April 27, 2021 | Written By: Mohd Syafiq
Introduction to HIV
HIV stands for "Human Immunodeficiency Virus" which attacks the human body’s immune system which is important to fight infections and diseases. In other words, the presence of this virus weakens our defence mechanism which is our immune system.
The fact is, many people with HIV only realize that they have been infected with the disease when the symptoms of HIV get worse, even though this can be detected earlier and controlled.
Many people with HIV do not know that they have been infected because the early-stage symptoms of HIV are mild and there are similarities with other diseases. HIV infection has 3 stages and each stage has its symptoms.
In the first stage, the symptoms usually will appear after 1-4 weeks of HIV infection. At this early stage, people with HIV will experience signs or symptoms such as:
Swelling of the glands
Loss of appetite
Body and muscle aches
The above signs of HIV appear due to the body's immune system trying to fight the virus. These symptoms usually last for 1-2 weeks or more.
At this stage, people with HIV do not show specific signs and symptoms, patients usually feel like they are healthy. This stage is known as the 'window period'. However, in reality, at this time, HIV is multiplying and invading white blood cells in the body rapidly.
Keep in mind, even if at this stage there are no obvious signs, people with HIV can still spread the disease to others. At the end of the second stage period, white blood cells will decrease drastically until more serious symptoms begin to appear.
During this stage, the body almost completely loses its ability to fight disease because the number of white blood cells is too low.
If left untreated, the infection will progress to AIDS. Here are the signs that appear in the last stages of HIV infection:
Swollen lymph nodes in the neck and groin.
Fever for more than 10 days.
Feeling tired almost all the time.
Sweating at night.
Weight loss drastically
Rash on the skin.
Severe and prolonged diarrhoea.
Fungal infections of the mouth, throat or vagina.
Easy bruising or bleeding for no known reason.
Until now there is still no cure for HIV but there are treatments that can slow the progression of the disease and improve the quality of life of HIV patients. Early treatment can help improve overall health and increase the life expectancy of HIV patients. The main treatment of HIV disease is with antiretroviral therapy. Besides, HIV patients are also advised to:
Be active and do activities such as yoga and meditation
Eat a healthy and balanced diet
Take the annual flu vaccine, and pneumococcal vaccine every 5 years
Avoid risky activities to prevent HIV transmission
How To Prevent HIV
HIV is spread through fluids from the body, such as blood, semen and vaginal fluids. HIV does not spread through saliva, sharing food or drinks, shaking hands and hugging people with HIV.
Here are ways to prevent HIV transmission:
Avoid having unprotected sex.
Practice safe sex such as using a condom
Avoid exchanging partners
Avoid direct contact with fluids from other people's bodies especially if there are wounds on the body
Avoid sharing personal items such as combs, toothbrushes and razors
Perform regular HIV status checks.
If exposed to high-risk activities, post-exposure prophylaxis, which is a drug to prevent HIV infection, can be used. This method is only effective if taken 72 hours after exposure to HIV. But keep in mind, the effectiveness of this drug is not one hundred per cent even if taken within 72 hours and the best prevention is to avoid high-risk activities.
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