HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is an immunocompromising virus that attacks the human body. If HIV is left untreated, it can turn into AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). HIV is a sexually transmitted disease (STD), but it can also be spread by contact of infected blood through syringes, from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth or breast-feeding. There is no cure for this disease, but the progress can be slowed down through medication.
There are three stages of HIV infection; they have different signs which are listed below:
In about 2 to 4 weeks after infection with HIV, about two-thirds of people will suffer from flu-like illness. These symptoms can last anywhere between a few to a few weeks. The symptoms are listed below:
- Night sweats
- Muscle aches
- Sore throat
- Mouth ulcers
In this stage, the virus multiplies at low levels, and there are no visible symptoms. You can remain in this stage for 10-15 years without any treatment. If you take HIV medicine regularly as prescribed, you can protect your health and have no potent risk of transmitting it to your sexual partner.
If you are left untreated, you can progress from HIV to AIDS; it will weaken your immune system, some of the symptoms are:
- Rapid weight loss
- Recurring fever
- Extreme tiredness
- Swelling of the lymph glands
- Blotches on or under the skin, mouth and eyelids.
- Neurologic disorders like depression and memory loss.
AIDS is caused by HIV. It damages the immunity system by killing CD4 cells which are a type of immune cells; you will contract different diseases in the absence of these cells. Every healthy individual has a CD4 count of 500 to 1,500 per cubic millimetre. If left without treatment, HIV continues to multiply and kills CD4 cells. If a person’s CD4 count falls below 200, they have contracted AIDS.
There is no cure for HIV, yet it can be suppressed using medications.
The treatment of HIV includes antiviral medicines that battle HIV disease and hinders the spread of the infection in the body. There are different subgroups of these medicines.
- Protease inhibitors: Protease is an essential enzyme that HIV requires to replicate. These medications connect to the enzyme and hinder its action, preventing HIV from making copies of itself. Some of the medicines are atazanavir/cobicistat, lopinavir/ritonavir, darunavir/cobicistat.
- Integrase inhibitors: HIV requires the integrase enzyme to infect the T cells (the cells of our immune system). This particular medication stops the integrase; the integrase inhibitors are elvitegravir, dolutegravir and raltegravir.
- Nucleoside/nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs): This hinders with the virus when it is trying to replicate, some of them include abacavir, lamivudine/zidovudine, emtricitabine, tenofovir disproxil.
- Chemokine co-receptor antagonists: These drugs prevent HIV from the entering cells.