The human immunodeficiency virus, aka HIV, invades and impairs the immune system, and without treatment, the infection can progress to AIDS in time. Since the virus attacks and weakens the immune system, this makes it easier for the body to develop other diseases or infections.
HIV can be transmitted in a number of ways, including but not limited to:
Via sperm – Being exposed to HIV via sperm during unprotected sex with someone who is HIV-positive is the most common way the virus is spread.
Via blood – Sharing needles and being exposed to an open wound put you at high risk of contracting the virus.
Via vaginal fluids – Exposure to the virus during sex via vaginal fluids is also a common cause.
Via breastmilk – Pregnant women can pass the virus on to their baby, and the virus can also be transmitted to infants through breastfeeding.
Where HIV is concerned, early detection is imperative. HIV may not always show signs, and it is important to note that you should not wait to get tested until there is a drastic decline in your overall health after an encounter. However, following the exposure to the virus, you may experience symptoms akin to the flu. Initial HIV symptoms can typically occur anywhere between 2 weeks to 1-2 months following the exposure to the virus.
After you contract the virus, it goes through four stages as it progresses. This is the first stage of HIV, also known as acute HIV infection. Following the first stage, you may not show any symptoms for up to 10 years, meaning the virus has the capability of remaining dormant in your system for a long time without deteriorating your health. Here’s a list of all the early symptoms associated with HIV:
- sore throat
- swollen glands
- night sweats
- body pain
- genital ulcers
- sores in the mouth
After your diagnosis, you start antiretroviral therapy, also referred to as ART. ART is a combination of medications that prevent the virus from replicating itself, hence growing, which gradually lowers the viral load in your body over time. With the treatment, people with HIV live a long and healthy life with a much lower risk of transmitting the virus to their partners.
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