HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a sexually transmitted infection that can cause AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). HIV is a chronic virus that damages the immune system—it attacks T cells, or CD4 cells in the immune system, and makes copies of itself. After a long period of time, an untreated HIV patient can develop AIDS, meaning that the body’s immune system is so weakened that it cannot fight off disease.. While there is currently no cure for HIV/AIDS, there are drugs that can radically reduce the speed of the disease’s progression. There are over 200,000 cases of HIV/AIDS in the U.S. yearly.
HIV is spread through infected semen, vaginal secretions, or blood. There are several ways you can contract HIV:
- Having sex. If you have oral, vaginal, or anal intercourse with an infected partner, you are at risk of having their infected semen, vaginal secretions, or blood enter your body.
- Sharing needles.
- Blood transfusions. It’s very rare as hospitals and blood banks screen all blood first, but it’s still possible.
- From mother to child. HIV-positive mothers can transmit the disease to their child through pregnancy or breast-feeding.
Learn more about other sexually transmitted diseases here.
Symptoms of HIV
A few months after being exposed to the HIV virus, someone develops a primary HIV infection, also called an acute HIV infection. Primary HIV feels similar to the flu, with symptoms like fever, body aches, sore throat, and swollen lymph nodes. Because acute HIV feels similar to the flu and symptoms can be mild, it’s sometimes overlooked. However, the viral load, or the amount of HIV in the blood is high, so the infection spreads more easily.
The next stage of HIV is clinical latent infection, or chronic HIV. While there are almost zero symptoms associated with chronic HIV (some patients have swollen lymph nodes), the virus is still in the body and bloodstream. Over time, the virus continues to damage the immune system. This is associated with the following HIV symptoms: weight loss, shingles, fever, weight loss, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, and diarrhea.
Symptoms of AIDS
Without HIV treatment to slow down the disease, HIV typically turns into AIDS after approximately ten years with the infection. By then, much of the immune system has been destroyed, making it easier for someone to be severely susceptible to many infections. While these infections could exhibit a whole slew of symptoms, common symptoms of AIDS infections are constant fever, diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, rashes and strange white rashes on the tongue and mouth.
While there is currently no cure for HIV/AIDS, there are a variety of drugs available that can control and slow the virus down. There are several classes of drugs; each class controls the virus in a unique way, so you should consult a doctor to find out which combination of drugs might work best for you. Everyone with HIV/AIDS should have an antiviral medication regimen. Of course, treatment does have negative side effects, like nausea and heart disease, and treatment involves taking specific medications at certain times of the day, each and every day. Work with your doctor to figure out what treatment route is right for you. Your doctor should also closely monitor your viral load and CD4 counts to ensure that the treatment path you’re on is working.
Schedule an HIV/AIDS appointment with Advanced Urology in the Chicago area
There are treatments for HIV/AIDS. If you worry that you’ve been exposed to the virus, contact a doctor right away. Advanced Urology is here for you. We’re medical experts that can help with any sexually transmitted infection. Don’t hesitate to call us today at 815.409.4930. We offer services near Chicago, Joliet, Frankfort, New Lenox, Morris, and Naperville, Illinois.