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AIDS - the final stage of HIV infection

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C. A. V. Nogueira, M.D. ▼ | September 23, 2009
AIDS is a global disease that causes fear for the last 30 years. Since it is a very serious conditions, the disease itself if surrounded with many myths and false information.
AIDS ribbon
AIDS ribbonAIDS is a global disease that causes fear for the last 30 years. Since it is a very serious conditions, the disease itself if surrounded with many myths and false information.

The virus that causes AIDS is called HIV - Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is different from most other viruses because it attacks the immune system which gives our bodies the ability to fight infections. HIV virus finds and destroys a type of white blood cell (T cells or CD4 cells) and without them our immune system can't protect our body from dangerous attacks.

AIDS - Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome - is the final stage of HIV infection. One of the main problems with AIDS is that it can take years for a person infected with HIV, even without treatment, to reach this stage.

That means that infected person can have the virus without knowing and during the years many other persons can be infected. Having AIDS actually means that the virus has weakened the immune system to the point at which the body has a difficult time fighting infections. When someone has one or more of these infections and a low number of T cells, he or she has AIDS.

When the human immune system is weak it becomes susceptible to opportunistic infections. Those infections are generally illnesses that don't make people with a healthy immune system sick or don't occur often.

There are many kinds of opportunistic infections, including other viruses, bacterial infections, and some types of cancers. Even common colds can become more dangerous and the flu is considered a serious condition in persons with HIV/AIDS.

Common HIV/AIDS related health issues include tuberculosis, hepatitis C and many other serious life treating diseases. The next problems with AIDS it that it can make treating opportunistic infections more difficult. When an individual's immune system is kept healthy through diet, exercise, and working with health care providers, there are smaller chance of an opportunistic infections.

The third and the biggest problem is that there is no cure yet for HIV/AIDS. That means that HIV and AIDS are life threatening conditions.

Fortunately, it is well-known that HIV occurs through having sex, sharing needles and syringes with someone infected with HIV, and being exposed to HIV before or during birth or through breast feeding. That means that HIV transmission can be prevented through avoiding behaviors that expose someone to the virus and by taking preventive measures if identified risk behaviors occur.

To protect yourself one must not use illegal drugs and remember ABC rule: A - abstinence, B - be faithful, C - condoms can save your life. Now we know that some prejudice from the early days os AIDS are not true and one of them - which cause many problems and mass histeria - is that HIV is not transmitted through day-to-day activities.

So, shaking hands, hugging, or a casual kiss with an infected person is safe. There is no reason no to touch your friend at all if he's infected. The fact number two: You cannot become infected from a toilet seat, drinking fountain, doorknob, dishes, drinking glasses, food, or pets. The fact number three: You cannot get HIV from mosquitoes.

Research has advanced HIV/AIDS treatments greatly since the early days of the epidemic. The new methods of treatment and new HIV drugs can slow down the virus's attack on the human immune system. Living with HIV/AIDS requires consultation with an HIV doctor who can help individuals with treatment and drug decisions.

The decision to start drug treatment should only be made in consultation with a doctor based on clinical status, immune system health, whether a diagnosis of AIDS has been made, and whether a treatment plan can be maintained.

While treatment has its benefits, it also has its risks, such as multiple side effects from HIV drugs and therapies, potential toxicity from drug treatments, as well as possible resistance of HIV to drugs over time.