HIV refers to a virus that was discovered in human beings back in the 1980s. The virus is said to have originated from chimpanzees in North and Central Africa. There are a number of other theories of the origin of HIV but this is the most common and believed. While hunting, hunters came into contact with the blood of the chimpanzees. They also ate the chimpanzees’ meat and got the infection.
The virus destroys the immune system of the infected person. The immune system is responsible for protecting the body against infections. It is a virus that is transmitted from one person to another as a result of exchange of infected bodily fluids. These fluids include semen, blood or breast milk.
HIV is not always fatal. It is however an infection that will kill someone if not treated properly and early. People suffering from the infection have a chance of living for years before death. However, if necessary measures are not undertaken when the infection is identified, death will come sooner.
If the virus is treated early enough, the patient can prevent the infection from developing into AIDS. When HIV develops into AIDS it leaves the body very weak. It destroys most of the cells in the immune system called the CD4+ cells which protect the body against diseases. When the body starts suffering from chronic infections it is difficult to heal and may cause death.
Is there a stage in which HIV can be considered fatal?
The answer is yes. HIV is a virus that develops from one stage to another once it is in your body. Each new stage comes with worse, more severe symptoms than the previous one. As you experience these stages, the immune system of your body is weakened further. As result of this, more opportunistic infections attack the body. Towards the last stage of HIV the virus can be termed fatal.
Stages of HIV
- Primary Infection: This is the first stage of HIV infection. At this stage, it is difficult to suspect HIV and most people do not undergo any tests. The stage is accompanied by a number of flu-like complications. The period however lasts for just a few weeks.
- Clinical Asymptomatic: This is a rather delicate stage and doing a test during this stage will give positive results. The stage may take up to 10 years. During this stage, there are minimal symptoms of the infection. However, swollen glands can be observed.
- Symptomatic Infection: It is the third stage of HIV. During this stage, the immune system of the infected person is very much weakened. As a result, the patient will start experiencing even more severe symptoms. Most of these symptoms are experienced as illnesses. This is because the body can no longer protect itself against illnesses.
- HIV to AIDS Progression: As a patient approaches this stage, it is evident that he or she is in danger. There are very severe and more dangerous infections attacking the body. The immune system becomes extremely weak. This makes the patient suffer multiple infections which are difficult to cure due to the weakened immune system. As a result, the infection can easily kill.
During the last stage of HIV, the infection can be considered fatal if the patient is not under the right treatment. When the virus gets into the bloodstream, it circulates and reproduces itself in the body. This is the first stage called acute infection. Taking the right medication during this stage can help a person prevent the infection from becoming AIDS.
If a patient is not under any treatment, the virus slowly destroys the T-cells responsible for protection of the body. As the CD4+ cell count reduces, the immune system is unable to fight opportunistic infections which attack the body and can be fatal.
It is also important to note that HIV has no cure. Irrespective of the fact that a patient can live for many years with the infection, the only solution to the infection is to reduce the severity of its symptoms. Treatment of any illnesses that arise when infected and healthy living help to increase the survival rate for the patient.
Infections depending on the CD4 count
CD4 count below 350/ml
CD4 below 200/ml
CD4 count below 100/ml
- AIDS Dementia
- Toxoplasmosis Encephalitis - infection of the brain by parasites
- Wasting Syndrome
- Cryptococcal Meningitis - the brain is attacked by fungus
- Wasting syndrome - this involves extreme loss of weight and body weakness
- Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy - these are viral diseases that affect the brain and cause small loss of memory
CD4 count below 50/ml
- Cytomegalovirus infection which mostly affects the organs especially the eyes
- Mycobacterium Avium
How long can I live with the infection?
When you are infected with HIV it can vary how long you will live. If the virus is detected early enough and treatment begins as soon as possible, the patient will not likely die immediately. People infected with HIV can live like other human beings for many years and accomplish a lot in life. According to research, many victims of HIV have been found to live for more than 20 to 30 years with the infection.
HIV infection takes a very long time to develop into AIDS. If a patient takes the right medications - ARVs - they are able to slow down development of the infection. The infection takes up to 10 years to develop to AIDS. Taking ARVs also helps to slow down symptoms brought by the infection.
Other infections brought about by the AIDS stage of HIV
- Kaposi’s sarcoma: It is a type of cancer which causes lesions in the mouth and on the skin surfaces.
- Isosporiasis: This is a fungus condition which develops in infected people when they eat or drink contaminated drinks or water.
- Candidiasis: It is a fungal infection. It can easily be treated by use of the right anti-fungal medications.
- Cervical cancer
- HIV-related encephalopathy: It is commonly referred to as HIV/AIDS-related dementia. It mostly affects the brain. It is experienced once the CD4 count is below 100.
- Histoplasmosis: It is also a fungal infection but environmental. The infection is treated by use of antibiotics.
- Tuberculosis: This is an infection that can cause death for HIV patient. However, it can be treated if identified early enough.
- Coccidiodomycosis: This is also a type of fungal infection. If not treated the infection can cause pneumonia.
- Cryptosporidiosis: It is a rather dangerous infection which becomes chronic. Since it is a diarrhea infection accompanied by stomach cramps, it can easily cause death if necessary measures are not undertaken. As a result of its chronic diarrhea the patient loses a lot of water.
- Cryptococcosis: If not treated it is fatal. It is a fungal infection but with different characteristics from others. It quickly spreads to the brain through the patient’s lungs. Hence, it causes cyptococcal meningitis.
HIV infection is an infection that has caused fear and suffering around the world. This is because the virus does not have any cure. Once many people have the infection, they feel discriminated against and have low self-esteem. Some fail to take treatment and die. This has made people believe that the infection is fatal in the short-term.
However, a person with HIV can live for decades if one is under treatment.