Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome or AIDS is the last and the most serious stage of HIV. The damage to the immune system is widespread at this stage.
The body becomes prone to severe infections, causing further weakness. AIDS is a chronic condition with life-threatening complications.
AIDS was first identified in the early 1980s. Millions of people around the world are affected by the global AIDS epidemic.
Symptoms of AIDS
AIDS is diagnosed after the person develops an AIDS related infection. These infections are such that they do not develop in people with healthy immune systems. Such infections are called as opportunistic infections.
The common symptoms of AIDS include:
- Night sweats such that the person gets soaked
- Shaking chills
- Fever above 100 degree F for many days
- Chronic diarrhea
- Shortness of breath
- Persistent white spots on tongue or mouth
- Weight loss
- Skin rashes
- Blurred vision
Some of the common illness and cancers that occurs in people with AIDS whose CD4 count is below 350/ml include:
- Herpes Simplex virus
- Oral thrush
- Vaginal thrush
- Herpes zoster infection
- Non-Hodgkins lymphoma
When the CD4 count falls below 200/ml, it can lead to:
- Candida esophagitis infection
- Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia infection
CD4 count below 100/ml leads to:
- AIDS dementia
- Toxoplasmosis encephalitis
- Wasting syndrome
When the count of CD4 cells falls below 50/ml:
- Cytomegalovirus infection
- Mycobacterium avium infection
What Causes AIDS?
AIDS is caused by HIV. H stands for Human I stands for immunodeficiency and V is the acronym for virus, that attacks the immune system cells.The virus attacks the T-cells and uses these cells to make copies of itself. This destroys the cells of the immune system, which leads to AIDS. Many people refer to AIDS as the advanced HIV infection.
As the immune system gets damaged by the attack of the virus, it becomes prone to infections. The body cannot fight infections and soon, the affected person develops different diseases.If left untreated, within 10 years, the person’s immune system is fully damaged, leading to AIDS.
Risk Factors for AIDS
The main risk factor for developing AIDS is an HIV infection. HIV infection is spread mostly due to sexual contact. The HIV is present in the body fluids of the infected person. It should be noted HIV is not found in the sweat and urine of the infected person. The virus survives in semen, vaginal and anal fluids, blood as well as breast milk. Therefore, it spreads through unprotected sex and kissing that causes exchange of saliva with an infected partner, infected blood transmission and an HIV positive mother nursing a baby.
Other ways of transmission of HIV are sharing infected needles, syringe and other injecting equipments. The virus can also pass from the infected mother to her unborn child during pregnancy or at birth.
Diagnostic Tests Related to AIDS
AIDS is detected after measuring the CD4 lymphocyte count, chest X-rays, Pap smears, etc. Other lab tests help detect other infections or complications related to AIDS.
Treatment for AIDS
Till date, there is no cure for HIV/AIDS. There are worldwide studies going on to find a cure for this dreaded disease. Antiretroviral treatment helps in prolonging the lives of the HIV positive people. AIDS is no longer a death sentence. Many modern combination antiretroviral therapies help people with AIDS defy death and improve the quality and length of life.
Opportunistic infections are treatable today with modern medicines. However, complex infections such as toxoplasmosis requires advanced medical care.
In later stages of AIDS, the affected person requires palliative care and a lot of emotional support. This support from friends, family and loved ones is very important for the patient. In many countries, HIV/AIDS is still a disease marred with myth and social stigma. Thus, patients are never given the much needed antiretroviral therapy and support as they are left to fend for themselves.
AIDS is the end stage of HIV. In many countries, people are scared of social stigma or are unable to reach out for medical help due to financial constraints. Thus, HIV in such cases progresses to AIDS and shortens the lifespan and reduces the quality of life due to lack of treatment. There are many government centers that provide free HIV/AIDS treatment as well as counselling to the affected person and his/her family. Speak to your doctor or a social worker and seek help to improve the quality of life after HIV.
Written by: healthplus24.com team
Date last updated: January 16, 2015