What Are the Symptoms of HIV?
AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is the final stage of HIV infection. The pathogen is transmitted mainly by unprotected sex and contaminated drugs. It weakens the immune system and make patients more susceptible to other diseases.
Medications prolong the life expectancy of people with AIDS. However, healing is not possible. Read here answers to all important questions about: What is AIDS, what is HIV? What are the symptoms, which treatment options are available and what is the prognosis for AIDS?
The abbreviation AIDS stands for “acquired immune deficiency syndrome”. AIDS is acquired because it is caused by the infection with the HI virus (HIV). The disease is referred to as syndrome because there are different signs of disease that occur simultaneously and are related to each other.
What is HIV?
HIV stands for “human immunodeficieny virus”, translated as: human immunodeficiency virus. HIV and AIDS are often used as synonyms in everyday life. But this is wrong. HIV infection leads to AIDS only at an advanced stage.
The term HIV virus is also not correct, since the word virus is already contained in HIV (correctly, it is called HI virus). In addition, some people use the term “AIDS virus” for the pathogen. Even this word is not medically correct.
The first AIDS cases were documented in 1981. In 1983 and 1986 respectively, the two HIV viruses 1 and 2 were identified as AIDS pathogens. It is believed that the HI virus originates from a monkey virus. This so-called “simian immunodeficiency virus” (SIV) infects monkeys of the Old World, such as chimpanzees and gorillas in Africa. It is assumed that the origin of HIV / AIDS in the consumption of infected chimpanzee meat is early 20th century.
HIV / AIDS: spread
There are two types of HI virus, HIV-1 and -2. In addition, there are different subtypes, which are denoted by letters. HIV-1 is responsible for the global AIDS pandemic. A pandemic is the frequent occurrence of a disease in the same period, but in different places. About 85 percent of people infected with HIV-1 live in Africa and Southeast Asia. HIV-2 is only common in West Africa.
The path of the spread of the disease can be estimated from the subtypes. Subtype B is most frequently found in industrializations such as in North America, Europe and Australia. It is understood that the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s is the outcome of this spread. Subtypes C and E are mainly found in Asia. It is possible that they originate originally from the southern and central Africa.
According to estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO), 33.3 million people were infected with the HI virus at the end of 2009 in worldwide. 2.6 million of them had a new start in 2009. About 95 percent of all infected people live in developing countries. In addition, it is estimated that by 2009, 30 million people have already died of AIDS worldwide, including 1.8 million in 2009. At the time of diagnosis, the patients are on average in the middle 30.
What Are the Symptoms of HIV?
HIV symptoms vary according to the stage of the disease and are divided into three classes (A, B and C). In the initial stage, an HIV infection causes symptoms like a febrile infection. A so-called HIV skin rash can also occur. This is followed by a latency period of several years without symptoms. Later, AIDS can develop.
HIV symptoms at the beginning
HIV symptoms of class A include various disease patterns which occur immediately after infection with HI virus or in the first years after infection.
First symptoms of HIV
The fresh HIV infection often remains unnoticed. It can manifest as a febrile infection within six days to six weeks after infection (most often two to three weeks after infection with HIV).
First signs of HIV are:
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
These symptoms are often associated with harmless infections such as colds, which is why they are often not recognized as an indication of HIV infection. It is more important to pay attention to these symptoms if you are concerned about having been infected with the HI virus just before – for example, because you had unprotected sexual intercourse or the condom burst during sex. Overall, the early stage of HIV infection resembles a mildly progressive Pfeiffer’s glandular fever (mononucleosis).
Another possible HIV sign is a skin rash: HIV causes slight skin changes in the trunk in some patients. Medics then speak of a discrete HIV exanthem on the body stem. Also, the terms HIV rash and HIV stains are used for this.
Decay of the signs: HIV in the latency phase
After the first HIV symptoms subsided, the virus infection remains silent for several years. Patients do not notice symptoms at this time. This silent (subclinical) phase of the infection (also called latency phase) ends with a generalized lymphadenopathy.
By this, medical professionals understand a swelling of the lymph nodes all over the body. This lymphadenopathy syndrome (LAS) can last for several months.
HIV symptoms: AIDS related complex (ARC)
It belongs to class B of HIV symptoms. The patients at this stage have various diseases that occur because the HI virus has weakened the immune system.
However, the full-scale AIDS symptoms do not yet occur. The following HIV signs may have patients with ARC:
- Long-lasting diarrhea (over four weeks)
- Unintended heavy weight loss
- Long lasting fever
- Night sweats
- Bacterial infections caused by bacteria
- Bacterial blood poisoning (sepsis)
- Herpes zoster
- Oral hair leukoplakia (whitish changes on the lateral tongue border)
- Fungi caused by fungi
- HIV symptoms – Woman: vaginal inflammation caused by fungi, malignant changes in the cervix
HIV symptoms: AIDS
In the advanced stage, HIV infection leads to AIDS. Signs of this are counted as class C of HIV symptoms. In AIDS patients, the severely weakened immune system can no longer fight many pathogens, so that patients develop opportunistic infections.
A healthy immune system would normally fight these pathogens and prevent a disease outbreak.
