HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus – the virus that affects the body’s immune system. When the HIV infection spreads, a person is said to be suffering from AIDS – the abbreviated version of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome.

Who can get HIV?

Anybody is susceptible to HIV/AIDS. The infection may not show symptoms for as long as 10 years. In spite of suffering from HIV/AIDS, the person can appear healthy and happy for years.

Therefore, the only way to be sure of being diagnosed with HIV/AIDS or not, is to get tested. This way, the patient can get access to early treatment. On-time and appropriate treatment can help him/her stay healthy, live longer and avoid spreading of the virus.

How does HIV virus spread?

HIV spreads through the HIV-infected person’s

  • body fluids

  • semen or vaginal fluids

  • breast milk

It can also spread through

  • blood-to-blood contact

  • sharing needles or

  • having unprotected sex

  • needles used for tattooing or body piercing

HIV does not transmit by sharing utensils, touching, hugging or kissing the infected person on the cheeks. It also does not spread through mosquito bites, door knobs and handles, or toilet seats. Further, contact with tears or sweat have not shown transmission of HIV virus.

People can prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and pregnancies by using condoms in combination with another form of birth control.

What are the symptoms of HIV?

HIV symptoms may include:

  • Fever

  • chills

  • joint pain

  • muscle ache

  • sore throat

  • night sweats

  • red rashes

  • enlarged glands

  • tiredness

  • weakness

  • weight loss

In asymptomatic HIV infection, symptoms may not be visible for as long as 10 years. During this time period, the HIV virus damages the person’s immune system. If left untreated, it can weaken the ability of the immune system to fight off the infection. It is this stage that is known as AIDS.

How does the therapy work?

Today’s medications have reduced the death rate by about 80% in people suffering from AIDS. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS or no vaccines for its prevention, but it can be treated. Earlier is the HIV detection through blood test, the more likely the treatment is to be successful. The treatment is permanent and lifelong.

Antiretroviral medications do not prevent the transmission of HIV viruses. These medications can only help keep down the viral load, but the viruses are still present in the body.

The combination of two different anti-HIV drugs gives powerful attack on HIV. During pregnancy, anti-HIV medications also reduce HIV in the infected mother’s body. This also reduces the transmission of HIV to the foetus during pregnancy. The HIV infected person who gets the anti-HIV treatment can still lead a healthy and productive life.