Healthy Living

AIDS: What you Need to Know

AIDS: What you Need to Know

Key Takeaways

  • Difference between HIV and AIDS
  • Ways to contract AIDS
  • How to prevent AIDS
  • Ways to deal with HIV and AIDS

HIV and AIDS

AIDS and HIV go hand in hand. First, let's talk about HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). HIV attacks the body's immune system. This was first discovered in Central Africa from chimpanzees. It is believed to be transferred to humans when humans hunted chimpanzees and came in contact with their blood.

So what exactly is HIV?

HIV attacks the CD4 cells or T cells, which are cells that help the immune system fight off infections. The lower the CD4 cell, the more prone the body is to infections or infection-related cancers. Unfortunately, there is no cure for HIV as it can only be controlled with treatment and medicine. Antiretroviral therapy or ART is a drug used to treat HIV. This allows people with HIV to still have live long, healthy lives. HIV can only found be diagnosed through testing. This can be done at a clinic with the help of a health care provider.

What is AIDS?

AIDS, on the other hand, stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. This is the final stage of the HIV infection, and not everyone with HIV goes to this juncture. You are considered to have AIDS when your CD4 cell count falls below 200 cells per cubic millimeter of blood. You can also be considered to have AIDS if you develop an opportunistic infection. This is a very serious stage of AIDS because most patients last only about 1 to 3 years max. Actually, at the end of 2015, 17 million people are receiving ART around the world. There are approximately 36.7 million people around the world with AIDS. There are also many organizations dedicated to fighting AIDS.

Organizations

There are many organizations dedicated to raising money in order to raise awareness for AIDS. One of these organizations is the World Health Organization (WHO). They are part of the United Nations and provide leadership on global health matter and health research, as well as monitoring health trends.

How do you contract AIDS?

You contract AIDS when you are the final stage of HIV. Of course, the best way to avoid AIDS, which comes from HIV, is to avoid "risky sex." The HIV can only be acquired through:

•    blood

•    semen

•    pre-seminal fluids

•    rectal fluids

•    vaginal fluids

•    breast milk

It is only possible if the fluids come in contact with the mucus membranes, damaged tissue, or directly injected into the bloodstream. Mucus membranes are found in the rectum, the vagina, the opening of the penis, and the mouth. In the US, the primary way AIDS is spread is by having sex or sharing needles with someone who has AIDS. So it is best to always get tested for HIV before having sex, as this will prevent HIV and, thus, the progression to AIDS.

How to prevent AIDS?

Condoms, if used correctly, reduce the chance of AIDS when having vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Another way to prevent AIDS is to limit the number of sexual partners. The more partners you have, the more prone you are to get AIDS.

For women, however, a new study has confirmed that a vaginal ring protects women from HIV. According to NBC NEWS, a ring made of silicone impregnated with an antiviral drug can protect 75 percent or more of women from AIDS. The ring releases a drug called depriving which can help stop the virus from infecting cells. This is a new tool and can help protect women from AIDS and HIV. This can actually help women around the world and help reduce the AIDS epidemic.

It is really important to get tested for HIV, before having sex with your partner. The sooner a person finds themselves with HIV, the quicker it can be managed, and the greater chance of preventing AIDS. If there is no treatment and medication for HIV, it will progress to AIDS and will then become fatal.

Dealing with AIDS

To deal with AIDS, it is important to understand the symptoms of AIDS, figure out what the body undergoes, and be open to taking treatment with acceptance. It is also important to know the difference between HIV and AIDS. While HIV could infect a person in ways similar to AIDS, being HIV positive does not mean that the patient has AIDS. Over a span of time, when the HIV worsens and starts affecting the immunity of an individual in irreparable ways, that's the time AIDS is likely to develop.

Once a person has been infected, he or she could face some or all of the following, depending on the current stage of infection and condition of the patient. The virus could pass down from body fluids, blood, milk or contact with cuts and bruises that may attract the infection. The symptoms could be different for different people, but there some common ones. Some of this include:

•    Chills, fever

•    Weakness, tiredness or fatigue

•    Loss of weight

•    Infected nervous system

•    Large or swollen glands

•    Severe bouts of a cough

•    Diarrhea, irregular bowel movement

•    Inflammation of the esophagus

•    Infections involving other parts of the body leading to tuberculosis, pneumonia and cancers

Running tests to diagnose the infection is advised by the doctor, who then prescribes medication and starts the treatment. Cooperation is required at every step, as it is not a short-term process. Prolonged sessions, repeated tests, support from the near and dear ones, and conventional medicines are all a part of the deal.

While HIV can be suppressed in its initial stages, AIDS is the ultimate stage of infection to the immune system when the virus takes over the cells of the body that help combat the disease. Thus, the patient is left exposed to contamination, and his body becomes a storehouse of illnesses, one leading to the other.

Dealing with AIDS is as important as its diagnosis. There are anonymous forums and counseling sessions for the patients and their families. Group therapy, in many cases, is helpful too. Healthcare, proper medical facilities, medication and follow ups can support the patient for a prolonged span of time. With the ever growing number of AIDS patients around the world, talking about AIDS openly has never been more important. We need to remove the stigma that surrounds this disease. As it stands, support is the most essential for people suffering from this horrible illness.