What is HIV?
There are various Treatment and symptoms of HIV but before we talk about that let’s first find out what HIV is. HIV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It can also be spread by contact with infected blood and from illicit injection drug use or sharing needles. It can also be spread from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding. Without medication, it may take years before HIV weakens your immune system to the point that you have AIDS.
There’s no cure for HIV/AIDS, but medications can control the infection and prevent the progression of the disease. Antiviral treatments for HIV have reduced AIDS deaths around the world, and international organizations are working to increase the availability of prevention measures and treatment in resource-poor countries.
The symptoms of HIV and AIDS vary, depending on the phase of infection.
Primary infection (Acute HIV)
Some people infected by HIV develop a flu-like illness within 2 to 4 weeks after the virus enters the body. This illness, known as primary (acute) HIV infection, may last for a few weeks.
Possible signs and symptoms include
Depending on the stage of infection, the symptoms of HIV change. Although those who have HIV are typically most contagious in the first few months after becoming infected, many don’t become aware of their condition until much later. People may not exhibit symptoms in the initial weeks following the infection. Then as it progresses, they begin to experience symptoms such as:
- Weakens immune
- Muscle aches and joint pain
- Sore throat and painful mouth sores
- Swollen lymph glands, mainly on the neck
- Weight loss
- Night sweats
Transmission Of HIV
You can only get HIV by coming into direct contact with certain body fluids from a person with HIV who has a detectable viral load. These fluids are:
- Semen (cum) and pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum)
- Rectal fluids
- Vaginal fluids
- Breast milk
For transmission to occur, a mucous membrane (found in the rectum, vagina, mouth, or tip of the penis), an open cut or sore, or a direct injection must enter the bloodstream of an HIV-negative person (from a needle or syringe).
People with HIV can live long, healthy lives and will not spread the virus through intercourse to their HIV-negative partners if they take their HIV medications as directed and achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load.
- Oral sex involves putting the mouth on the penis (fellatio), vagina or vulva (cunnilingus), or anus (rimming).
- Factors that may affect the risk of getting HIV to include:
- Ejaculation in the mouth with oral ulcers, bleeding gums, or genital sores.
- The presence of other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
- You can get other STDs from oral sex. If you get feces in your mouth during anilingus, you can get hepatitis A and hepatitis B, parasites like Giardia, and bacteria like Shigella, Salmonella, Campylobacter, and E. coli.
- The most likely cause is an injury with a contaminated needle or another sharp object.
- Careful practice of standard precautions protects patients and health care personnel from possible occupational HIV transmission.
It is crucial to remember that HIV-positive individuals who are on ART and have their viral load lowered do not transfer the virus to their sexual partners. Therefore, early access to ART and encouragement to continue treatment is essential not just to improve the health of those living with HIV but also to stop the spread of HIV.
TA’s high level of sensitivity and specificity is needed in the tests used to diagnose HIV infection in a specific person. This is accomplished in the US using an algorithm that combines data from two HIV antibody tests. After an initial ELISA test, which detects antibodies, a western blot test, which measures the size of the antigens in the test kit that bind to the antibodies, is performed. The combination of these two techniques is very precise.
What is the Window period of HIV?
Antibody tests may give false negative (no antibodies were detected despite the presence of HIV) results during the window period, an interval of three weeks to six months between the time of HIV infection and the production of measurable antibodies to HIV seroconversion. Most people develop detectable antibodies approximately 30 days after infection, although some seroconvert later. The vast majority of people (97%) have detectable antibodies by three months after HIV infection; a six-month window is extremely rare with modern antibody testing. An infected person can spread HIV throughout the window period even though an antibody test may not show that they are infected. Antiretroviral therapy can delay the development of antibodies during the window period and prolong the window period past 12 months. Patients who had post-exposure prophylactic medication did not experience this (PEP). After the typical 28-day course of treatment, those patients are required to undergo ELISA testing at various intervals, sometimes extending over the conservative window period of 6 months. Antibody tests may also yield false negative results in patients with X-linked agammaglobulinemia; other diagnostic tests should be used in such patients.
Treatment Of HIV
Antiretroviral therapy is the most effective HIV treatment (ART). The purpose of this medication cocktail is to reduce the amount of virus in your body. Antiretroviral drugs reduce the virus’ rate of expansion. By lowering the number of viruses in your body, these medications can keep you healthy.
A combination of HIV medications known as an HIV treatment regimen is used by those on ART. A person’s initial HIV treatment regimen typically consists of three HIV medications that must be taken precisely as directed from at least two separate HIV drug classes.
It’s critical to take your medications exactly as prescribed by your doctor once your therapy has begun. When a treatment doesn’t work, it’s frequently because HIV has developed drug resistance. If you don’t take your medications as directed, this could occur.
Other steps you can take include the following:
- Keep your immune system strong by eating right, quitting smoking, and learning how to avoid infection.
- Monitor your white blood cell counts to check the effect of the virus on your immune system.
- See a counselor to help you handle the strong emotions and stress that can follow an HIV diagnosis.
- Reduce stress so that you can better manage the HIV illness.
