Dr. Saqib Khan
Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome

Introduction:

Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a condition that affects the immune system of a person, making them more vulnerable to infections and illnesses. It is caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), which attacks the immune system cells and damages their ability to fight off infections.

HIV can be transmitted through the exchange of bodily fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. This can occur through unprotected sex, sharing needles, from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding, and through blood transfusions or organ transplants.

While there is no cure for HIV/AIDS, antiretroviral therapy (ART) can help to manage the virus and prevent it from progressing into AIDS. ART involves taking a combination of medications that target different stages of the virus’s lifecycle.

Types of AIDS:

Primary HIV infection:

Primary HIV infection occurs within the first few weeks of contracting HIV. During this time, the virus rapidly replicates itself, leading to a surge in viral load. This can cause flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, sore throat, and body aches. Many people may not experience any symptoms at all.

Asymptomatic HIV infection:

Asymptomatic HIV infection is the period after primary infection where the virus remains active, but the person does not experience any symptoms. This stage can last for years, during which time the virus slowly damages the immune system.

Symptomatic HIV infection:

Symptomatic HIV infection is the stage where the person begins to experience symptoms of HIV/AIDS. These include fatigue, weight loss, fever, night sweats, and recurrent infections.

AIDS-related complex:

The AIDS-related complex is a term used to describe a set of symptoms that occur in people with HIV/AIDS but do not meet the criteria for an AIDS diagnosis. These can include weight loss, fatigue, fever, night sweats, and swollen lymph nodes.

AIDS:

AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) is the most advanced stage of HIV infection. At this point, the immune system is severely compromised, and the person is susceptible to a wide range of opportunistic infections and cancers. The criteria for an AIDS diagnosis include a CD4+ T cell count of fewer than 200 cells/mm3 or the development of an AIDS-defining illness.

Signs & Symptoms of AIDS:

Signs & Symptoms of AIDS:

Early Symptoms:

In the early stages of HIV infection, many people may not experience any symptoms at all. However, some may develop the following symptoms:

  • Fever: A persistent fever that lasts for more than a week may be a sign of HIV infection.
  • Fatigue: Feeling tired and lethargic even after getting enough sleep is a common symptom of HIV/AIDS.
  • Night sweats: Excessive sweating during the night, even when the room is cool, is a symptom of HIV/AIDS.
  • Swollen lymph nodes: Lymph nodes are part of the body’s immune system, and HIV infection can cause them to become swollen and tender.
  • Rash: A rash may develop on the skin, usually on the chest, back, and stomach.
  • Sore throat: A persistent sore throat that lasts for more than a week may be a symptom of HIV infection.

Advanced Symptoms:

As HIV progresses into AIDS, the following symptoms may develop:

  • Weight loss: Unexplained weight loss of 10% or more of the body weight may occur in people with advanced HIV/AIDS.
  • Chronic diarrhea: Diarrhea that lasts for more than a month can occur in people with advanced HIV/AIDS.
  • Sores and ulcers: Sores and ulcers may develop in the mouth, esophagus, or anus, making it difficult to swallow and eat.
  • Pneumonia: Pneumonia is a common opportunistic infection that occurs in people with advanced HIV/AIDS.
  • Neurological symptoms: HIV/AIDS can cause neurological symptoms such as confusion, memory loss, and difficulty speaking or understanding language.
  • Skin infections: Skin infections such as shingles and herpes zoster may occur in people with advanced HIV/AIDS.
  • Cancers: People with advanced HIV/AIDS are at increased risk of developing certain cancers, such as Kaposi’s sarcoma and lymphoma.

Causes of AIDS:

It is mainly transmitted through the exchange of bodily fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. In this article, we will discuss the causes of AIDS.

HIV Transmission:

HIV can be transmitted through the following ways:

  • Sexual contact: HIV is mainly transmitted through sexual contact. Unprotected vaginal, anal, and oral sex can put you at risk of contracting the virus.
  • Sharing needles: HIV can be transmitted through sharing needles or syringes with an infected person. This is commonly seen in drug users who inject drugs.
  • Mother-to-child transmission: HIV can be transmitted from an infected mother to her child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding.
  • Blood transfusions: HIV can be transmitted through blood transfusions or organ transplants from an infected donor. However, this is rare in developed countries, where donated blood and organs are screened for HIV.
  • Occupational exposure: Healthcare workers, such as doctors, nurses, and laboratory technicians, can be exposed to HIV through accidental needle sticks or contact with infected bodily fluids.

HIV Infection:

Once the HIV virus enters the body, it attacks the immune system cells, specifically the CD4 T-cells. HIV uses the CD4 T-cells to replicate itself, eventually destroying the cells. As the number of CD4 T-cells in the body decreases, the immune system weakens, making it vulnerable to infections and illnesses.

