Acquired immune deficiency syndrome
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a disease that weakens the body’s immune system which is responsible for fighting diseases. It is caused by Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) . HIV works by damaging the immune system which later leads to a more serious ailment known as AIDS.
Signs and symptoms
Depression that includes lethargy and a lack of interest in activities that were once enjoyable are the first symptoms of AIDS. This may also result in a disrupted sleep pattern and an unusual change in appetite, feelings of hopelessness or low self esteem and guilt. Most patients experience negative thoughts that lead to suicide. Other reported symptoms are as follows:
- Thrush or a bad taste in one's mouth and a white coating on the tongue or the gums
- Rapid weight loss and lipodystrophy
- Painful burning sensation in the hands or the feet.
According to studies, the AIDS virus can be undetected by AIDS testing for months or even years after the initial infection. This indicates the need for repeated testing in suspected cases.
- Stage 1 or Category C. A confirmed positive test result for HIV with no associated symptoms is determined.
- Stage 2 or Category B. Clinical evidence of the disease is associated with positive testing. The early signs of the disease are already obvious in this stage which include swollen glands, weight loss, sweating, tiredness, and thrush.
- Stage 3 or Category A. This is the final stage of the disease in which death most often occurs due a very weak immune system.
Causes and risk factors
AIDS begin from having HIV. A person who is infected with HIV may pass the virus on to others though the following:
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding
- Needle sharing or blood transfusion using an infected needle
There are no studies yet to confirm if HIV can be passed through tears or saliva. However, infection is possible if the person has bleeding gums and open sores.
Diagnosis and tests
If a person with HIV infection has a CD4 count that drops below 200 -- or if certain infections appear (AIDS-defining illnesses) -- the person is considered to have AIDS.
As there is no cure for AIDS at present, the only way of stopping the spread of AIDS is prevention. People infected with AIDS should always do the following:
- Practice safe sex.
- Refrain from donating blood, plasma, sperm, body organs or tissue.
- Avoid sharing of tooth brushes, razors and other implements that could be contaminated with blood.
- Safely dispose of razors, used needles and other contaminated articles capable of causing injury to others.
- Inform attending doctors and dentists of their condition so that appropriate precautions may be taken.
- Maintain general health with a nutritious diet, adequate rest and regular exercise.
During Stage 3, the following may occur:
- Kaposi’s sarcoma - Purple mark growths on the skin and inside the mouth, nose, or anus.
- Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia
- Chronic diarrhea
Shortness of breath, severe malnutrition, headaches and mental changes may also happen.