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Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a type of virus that a person will have for the remainder of their lives, which can ultimately lead to AIDS.

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a type of virus that unlike most viruses obtained in the body, will remain in its host victim’s body despite treatment. It is the same virus that may lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or more known as AIDS. Despite research efforts, there is still no cure for HIV that has proven to be safe and effective. Fortunately, in most cases, HIV can be controlled with appropriate medical care. The treatment used for HIV is called antiretroviral therapy (ART), which has been used since the 1990’s.

HIV is said to have begun in the chimpanzees of West Africa. Upon exposure to chimpanzee blood infected with simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), the HIV counterpart in chimpanzees, the virus mutated to suit its human hosts, and thus began the spread of HIV from as early as the late 1800’s. Aside from blood, coming into direct contact with certain fluids such as breast milk, pre-seminal fluid, semen, vaginal fluids and rectal fluids can also spread the virus to persons. Thus engaging in unprotected sexual activities, sharing needles, syringes, equipment, and breastfeeding by an infected mother may all transmit HIV.

Stages of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

HIV has three stages upon first inhabiting its human hosts, beginning with an acute infection, which then progresses to clinical latency, and eventually AIDS.

  • Acute Infection or Acute Retroviral Syndrome (ARS) or Primary HIV infection
    • Occurs within 2-4 weeks after HIV infection
    • Not present in everyone
    • Feeling sick accompanied by flu-like symptoms
    • Huge production of HIV in the body
    • Highest possibility of transmitting virus to another person
    • Clinical Latency (Inactivity or Dormancy) or Asymptomatic HIV Infection or Chronic HIV Infection
      • HIV remains active but production level is very low
      • No symptoms may be present
      • Stage may be prolonged if undergoing ART treatment
      • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
        • Severely damaged immune system
        • Highly prone to infections and other opportunistic diseases due to compromised immune system
        • Without treatment, life lasts for only 3 years

Signs and Symptoms of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

It is not unusual to have no signs and symptoms of HIV. Typically, it is only during the first stage where symptoms manifest. Some of the commonly observed symptoms include:

  • Fever and fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Rash
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Aching muscles
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhoea

Complications from Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

HIV affects the specific cells of the immune system, particularly the T cells of the CD4 cells. It uses the CD4 cells to make copies of itself, destroying the immune system cells. As the virus stays in the body, the more cells it damages and as a result, the body becomes less capable of fighting off infections and diseases. Although CD4 count will increase, it cannot be restored to its numbers prior to infection. The following complications are common to HIV positive individuals:

  • Tuberculosis
  • Salmonellosis
  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
  • Candidiasis
  • Crytococcal meningitis
  • Neurological problems
  • Kidney disease

Prevention of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

There are several things a person can do to avoid developing HIV. Although it is not always guaranteed, following these steps can decrease risks significantly:

  • Abstain from engaging in unprotected sex. Use condoms.
  • Avoid having multiple sex partners.
  • Male circumcision is shown to decrease risks of transmitting HIV from infected men to women.
  • Stay in a mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected person.

Disclaimer: This article should not be used for medical diagnosis or advice. Seek medical attention when necessary. Although there is not first aid available for human immunodeficiency virus positive individuals, knowing how to avoid acquiring this disease can greatly help avoid many diseases. Participants enrolled in first aid and CPR courses will learn to manage patients with blood borne pathogens and transmittable diseases by using personal protective equipment such as gloves, bag-valve masks, one-time use masks and pocket masks.

Sources:

HIV/ AIDS. (2013). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved on October 9, 2013, from http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/

HIV/ AIDS (2012). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved on October 9, 2013 from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hiv-aids/DS00005/DSECTION=complications

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