AIDS Diagnosis:

AIDS is diagnosed when the CD4 T-cell count drops below 200 cells per cubic millimeter of blood or when the person develops an AIDS-defining illness. AIDS-defining illnesses are infections and cancers that occur in people with weakened immune systems due to HIV infection.

Diagnostic Tests for AIDS:

HIV Testing:

HIV testing is the first step in the diagnosis of AIDS. There are different types of HIV tests available, including:

  • Antibody tests: Antibody tests look for antibodies produced by the immune system in response to HIV. These tests can be done on blood, saliva, or urine samples and can detect HIV infection within two to four weeks after exposure.
  • Antigen tests: Antigen tests look for HIV antigens, which are proteins produced by the virus. These tests can detect HIV infection within a week of exposure.
  • Combination tests: Combination tests detect both HIV antibodies and antigens and can detect HIV infection earlier than antibody tests alone.

Confirmatory Testing:

If the initial HIV test is positive, it is essential to confirm the diagnosis with a second test. The confirmatory test is usually an antibody test that is more specific than the initial test.

CD4 T-Cell Count:

Once a person is diagnosed with HIV, it is important to monitor the CD4 T-cell count. The CD4 T-cell count indicates the health of the immune system, and a lower count indicates a weaker immune system. The CD4 T-cell count is usually measured using a blood test.

Viral Load Test:

The viral load test measures the amount of HIV in the blood. The test helps to monitor the effectiveness of antiretroviral therapy (ART) and to determine when to start or switch to a different ART regimen. The viral load test is usually done every three to six months after starting ART.

AIDS-Defining Illnesses:

If a person with HIV develops an AIDS-defining illness, they are diagnosed with AIDS. AIDS-defining illnesses are infections and cancers that occur in people with weakened immune systems due to HIV infection. Examples of AIDS-defining illnesses include Kaposi’s sarcoma, Pneumocystis pneumonia, and Cryptococcal meningitis.

Treatment of AIDS:

Antiretroviral Therapy (ART):

Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) is the primary treatment for HIV infection and AIDS. ART involves taking a combination of antiretroviral drugs that target different stages of the HIV life cycle. ART helps to suppress the virus, prevent the progression of HIV infection to AIDS, and improve the overall health and life expectancy of people living with HIV.

The selection of antiretroviral drugs depends on several factors, such as the viral load, the CD4 T-cell count, and the presence of drug resistance. ART usually consists of three or more antiretroviral drugs from different classes, such as nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs), non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs), protease inhibitors (PIs), integrase inhibitors (INSTIs), and fusion inhibitors.

ART is usually started as soon as possible after the diagnosis of HIV infection, regardless of the CD4 T-cell count. It is important to take ART exactly as prescribed to maintain viral suppression and prevent the development of drug-resistant HIV.

Medications for AIDS-Related Infections:

People living with AIDS are more susceptible to infections and illnesses due to their weakened immune systems. Medications are available to treat and prevent AIDS-related infections, such as:

  • Antifungal medications: Antifungal medications are used to treat and prevent fungal infections, such as Candidiasis, Cryptococcal meningitis, and Aspergillosis.
  • Antibiotics: Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections, such as Tuberculosis (TB), Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC), and Streptococcus pneumoniae.
  • Antiviral medications: Antiviral medications are used to treat viral infections, such as Cytomegalovirus (CMV), Herpes simplex virus (HSV), and Human papillomavirus (HPV).
  • Immunomodulators: Immunomodulators are used to boost the immune system and reduce inflammation, such as Interleukin-2 (IL-2) and Granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF).

Prevention of AIDS:

  • Safe Sex: The most effective way to prevent the transmission of HIV is through safe sex practices. This includes using condoms consistently and correctly during sexual activity, reducing the number of sexual partners and getting tested for HIV regularly.
  • Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP): PrEP involves taking a daily pill containing two antiretroviral drugs to prevent HIV infection. PrEP is recommended for people at high risk of HIV infection, such as men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, and people in serodiscordant relationships (where one partner is HIV positive and the other is HIV negative).
  • Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP): PEP involves taking a combination of antiretroviral drugs within 72 hours of possible exposure to HIV to prevent HIV infection. PEP is recommended for people who have had unprotected sex, shared needles, or had occupational exposure to HIV (such as healthcare workers).
  • HIV Testing: HIV testing is an essential part of HIV prevention. People who know their HIV status are more likely to take steps to prevent the transmission of HIV.

Also Read:

Video Lecture about Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome :

Conclusion:

While HIV/AIDS remains a serious public health concern, advances in medical treatment have made it possible for people with the virus to live longer, healthier lives. Prevention measures such as practicing safe sex, getting tested for HIV regularly, and using clean needles can help to reduce the spread of HIV.

By Dr. Saqib Khan

I am a medical professional and research scholar having vast experience in Computer-aided drug discovery and organic Synthetic Chemistry. I also have a passion for academic and medical writing.

One thought on “Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) | How to Prevent It”
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