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Facts About AIDS

The first case of AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) was identified among gay men in the United States, in 1981. Later however, scientists found evidence that the disease existed in the world much earlier. This evidence was provided from the blood sample of a Bantu man who had died of an unidentified illness in the Belgian Congo in 1959.

AIDS is a condition that is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). HIV kills the cells of the immune system, thus, destroying the body’s ability to fight against certain cancers and infections. A person who has been diagnosed with AIDS is always at risk of getting life-threatening diseases, called opportunistic infections. These infections are caused by microbes, which do not usually harm healthy people.

HIV Facts

HIV is transmitted by:
  • Unprotected sexual intercourse with a person who is HIV-infected
  • Sharing the same needles or syringes that are used by an HIV-infected person
  • Blood transfusions, if the donor is HIV-infected
  • Mother-to-infant transmission, where the HIV is transmitted during pregnancy, breast-feeding and childbirth
HIV is not transmitted by:
  • Kissing or coughing
  • Hugging
  • Sharing the same toilet and washing facilities
  • Insect bites caused by mosquitoes or other insects
  • Eating food and using utensils, which have been handed out by someone who has HIV

Early symptoms of HIV-infection

Only some people suffer symptoms a month or two after they have been exposed to HIV. The symptoms they go through are:
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Rash
  • Pain in the joints and muscles
  • Enlargement of the glands

Later symptoms of HIV-infection

It usually takes around 8 to 9 years from the time of infection to the appearance of later symptoms. This scenario varies from one person to another. These symptoms indicate that the immune system of the person is weakening. All those who suffer from HIV infection do not necessarily develop further symptoms. For the few, who do, the symptoms are:
  • Sweating at night
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Loss of weight
  • Pain in the bones
  • Vision gets blurred
  • Fevers that occur very frequently
  • Slight loss in memory
  • Infections-viral, bacterial or fungal
  • Sores around the genitals
  • Oral infections and mouth lesions
  • Chronic diarrhea

Diagnosis

Early HIV infection can be detected by testing a person’s blood. Along with blood samples, HIV testing may also be performed on urine and saliva samples. A person who has been exposed to HIV should be tested as soon as possible. There are two different antibody tests, ELISA and Western Blot that are used. If both these tests are negative, the doctor may test for the presence of HIV virus itself in the blood.

Treatment

There are a few treatments that are used to treat HIV infection and AIDS. Some of the drugs that are available have been manufactured to treat the opportunistic infections and illnesses that affect people with HIV/AIDS, while the others seek to prevent HIV from reproducing and causing harm to the body’s immune system.

Cure

Unfortunately, there is no cure for AIDS, but thankfully, there are new drugs that are being manufactured to help people with HIV/ AIDS live longer and healthier lives. Researchers are still in the process of finding a cure for AIDS.


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