HIV/ AIDS: All that you need to know

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS if not treated. Unlike some other viruses, the human body can’t get rid of HIV completely, even with treatment. So once you get HIV, you have it for life.

HIV is a virus that damages the immune system. The immune system helps the body fight off infections. Untreated HIV infects and kills CD4 cells, which are a type of immune cell called T cells. Over time, as HIV kills more CD4 cells, the body is more likely to get various types of infections and cancers.

Untreated, HIV can progress to AIDS within a decade. There’s no cure for AIDS, and without treatment, life expectancy after diagnosis is about three years Trusted Source. This may be shorter if the person develops a severe opportunistic illness. However, treatment with antiretroviral drugs can prevent AIDS from developing.

Causes of HIV

People transmit HIV in bodily fluids, including:

  • blood
  • semen
  • vaginal secretions
  • anal fluids
  • breast milk

A woman living with HIV who is pregnant or has recently given birth might transfer the disease to her child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding.The risk of HIV transmission through blood transfusions is extremely low in countries that have effective screening procedures in place for blood donations.

What are the symptoms ?

Some people with HIV do not show symptoms until months or even years after contracting the virus. However, around 80 percent of people may develop a set of flu-like symptoms known as acute retroviral syndrome around 2–6 weeks after the virus enters the body.

The early symptoms of HIV/ AIDS are:

  • Joint pain
  • Muscle aches
  • Fever 
  • Sore throat
  • Weakness
  • Sweats, particularly during night time
  • Red rashes
  • Chills
  • Enlarged glands
  • Tiredness
  • Unintentional weight loss

Key facts

  • HIV continues to be a major global public health issue, having claimed more than 32 million lives so far.
  • Due to gaps in HIV services, 770 000 people died from HIV-related causes in 2018 and 1.7 million people were newly infected.
  • At the end of 2018, an estimated 79% of people living with HIV knew their status. 62% were receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) and 53% had achieved suppression of the HIV virus with no risk of infecting others.
  • In June 2019, 24.5 million people were accessing antiretroviral therapy.

How would you know if you have HIV ?

The only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested. Testing is relatively simple. You can ask your health care provider for an HIV test. Many medical clinics, substance abuse programs, community health centers, and hospitals offer them too. You can also buy a home testing kit at a pharmacy or online. All HIV testing services must follow the WHO-recommended principles known as the “5 Cs”:

  • informed Consent
  • Confidentiality
  • Counselling
  • Correct test results
  • Connection

Expanding access to treatment is at the heart of a set of targets for 2020, which aim to bring the world back on track to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

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