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Do you know the difference between HIV and AIDS?

World AIDS Day 2011, spread the awareness.
World AIDS Day 2011, spread the awareness.

What is HIV?

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the cells of the immune system. Although infections may show no clinical signs for years, over time the virus reduces the strength of the immune response and leaves HIV-positive individuals susceptible to other diseases. The diseases that take advantage of HIV's effects on the immune system are known as opportunistic infections.

When was HIV discovered?

HIV first came to public attention in the early 1980s. Doctors noticed sudden spikes in the numbers of two rare diseases occurring among gay men, Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) and Pneumocystis carinii (PCP). After about a year of the disease being identified strongly with the gay population, where it was sometimes called "gay-related immunodeficiency" (GRID) or "gay cancer," researchers began to notice that the same syndrome was occurring in other groups of people - particularly in injection drug users, people from Haiti, and hemophiliacs.

How is HIV transmitted?

HIV is such a fragile virus, it doesn't live long outside the body. You are therefore also not at risk of the virus if you use public restrooms, drinking fountains, doorknobs or any other public facilities. HIV is a relatively difficult virus to transmit but it is transmitted through bodily secretions. It is not transmitted by casual contact. HIV is also found in saliva and tears, but there have been no documented cases of transmission from either of these sources. Contact with the saliva, sweat, and/or tears of a person infected with HIV does not put you at risk of the disease.

How is HIV and AIDS related?

HIV is the viral cause of the syndrome known as AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). Although everyone who develops AIDS is HIV-positive, not everyone is HIV-positive has developed AIDS. AIDS is a way of describing a whole group of symptoms and diseases associated with the damage HIV does to the immune system. The difference between AIDS and HIV is that a person is said to have AIDS, as opposed to simply being HIV positive, when either the numbers of specific types of cells in their immune system drop below a certain level or when they develop one of a specific group of opportunistic infections.

How does HIV virus works?

Your immune system contains different types of cells that help protect the body from infection. One of these types of specialized cells are called the CD4 or T-cells. HIV attacks these types of cells and uses them to make more copies of HIV. And in doing so, HIV weakens the immune system, making it unable to protect the body from illness and infection.
People without HIV infection have about 700 to 1000 CD4 cells in a drop of blood the size of a pea. HIV infected people are considered to have "normal" CD4 counts if the number is above 500 CD4 cells in that same size drop of blood.
Early in the course of the disease, the body can make more CD4 cells to replace the ones that have been damaged by HIV. Eventually, the body can't keep up and the number of functioning T-cells decreases. As more and more CD4 cells become damaged, the immune system becomes more and more weakened. Eventually, the weakened immune system leaves the body at risk for illness and infection infections.
If the number of CD4 cells in that drop of blood ever drops below 200 CD4 cells, you are classified as having AIDS.

What are the group of infections that are used as AIDS marker ?

AIDS defining illnesses includes the following ‘Opportunistic infections’:

•    Candidiasis of bronchi, trachea, or lungs
•    Cervical cancer (invasive)
•    Coccidioidomycosis, Cryptococcosis, Cryptosporidiosis
•    Cytomegalovirus disease
•    Encephalopathy (HIV-related)
•    Herpes simplex (an infection lasting longer than 1 month or in an area other than the skin such as esophagus or lungs)
•    Histoplasmosis
•    Isosporiasis
•    Kaposi's sarcoma (KS)
•    Lymphoma characterized by swollen lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy)
•    Mycobacterium avium complex
•    Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP)
•    Pneumonia (recurrent)
•    Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML)
•    Salmonella septicemia (recurrent)
•    Toxoplasmosis of the brain
•    Tuberculosis
•    Wasting syndrome

HIV treatment

The goal of HIV treatment is to reduce the levels of virus in the blood to undetectable. A group of drugs known as antiretrovirals are used to target different facets of HIV infection. They are most commonly taken as a group, a therapy called HAART (highly active antiretroviral therapy); HAART may delay the onset of AIDS in HIV-positive persons.This will slow the progression of the virus, and help an HIV-infected person maintain a strong immune system that can fight off other infections. there are currently four different types of HIV-medications:

1.    Nucleoside/nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTI)
2.    Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTI)
3.    Protease inhibitors
4.    Fusion inhibitors
Because HIV can become resistant to treatment with different medications, it is extremely important for patients to take their drugs exactly as prescribed.

Ignorance and Fear can prove fatal when it comes to HIV. Spread awareness and support people suffering from this disease. Its not hopeless when you know what is right thing to do. Stop discrimination and help to improve the quality of life of people around you. Share this article and mark the beginning towards fighting HIV.


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