Medical experts recommend that people begin treatment for HIV as soon as they know that they are infected. Treatment is especially important for pregnant women, people who have other infections (such as tuberculosis or hepatitis), and people who have symptoms of AIDS.
Research suggests that treatment of early HIV with antiretroviral medicines has long-term benefits, such as a stronger immune system.
PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) can reduce your chance of getting HIV from sex or injection drug use. When taken as prescribed, PrEP is highly effective for preventing HIV. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is the use of medications to prevent the spread of disease in people who have not yet been exposed to a disease-causing agent, usually a virus.
- PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99%.
- PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from injection drug use by at least 74%.
When Can I Start HIV treatment?
If you have HIV, it’s important to start treatment with HIV medicine as soon as possible after diagnosis, regardless of how long you’ve had the virus or how healthy you are. HIV medicine slows the progression of HIV and can keep you healthy for many years.
It is especially important for people with HIV who have early HIV infection or an AIDS-defining condition to start HIV medicines right away. (Early HIV infection is the period up to 6 months after infection with HIV.)
Side Effects of HIV Treatment
Like most medicines, HIV medicines can cause side effects in some people. However, not everyone experiences them. The HIV medicines used today have fewer side effects and are less severe than in the past.
Side effects of HIV medicine most commonly reported include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Difficulty sleeping
- Dry mouth
Do You Need to Keep Taking HIV Treatment?
You must continue taking your HIV medicines as directed since ART is not a cure and the virus still lives in your body even if your viral load is undetectable. Your viral load will quickly increase if you stop taking your HIV medication.
Speak with your healthcare practitioner right away if you have stopped taking your HIV medication or if you are having problems taking all the dosages as directed. Up till your viral load is determined to be undetectable once more, your doctor can help you get back on track and go through the ideal methods for preventing HIV transmission to your sexual partners.
How to prevent HIV
For sexual encounters
HIV infection is possible if you share body fluids with another individual. This includes sharing the following things during sex:
- vaginal fluids
- other substances
There are several ways to prevent the contraction and transmission of HIV through sexual encounters. Here are a few things to consider.
1. Use a barrier method during sex
A form of barrier technique to stop the spread of HIV and another STIs is provided by condoms.
For those who have penises, latex condoms act as a barrier between sexual partners to prevent the exchange of biological fluids. For those with vaginas, condoms are also an option.
When someone’s penis touches your body, you should protect yourself using condoms or some other type of barrier. Not just when someone ejaculates, but at any time during a sexual interaction, you share bodily fluids.
If you’re using a condom, applying lube over it may reduce the chance that the condom breaks or falls off. The lube should be water- or silicone-based. Also, make sure you wear the condom correctly to reduce malfunctions.
You can also use additional birth control methods to prevent pregnancies.
2. Choose your sexual partners wisely
In some cases, your chances of contracting or transmitting HIV may increase with the number of sexual partners you have.
Every one of your sexual partners has a sexual history that may involve other partners. Those partners could have transmitted HIV or other STIs to your current sexual partner.
Monogamous relationships may be safe pairings if you are sexually active. This means you and your partner will only have sex with each other.
Use condoms or other barrier methods to lower your chance of contracting or transmitting HIV.
3. Consider intimate activities that don’t involve the exchange of bodily fluids
You only have a chance of contracting HIV if you share bodily fluids with another person. There are other sexual activities you can engage in that do not involve these exchanges.
Vaginal, anal, and oral sex without barrier methods may increase your chances of contracting or transmitting HIV.
4. Test yourself regularly for HIV and other STIs
You can get regular tests for HIV and STIs to stay on top of your health as well as to reduce transmitting these conditions to others.
Getting tested along with a new sexual partner(s) can ensure that you are not transmitting HIV and STIs to each other when you begin your sexual relationship.
5. Avoid misusing drugs and alcohol
Your ability to make decisions can be impacted by drug or alcohol abuse. This may cause you to act in ways that could raise your risk of catching HIV or spreading it to others, such as engaging in unprotected sex.
Stay away from circumstances where you might abuse drink and drugs and be more likely to make poor decisions regarding sex.
6. Take medications that can protect you from HIV
There are medications you can take to lower your chances of contracting HIV before and after sexual encounters.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a medication you take daily by mouth to lower your chance of contracting HIV. This may be desirable if you:
- partner with someone living with HIV
- are sexually active but not in a monogamous relationship
- inject yourself with drugs with unsterilized or shared needles
If you are worried about getting HIV from sexual contact, there is also a medication you can take. The term for this is post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).
This prescription must be taken in its initial dose within 72 hours after your sexual encounter, followed by extra doses every day for the next 28 days.
For intravenous (IV) drugs or other encounters with needles
Sharing needles with other people or using unsterilized needles to take illegal or IV drugs can increase your chance of contracting HIV and other conditions like hepatitis.
Here are a few methods to lower your chance of contracting HIV if you inject needles into yourself.
7. Don’t share needles
Never share needles with another person. You can contract HIV even doing this just one time.
8. Use sterilized needles
You should only inject yourself with sterilized needles. There are helpful ways to make sure your needles are clean. Make sure your needles are:
- from reputable sources like pharmacies or medical suppliers
- sanitized with bleach