Human immunodeficiency virus

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Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a retrovirus that gradually attacks the white blood cells of a person which results to weakening of the body’s capability to fight against infections and diseases. Once the immune system of a person infected with it has a T cell count below 200 or 14%, it will lead to a more dangerous ailment known as AIDS.

Contents

Signs and symptoms

Symptoms will depend on the stage of HIV infection:

  • Primary infection.Flu-like” symptoms will be felt by the HIV-positive individual.
  • Asymptomatic illness. The patient will appear to be normal for a period of time.
  • Symptomatic illness. The patient experiences minimal symptoms such as lack of energy, nights sweats, etc.
  • AIDS. The patient experiences opportunistic infections from bacterial, mycobacterial, fungal, protozoal, viral and malignant sources that can cause any of the following: swollen glands, mouth infections, brain infections, skin diseases, lung diseases, and weight loss.

Causes and risk factors

HIV is transmitted by:

  • Having unprotected sexual intercourse with someone who is HIV positive.
  • Having a transfusion with infected blood
  • Sharing syringes and needles with someone who is HIV positive. Examples are needles used for drugs and tattoos or other skin piercing tools such as razor blades and surgical instruments for circumcision or scarification.
  • Passed on by mothers to their unborn babies and through breastfeeding.

Studies have shown that HIV is not transmitted through the following:

  • Kissing
  • Casual contacts or handshakes
  • Sharing living quarters, eating or drinking with an infected person
  • Mosquitoes and bed bugs

After being infected with HIV, some people may seem well for a long period and the usual blood tests will show normal results. However, during this time, the virus is still attacking the lymph nodes which are the centers of the body's immune system. The virus may also attack the brain tissue and slowly cause damage there.

This could last for a span of 10 to 15 years. HIV kills so many CD4 cells so the body can no longer fight off infections. When the CD4 cell count is 200 or less per milliliter, it may lead to AIDS which makes the body more vulnerable to acquire many serious infections.

Diagnosis and tests

The following tests are conducted to determine the existence of the virus:

  • Antibody test. An indirect test that measures the response of one’s body to the presence of HIV.
  • Antigen test. A test that directly tests the presence of the virus.

The window period for testing is 6 months from the last exposure with HIV.

Treatment

Unfortunately, there is NO vaccine and NO cure for HIV to date that’s why it is important for people to be aware of how this virus is transmitted in order to know how it can be prevented. Anti-retroviral medication (ARVs) is given to patients to slow down the replication of the virus. However, if the virus is detected at an early stage, some treatments (usually a combination anti-retroviral drugs) can hold down the virus and keep the body's immune system strong for a longer time.

Cases in the Philippines

In February 2010, it has been reported that most of the identified HIV infected people in the Philippines are working in call centers. The government then had the Commission on Information and Communication Technology (CICT) work with the Department of Health (DOH) to act on the issue.

References