How to recognize HIV and AIDS by symptoms?
December the 1st is the World AIDS Day. So let’s see what’s the difference between HIV and AIDS and which symptoms of disease can help to recognize it.
What is the difference between HIV and AIDS?
HIV is a virus that attacks immune system
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). HIV can weaken the immune system to a state when the so-called opportunistic diseases start developing in the body while a healthy immune system usually handles them.
Getting in the human body, HIV weakens the immune system by attacking certain cells, designed to fight infections: T cells or CD4 cells. Over time, HIV destroys so many the cells that the organism can not defend itself against certain cancers, viruses, bacteria, fungi or parasites.
AIDS diagnosis usually is determined several years after HIV infection, when a person develops one or several very serious diseases.
An untreated HIV can lead to AIDS
HIV and AIDS are not the same thing. HIV is the virus that suppresses the immune system, while AIDS is a combination of diseases emerging in an HIV-positive person on a background of reduced immunity.
In most cases, the beginning of the HIV runs completely without symptoms. The duration of the HIV infection development period in the body depends strongly on various factors including the overall health condition of the HIV-positive person. So, many people does not have any symptoms after being infected with HIV. Others develop flu-like symptoms several days or even a few weeks after exposure to the virus. These are fever, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes in the neck. These symptoms usually disappear on their own after a few weeks. Years might pass before a person will notice some changes in state of health, but during this period he/she migh infect his/her partner.
When the immune system is weakened the following symptoms may appear in a HIV-infected person:
- Energy loss.
- Weight loss.
- Often fever and sweating.
- Chronic yeast infections.
- Permanent skin rash and skin peeling.
- Short-term memory loss.
- Herpetic eruptions around the mouth, genitals or anus.Among the most common AIDS symptoms are:
- Coughing and shortness of breath.
- Convulsions and lack of coordination.
- Difficult or painful swallowing.
- Mental symptoms such as confusion and forgetfulness.
- Persistent diarrhea.
- Sight loss.
- Nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting.
- Weight loss and extreme fatigue.
- Severe headache with neck stiffness.
AIDS patients often develop different tumors, such as the Kaposi’s sarcoma, cervical cancer, and tumors originating from lymphoid tissue called lymphomas. Kaposi’s sarcoma causes round brown, reddish or purple swellings on the skin or in the mouth. Patients live, on average, 2-3 years after being diagnosed with AIDS.
The fact of infection after exposure to the virus can be determined after 25 days – 3 months (in some cases up to six months) using a special test – a blood test that detects antibodies to the virus. A period between the virus introduction into the body and the formation of antibodies in the blood is called a window period.
What is a window period?
Once the virus gets in the blood of a human body, a period of 25 days to three months (in some cases up to six months) is needed to produce sufficient amount of antibodies to be detected by the blood test. This period is called the window period. During this period testing might show negative result.
Therefore, to obtain a reliable result it is necessary to make a repeat test three to six months after possible exposure to the virus.
During the window period blood, semen, vaginal secretions and breast milk of a person with HIV contain the virus in concentration sufficient to infect other people.