Doctor's Notes on HIV and AIDS
Human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, is a virus that is transmitted by contact with body fluids of an infected person. The HIV virus weakens the body’s immune system, making it more difficult to fight infections and cancer. AIDA or acquired immune deficiency syndrome is the more advanced stage of infection. HIV infection progresses to AIDS when certain infections or cancers are present or when a person’s CD4 cell (a type of immune cell) count is less than 200.
The initial infection with HIV may or may not cause symptoms. Some people get flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, fatigue, and muscle aches, within a few weeks after they have been infected. A person can have HIV for many years before developing any symptoms. Signs and symptoms associated with the progression of HIV infection to AIDS can include:
What Is the Treatment for HIV and AIDS?
Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is the mainstay of treatment for HIV infection. Experts recommend starting these treatments as soon as infection with the HIV virus has been diagnosed. ART is given as a combination of medications that must be taken every day.
There are multiple different classes of drugs that have been developed to treat HIV infection. An ART regimen usually includes drugs from at least two different classes.
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Dementia Due to HIV InfectionDementia and general cognitive decline is a hallmark of later-stage HIV infections, and is known as AIDS dementia complex (ADC). Thinking, memory, judgement, concentration, and motor function may all suffer as a result of this condition. While HIV/AIDS is incurable, antiretroviral therapy can not only prevent, but also reduce the severity of symptoms in people who have it already.
HIV Symptoms, Signs, and DiagnosisDuring the first few weeks of HIV infection, mononucleosis-like or flu-like symptoms may occur that include fever, body aches, headache, and rarely a brief rash. Many people do not have any symptoms at all. Around seven or eight years after HIV infection on average, the person may begin to feel unwell. Signs of HIV infection in both men and women include swollen lymph glands, loss of energy, loss of appetite, and loss of weight. The person begins to develop frequent infections, progressing to more unusual infections, as the immune system begins to fail.
HIV TestingHuman immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). HIV destroys the body's immune system and leads to AIDS. The Western blot and ELISA are the two types of tests most commonly used to detect HIV infection. There are also at-home HIV tests.
HIV Treatment, Prognosis, and PreventionHIV disease is not curable, because the virus infects a person's cells throughout the body. HIV prefers to target immune defense cells, and it is this progressive destruction of immune cells that leads to HIV disease and death. It can be controlled with anti-retroviral (anti-HIV) medications. Typically, the treatment regimen involves two to four drugs used together. Treatment is started as soon as HIV infection is diagnosed. Early control of HIV means the drugs will be effective for longer.
Rapid HIV TestGetting tested for HIV is now easier. On March 26, 2004, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new HIV test, one that can be done without a blood test.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are among the most common infectious diseases in the United States. STDs can be spread through any type of sexual activity involving the sex organs, the anus or mouth, or through contact with blood during sexual activity. Examples of STDs include, chancroid, chlamydia, gonorrhea, granuloma inguinale, lymphogranuloma venereum, syphilis, genital herpes, genital warts, hepatitis B, trichomoniasis, pubic lice (crabs), and scabies.Treatment is generally with antibiotics; however, some STDs that go untreated can lead to death.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.