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Home > Blog > HIV & AIDS: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

HIV & AIDS: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

HIV & AIDS: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

Max Lab

Sep 13, 2022

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections that are passed from one person to another through sexual contact. Many health care providers use the term “infection” instead of “disease” because a person with an infection may have no symptoms but still require treatment. When untreated, an STI can become a disease. HIV is a sexually transmitted infection, but it can progress to a disease called acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) when HIV infection is untreated. By damaging the immune system, HIV interferes with the body's ability to fight infection and disease. HIV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Without medication, it may take years before HIV weakens the immune system to the point that people may contract AIDS. Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a chronic, potentially life-threatening condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). There's no cure for HIV/AIDS, but medications can control the infection and prevent the progression of the disease. Read on to know more about these conditions:

Symptoms of HIV

HIV is a virus that damages the immune system. HIV is caused by a virus. It can spread through sexual contact, illicit injection drug use or sharing needles, contact with infected blood, or from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. The first few weeks after someone contracts HIV is called the acute infection stage. During this time, the virus reproduces rapidly. During this stage, some people have no symptoms at first. However, many people experience symptoms in the first month or so after contracting the virus, but they often don’t realize HIV causes those symptoms. Early symptoms of HIV can include:

  • fever
  • chills
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • general aches and pains
  • skin rash
  • sore throat
  • headache

Symptoms of HIV vary from person to person, but they’re similar in men and women. These symptoms can come and go or get progressively worse. If a person has been exposed to HIV, they may also have been exposed to other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). These may include gonorrhoea, chlamydia, syphilis and trichomoniasis. Men, and those with a penis, may be more likely than women to notice symptoms of STIs such as sores on their genitals.

HIV Diagnosis

HIV is diagnosed with either a blood test or a saliva test. One can take a test at home, in a healthcare provider’s office or at a location that provides testing in your community. All tests for HIV antibodies will look for HIV-1, which is more common than HIV-2.  Combination tests have been developed to find HIV antibodies and HIV antigen test called p24 antigens. Testing is important to protect others since an individual can be infected with the virus even if they don't feel sick. 

What is AIDS?

AIDS is a disease that can develop in people with HIV. It’s the most advanced stage of HIV. But just because a person has HIV doesn’t mean AIDS will develop. The treatment slows down the effects of the virus, so not everyone with HIV progresses to AIDS. But without treatment, almost all people living with HIV will advance to AIDS.

Causes and symptoms of AIDS

AIDS is caused by having too few immune cells to fight off other illnesses. The symptoms of HIV and AIDS vary, depending on the phase of infection. Symptoms of AIDS can include:

  • recurrent fever
  • chronic swollen lymph glands, especially of the armpits, neck, and groin
  • chronic fatigue
  • night sweats
  • Dark splotches under the skin or inside the mouth, nose, or eyelids.

Prevention

Today, more tools than ever are available to prevent HIV. One can use strategies such as abstinence (not having sex), never sharing needles, and using protection the right way during sex. If one thinks they have been exposed to HIV, it is advised to consult the healthcare provider as soon as possible. Consider getting tested to be sure. There's no vaccine to prevent HIV infection and no cure for HIV/AIDS. But one can protect oneself and others from HIV AIDS by keeping these prevention tips in mind.

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