What is AIDS?

The human immunodeficiency virus (better known as HIV), which causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS, is an infection that affects millions of people worldwide.

Note: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HIVaffects 38 million people, of whom only 26 million receive medical care with antiretroviral therapy. (1)

This places HIV at thetop of the most worrying sexually transmitted diseases. It can be transmitted by exchanging infected bodily secretions from one person to another.

Statistically, men have twice the risk of being infectedthan women(2). However, awareness campaigns have helped reduce the risk of contagion.

Important: After infection, HIV enters the blood and is attacked. But this attack does not eliminate the virus completely. In contrast, HIV is hidden inside cells.

People with HIV enter an asymptomatic period (it can last up to 10 years),where the risk of transmitting the virus is low. Then the patient goes into a relapse, because the immune system can no longer keep HIV under control.(3)

The infection continues until reaching more advanced stages , known as AIDS (clinical classification of the patient is made based on the total number of CD4 cells), where the person is more prone to other opportunistic infections.

How does AIDS manifest itself in the human body?

In most people, the symptoms of HIV can be similar to those of other diseasestag. Weeks after contracting HIV, non-specific symptoms occur, which we will explain below.

1. Typical discomforts of a flu state

In most people with HIV, a flu-like picture develops within a few weeks after infection (the virus is detectable by an HIV test).

To highlight:It presents with fever, headache, general malaise, weakness, etc. The symptoms disappear spontaneously and it means that the immune system has stopped the initial phase of the infection.

As you can see, these are symptoms similar to many other diseases,so it does not point to a diagnosis on its own. That is the importance of a test, which can help detect HIV early.

2. Cutaneous and genital affections

HIV Can cause skin symptoms produced by microorganisms such as molluscum contagiosum, Candida or human herpes virus.

A classic example is the white sores in the mouth due to Candidiasis or reddish and purplish spots on the face, face and back of the patient (known as Kaposi’s sarcoma).

Note:Among the genital conditions, bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis and vulvovaginal candidiasis stand out. To a lesser extent, it also increases the risk of contracting genital warts, caused by the human papillomavirus.(4)

3. Swollen lymph nodes

After contracting the virus, HIV enters the blood and travels to the lymph node, where it multiplies inside the cells of the immune systemtag. This causes inflammation and growth of lymph nodes in different parts of the body, which manifest as hardened and palpable subcutaneous masses.

4. Serious and recurrent opportunistic infections

HIV Destroys a person’s immune system by attacking CD4 cells and increasing the number of copies of HIV in the blood (known as the viral load).

HIV facilitates the risk of contracting microorganisms such as Candida, Tuberculosis, viruses such as Cytomegalovirus, Toxoplasmosis, Pneumocystosis, etc., which affect these weakened people, exacerbating their deteriorating condition.

5. Respiratory disorders

Upper and lower respiratory tract infections are common in patients with HIV/AIDS. Infected peoplepresent recurrent acute bronchitis, pneumonia,Candidal and tubercular pharyngitis, causing sequelae and long-term shortness of breath.

6. Chills and night sweats

They appear in the initial phase, it is due to the initial response of the immune systemagainst the virus in the blood. It is accompanied by the symptoms described in the flu-like picture.

7. Persistent fatigue

It can be caused by repeated infections , lack of appetite due to depression, adverse effects of antiretroviral treatment, or treatment for other diseases, such as hepatitis B.

8. Pelvic inflammatory disease

HIV infection is one of the risk factors for this condition. Symptoms may include pain in the lower abdomen, foul-smelling vaginal discharge, burning sensation when urinating, pain during sexual intercourse.

Important: If this disease is not treated, it can cause long-term consequences, especially during pregnancy and childbirth.

9. Gastrointestinal upsets and weight loss

There may also be appearance of mouth ulcers from Candidiasis, causing a sore throat and discomfort to eat, decreasing food intake.

10. Mental confusion and cognitive impairment

In the late phase, many people experience a myriad of syndromes, including loss of cognitive ability, grouped under the name “HIV encephalopathy . ”

Note: Symptoms may include confusion, decreased attention, decreased movement, amnesia, and autonomic disorders (retention or urinary incontinence).

Key Findings

  • HIV/AIDS is an incurable diseasethat attacks the patient’s immune system. It is transmitted mainly through sexual intercourse.
  • The only treatment is antiretrovirals,which stop the infection by decreasing the viral load. In the same way, treatment against opportunistic diseasesis applied .
  • The symptoms of AIDS are varied, they include non-specific and general, as well as those symptoms related to other diseases.
  • These include serious infections such as tuberculosis HIV encephalopathy, and cryptococcosis.

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