An opportunistic infection with the following pathogens is seen as a sign of AIDS in HIV-positive people:
- JC virus: pathogen of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (disease of the nervous system with various failures such as paralysis or speech disorders)
- Toxoplasma gondii: pathogen of brain inflammation (encephalitis)
- CMV: trigger of retinal inflammation (retinitis)
- Herpesvirus 8: Pathogens of Kaposi’s sarcoma (malignant neoplasm of blood vessels, which are visible as brownish spots, also referred to as AIDS spots)
- Pneumocystis jirovecii: Exciters of pneumonia
- Candida fungi: trigger for infections of the esophagus and the deep airways
In addition to infectious diseases, there are other AIDS-defining diseases. Thus, the following diseases are considered to be signs of AIDS in HIV infection:
- Wasting syndrome (severe weight loss, about ten percent of body weight in six months)
- Malignant lymphomas (lymph gland cancer)
AIDS Causes and Risk Factors
The cause of AIDS is the infection with the HI virus. It belongs to the family of retroviruses, because it possesses a special enzyme (the reverse transcriptase) which is extremely important for its survival and its propagation.
The HI virus consists of genetic information (RNA), packaged in a protein capsule (capsid) and surrounded by a membrane. It is about 80 to 100 nanometers (milliliters of millimeters).
AIDS: Sequence of infection
For example, when the HI virus reaches the mucosa of another human being through sperm, it is taken up there by certain cells. These so-called Langerhans cells belong to the immune system and migrate with the virus into the surrounding lymph nodes. There, they present the virus to other immune cells, the so-called T-helper cells (CD4-positive cells), which attack them by the AIDS pathogen.
The infected T helper cells spread the HI virus with the bloodstream or the lymph all over the body and attack other lymphatic organs (such as spleen, bone marrow) and central nervous system (CNS).
The viruses also force the T helper cells to produce new viruses and destroy them in this way. In addition, infected T helper cells are detected and killed by other immune cells. For example, about one billion new viruses are formed every day, and about as many CD4 cells are lost.
Since CD4 cells as regulators of the immune system play a key role in the body’s defense system, the immune system gradually collapses as a result of its decline. This immunodeficiency can lead to other infectious diseases and tumors that lead to death.
AIDS Examinations and Diagnosis
If you are concerned about having stuck with the HI virus, check with your family doctor. He can then refer you to an AIDS specialist, such as an internist with experience in infectious diseases.
First, your doctor will give you detailed information about your medical history (anamnesis). He asks you, among other things, the following questions:
- Did you have unprotected sex?
- Do you inject drugs?
- Do you have a medical profession?
- Were you in Southeast Asia or Sub-Sahara and had there physical contact with locals?
- Did you have flu-like symptoms in the last few weeks?
Your doctor will then examine you. In doing so, he / she looks for a possible skin rash and scans your lymph nodes for enlargements.
To confirm or exclude an infection with the HIV virus, you will be given blood for an HIV test.
In recent years, HIV research has led to new insights and has led the way to new drugs against HIV. Life expectancy and quality of the patients can be improved with the preparations, even if their application is connected with side effects. An HIV cure is not possible with medication.
HIV & AIDS Drugs
HIV therapy must be adopted to each individual patient. Among other things, the exact type of virus is crucial. This means that in the laboratory, the HI virus is examined for certain peculiarities, in order to be able to select suitable drugs. The preparations must be taken regularly and permanently. Only then is AIDS therapy successful.
Drug-HIV therapy is aimed at:
- To alleviate the symptoms
- To prevent the transition to a higher stage of disease
- To rebuild a stable immune system
- To prevent a harmful permanent activation of the immune system and To reduce infectiousness
AIDS / Living with HIV
Drug treatment is the basis of AIDS therapy. In addition, as a patient, you can do more for your health:
- Look for a doctor who is an AIDS specialist and who you like
- Follow the instructions of your doctor. Take your medication according to your schedule. If you are not able to tolerate the preparations, do not simply discontinue them, but ask your doctor for advice
- Let yourself be vaccinated against diseases that you might weaken or become more severe because of HIV infection, such as flu (influenza vaccination) or pneumonia
- Do not smoke and do not take any drugs. This would weaken your body in addition.
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables as well as whole grain products. This will strengthen your immune system. If you have problems with the gastrointestinal tract, talk to a nutritionist
- Avoid foods that may contain pathogens. These include unpasteurized dairy products, raw eggs, oysters, raw fish and raw meat. Wash raw fruit and vegetables thoroughly before eating
- Move regularly. This will not only make your body fitter, but you can also partially prevent depression, which often occur in HIV-infected people
- Sleep well enough – this strengthens your immune system
- Be careful with pets. Always wash your hands after stroking animals and wear gloves when cleaning the litter box or a rodent barn (to protect against toxoplasmosis)
- Relax regularly. Any type of relaxation like Progressive Muscle Relaxation or Autogenic Training is good for your immune system
- Wash your hands regularly. This is especially important when you prepare or eat meals
- Look for an AIDS counseling center to get comprehensive information on living with HIV, support opportunities and help with self-help
AIDS Disease History and Prognosis
The HIV history is divided into several stages:
- Acute infection: from the sixth day after the infection up to six weeks as a febrile infection.
- Inconspicuous persistence: For years, the infection may remain asymptomatic.
- Lymphadenopathy: Lymph node swelling lasting several months.
- Aids related complex (ARC): Patients suffer from diseases that are due to a weakened immune system
- AIDS-defining diseases such as pneumonia or tuberculosis occur (sometimes only decades after infection with HIV)
With the current therapeutic possibilities, the life expectancy of HIV-positive people in United States is about the same as the healthy persons. However, this is only true for younger people who are healthy and begin therapy around the age of 25 years.
Patients with other diseases such as hepatitis B or C, the elderly or drug addicts have a limited life expectancy. In other countries with less good health care, the survival of people with AIDS is significantly reduced.