HIV Infection

HIV infection is caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). This condition destroys the immune system and makes it harder for the body to fight various infections. HIV can be contacted by:

  • Sexual contact - oral, vaginal, and anal sex
  • Blood - via blood transfusions or needle sharing
  • From mother to child - pregnant women can transmit the virus to their fetus through the shared blood circulation; mothers can pass the virus to their babies through breast milk.

HIV is not transmitted through kissing, sneezing, spiting or sharing objects like telephones, kitchen utensils, towels or toilet seats.

HIV infection has four stages:

  • The incubation period is asymptomatic and can last between two and four weeks.
  • The acute infection can last approximately 28 days and can include symptoms like swollen lymph nodes, fever, sore throat, muscle pain, rash, malaise, esophageal and mouth sores
  • The latency stage with few or no symptoms and lasts from two weeks to twenty years. In this period, the HIV virus starts to multiply and destroy the cells of the immune system.
  • AIDS, when the immune system cannot resist any infections.

There are situations when people infected with HIV have no symptoms for many years, but they can still pass the HIV infection to others. The HIV ELISA blood test changes from HIV negative to HIV positive after approximately 3 months after the patient has been exposed to the virus.

HIV Symptoms

Symptoms which appear in patients infected with HIV are usually due to an infection in part of the body. Some symptoms related to HIV infection can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Mouth sores
  • Muscle stiffness or aching
  • Diarrhea
  • Rash of various types
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Vaginal yeast infections
  • Swollen lymph glands

One important thing that has to be mentioned is that, when diagnosed with the HIV infection, many people can have none of the symptoms mentioned above. Prevention Methods

  • Don't use injected illicit drugs. If you want to use injected drugs, make sure that you avoid sharing needles or syringes. Use new needles or syringes
  • Avoid vaginal, oral or anal contact with semen from people infected with HIV
  • Avoid unprotected anal intercourse because it represents a high risk of getting infected
  • Use protection when you have sex with infected patients. Use protection for every sexual contact
  • People infected with HIV should not donate sperm, plasma, blood or body organs. They should not exchange genital fluids during sexual intercourse
  • Safer sex behaviors can reduce the risk of getting an HIV infection.

HIV Treatment

Usually, doctors recommend drug therapy for patients who take all their drugs and for patients who have a CD4 number below 500 cells/ mm3, which indicates that the immune system is suppressed. Pregnant women, patients with kidney or neurological problems related to HIV, usually need drug treatment. no matter the level of their CD4. People with HIV need to take all their drugs, because if not, the virus can become resistant to the medications. Drug therapy recommended for patients with HIV infection involves a combination of antiviral drugs. Pregnant women with HIV infection are also treated with antiviral drugs, especially to reduce the chance of transmitting HIV to their babies.

Related links:

HIV : History of HIV : HIV Symptoms : How Do you Get HIV : How to Prevent HIV : HIV Treatment : Types of HIV : HIV Infection : HIV AIDS : HIV Facts : HIV Myths : HIV Life Cycle : HIV Prevention : HIV Rash : HIV Statistics HIV Test : HIV Virus : HIV Helplines