Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is the term that describes the complex fatal clinical condition due to an infection primarily caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) which progressively destroys the body’s ability to protect itself from disease-causing organisms. It is important to remember that not every HIV infection results to AIDS. That means that HIV infection is just like every other common infection, but should not be allowed to progress to virulence stage. This is why its early detection through close attention to HIV mode of transmission; and HIV/AIDS signs and symptoms becomes critical to its prompt clinical evaluation, management and possible cure. This deadly disease under discussion, affects people of all ages and races. AIDS is considered a pandemic (a disease outbreak which is present over a large area) and is actively spreading. Since its recognition in 1981, it has caused above 40 million deaths globally as of 2012. This article seeks to bring to the fore the importance of HIV early detection and presentation for expert screening that will promote timely clinical management and monitoring of this disease that waste the human flesh to death.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF HIV/AIDS OPERATION IN A HUMAN
AIDS stands for the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. It is caused by Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and; it is noticeable when the virus has destroyed so much of the body’s defenses thereby, causing the immune-cell counts to fall to a critical level that promotes the thriving of certain life-threatening opportunistic infections. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a condition that describes a critically advanced state of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection. At the stage of AIDS, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection has progressed, causing significant loss of white blood cells (CD4 cells which define the health of our immune system) and immune system damage.
AIDS was first recognized clinically in 1981 among the homosexuals. HIV — the virus that causes AIDS was identified in 1983.
The term AIDS can be described as:
- A – Acquired – AIDS is not inherited from parents. It is acquired after birth and can be transmitted from mother to child during birth.
- I – Immune – The body’s immune system includes all the organs and cells that work together to fight off infections or diseases naturally.
- D – Deficiency – When the body immune system is “deficient,” it means it is not working the natural way it should against pathogenic organisms that attack cells of the body.
- S – Syndrome – A syndrome is a collection of associated symptoms and signs of diseases in the body.
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome is the final stage of HIV infection. People at this stage of HIV infection have badly damaged immune systems, which expose them to high risk of opportunistic infections. AIDS is diagnosed if there is clinical evidence of one or more specific opportunistic infections, certain cancers or a very low number of body’s natural defense (CD4) cells. It simply means that HIV/AIDS weakens the immune system and allows opportunistic infections that should have been resisted ordinarily by the body natural defense to easily attack and destroy the human body cells.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF HIV/AIDS
Many people do not develop symptoms after being infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Others have a history of flu-like illness within several days to weeks after exposure to the virus. Early HIV symptoms and signs include unexplained fever, sweats (particularly at night), headache, tiredness, weight loss, gastrointestinal problems, throat inflammation, rashes, sores of the mouth and genitals, muscle pains and unexplained, non-painful enlargement of more than one group of lymph nodes (other than in the groin). Some of these symptoms and signs usually disappear on their own within few weeks. After that, the person feels normal without any untoward symptom of infection. This asymptomatic phase often lasts for years.
The progression of HIV disease varies widely among individuals. This state may last from a few months to more than 10 years. During this period the virus destroys the cells that are the primary infection fighters which are a type of white blood cell called CD4 cells (which define the health status of our immune system). Though a person may not have symptoms at this stage, he or she is contagious and can pass HIV to others. Once the CD4 cell count falls to a critical level, an infected person is said to have Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Sometimes, the diagnosis of AIDS is made when a person has an unusual infection or cancer symptoms and signs that show weak or destroyed the immune system.
Some of the pronounced and complex symptoms and signs of HIV/AIDS are identified. They include pneumonia caused by Pneumocystis carinii which causes wheezing, persistent cough that lasts for weeks, producing thin and clear mucus; shortness of breath and recurring respiratory tract infections. There is brain infection by toxoplasmosis, a protozoa disease which can cause troubled- thinking or symptoms that mimic a stroke. It is common to experience symptoms and signs of widespread infection with bacteria called mycobacterium avium complex which can cause fever and weight loss (wasting syndrome). There are symptoms associated with yeast infection of the swallowing tube (esophagus) which causes pain when swallowing.
There are widespread symptoms and signs of HIV/AIDS with certain fungi like histoplasmosis which can cause fever, cough, anemia and other diseases. HIV/AIDS presents signs and symptoms of lymphoma (a form of cancer of the lymphoid tissue) in the brain, which can cause fever and defective mental acuity. Symptoms and signs of cancer of the soft tissues called Kaposi’s sarcoma, which presents brown, reddish or purple spots that develop on the skin or in the mouth are common.
The type of infections that show the signs and symptoms above partly depends on what organisms are common in the person’s environment. These infections may affect nearly every biological system of HIV/AIDS patient.
MODE OF TRANSMISSION OF HUMAN IMMUNODEFICIENCY VIRUS (HIV)
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is transmitted when the virus enters the body, usually through contact with infected cells or semen. Most commonly, HIV infection is spread by having sex with an infected partner. The virus can enter the body through the lining of the vagina, vulva, penis, rectum or mouth during oral sex. HIV frequently spreads among drug abusers/addicts who share needles or syringes that are contaminated with blood from infected persons. Women can transmit HIV to their babies during pregnancy or birth, when infected maternal cells enter the baby’s circulation or through breast-feeding. HIV can spread in health-care settings through accidental needle sticks that could expose healthcare givers to contaminated body fluids (blood cells). HIV can spread through transfusion of contaminated blood or blood components during surgery, childbirth and treatment of accident victims, anemia and malaria. Also if tissues or organs from infected persons are transplanted, recipients may acquire HIV. HIV can be transmitted if people have unprotected contact with blood-letting instruments such as contaminated clippers and razor blades. People who already have sexually transmitted infections such as syphilis, genital herpes, chlamydial infection, human papillomavirus, gonorrhea or bacterial vaginosis are more likely to acquire HIV infection during sex with infected partners.
It is very important to know that HIV does not spread through casual contact such as preparing food, sharing towels and beddings or via swimming pools, telephones, toilet seats, contact with uncontaminated saliva, mosquitoes or other insects.
HOW TO AVOID HIV/AIDS INFECTION
Since Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) infection has neither cure nor vaccine presently, and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) medications are expensive and associated with serious side effects, it is very important to avoid certain things that can promote HIV/AIDS infection and progression. Patients should avoid cigarette smoking which can alter the clinical outcome of antiretroviral therapy and cause decline in CD4 (which measures of the health status of our immune system) cells count. People should avoid any form of unprotected sexual intercourse. Any form of accidental needle stick injury or needle-exchange programmes or tattoos, piercings and scarification that may expose the body to HIV infected blood cells should be avoided. People should carefully avoid any form of self-medication and unnecessary delays in reporting to HIV- expert centres when any or combinations of HIV/AIDS signs and symptoms are noticed.
Patients should carefully watch out for the signs and symptoms of HIV/AIDS and promptly report to HIV-designated centres for proper screening and possible therapy. HIV infection is like every other infection as long as you do not allow it to degenerate to AIDS. Patients should not be ashamed to declare their HIV status and submit themselves for timely counseling, management, and monitoring. Since HIV is mainly transmitted through sexual intercourse, then people should be faithful to their married partners or abstain from unholy intercourse and be careful to maintain a healthy lifestyle. If HIV infected, be under an expert care and add to your routine diet, micronutrients obtainable from fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, meats and dairy products.