do not condone), tattoos, or medical purposes, it should always be a clean needle.
If you’re a male, you should consider male circumcision which will help decrease the chance of contracting HIV and AIDS.
You should know that there is currently no vaccine to prevent this viral infection today. There is no cure for AIDS, which is why prevention should be taken very seriously. Once you have this virus, there is nothing you can do to get rid of it or heal from it, only medicine and treatment programs to keep you alive longer.
If you happen to get pregnant, you need to be aware that there is a possibility you could pass the infection to your child, which is why you should seek out your doctor as soon as possible so you can figure out what you should do.
If you receive the correct treatment during the pregnancy, although you already have the infection, this will reduce the risk of the baby receiving the infection significantly.
Don’t shy away from speaking up. Talk to your doctor and your support group, do what you can to make this situation better.
Hopefully now that you’ve made it to the end of this article you’ve discovered new information about the viral infections of HIV and AIDS. It’s an important issue to discuss, especially since there is currently no known cure.
The spreading of misinformation is vile and it continues to bury the facts we should all know. Which is why researching and educating yourself on this health issue is key to being able to fully understand the risks, causes, and problems known to be associated with the infection.
Just because of the toxic negativity that normally surrounds this topic of health, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t speak up or be afraid to voice your opinion. If you’re suffering from HIV or AIDS, you need to speak up and let your voice be heard so you can make a difference. People will listen and people will change how they feel about the subject in time.
It will take a long time until a difference is made, but education is the first step that you can take right now, which you just did.
Just remember these few tips and highlights from this article:
- Speak up, talk to your partner or partners about the virus, be open about it and be understanding if they haven’t been tested. Encourage them to do so and get tested yourself as well.
- Stay safe, avoid risky behavior that involves drugs or unsafe sex.
- Don’t spread misinformation about this viral infection, it harms a community of people.
- Talk to your doctor and listen to what they have to say.
- If you have HIV, work towards a healthier tomorrow, don’t give up.
- Most importantly get tested regularly, don’t be afraid and put it off, it’s not worth the risk, ever!
Let us know by sharing this educational article if you learned something you didn’t know before.
Feature image: Shutterstock.com
In-Post Image: Shutterstock.com & Aidsinfo.nih.gov