The mention of incurable diseases is enough to strike fear in the mind of anyone. It usually means dependency on medication and regular hospital visits for the foreseeable future. That is why H.I.V. and AIDS remain some of the most dreaded S.T.D.s. There is currently no confirmed cure.
Despite the popularity of the disease, many people still do not know some hard truths about H.I.V. and AIDS and how they are connected.
What are HIV and AIDS?
HIV, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, is a virus that damages the immune system, attacking the white blood cells. When this virus enters a person’s system, it makes them vulnerable to other infections because of their compromised immune system. HIV can progress to AIDS when it is not treated properly.
AIDS, Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome is an advanced form of HIV. When a person has AIDS, it means that HIV has worn down their immune system and destroyed a lot of their white blood cells.
Differences between HIV and AIDS
A lot of people wrongly believe HIV and AIDS are the same. You would be correct to assume they can go hand in hand, but they are not the same. Here are some factors that differentiate HIV and AIDS from each other
HIV is a virus, while AIDS is a condition
Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a virus that compromises the human immune system, making it unable to function correctly. Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), on the other hand, is a condition that can result from contracting the Human Immunodeficiency virus. It is also known as stage 3 HIV. In this stage, the person’s immune system is damaged, and they are now more vulnerable to infections their bodies should be able to fight against.
A person can have H.I.V. without AIDS, but all people who have AIDS have H.I.V.
Not everyone who has H.I.V. will have AIDS. This is because it is possible for H.I.V. not to progress and damage the immune system when it is appropriately treated. However, anyone with AIDS already has H.I.V. H.I.V. is what goes ahead to destroy the immune system, causing the condition of AIDS.
H.I.V. can be sexually transmitted, but AIDS develops from already having H.I.V.:
H.I.V. can be transmitted from one person to another. Still, AIDS is a result of already having H.I.V. Although H.I.V. is classified as a sexually transmitted infection, it can be passed through activities that are not sexual, like using needles and sharing sharp objects with an infected person or just in contact with the infected body fluids. It can also be transmitted from a mother to her unborn child. When H.I.V. is untreated, it can progress to AIDS.
H.I.V. and AIDS have different symptoms:
When a person is first infected with H.I.V., the symptoms they get often make them feel like they have the flu. These symptoms include
- Rash on the skin
- Weakness and tiredness
- Swelling in the neck and groin
Symptoms of AIDS are often more severe, and they include:
- Genital, mouth and anal sores
- Night sweats
- Long-lasting diarrhea
- Unexplained weakness
- Recurrent fever
In the earlier days, receiving a diagnosis of HIV used to be seen as a death sentence, but things have changed and are still changing. Over twenty-five, antiretroviral therapy drugs are available to treat the virus and keep the carrier as healthy as possible.
Although there is no cure yet, these drugs aim to lower the viral load in the body so much that it becomes undetectable, significantly reducing the risk of passing it on to someone else.
In many cases, people do not feel symptoms of HIV for long, so they may wave it off as the flu. But the only way to know your HIV status is to get tested regularly, at least once a year. Also, practising safe sex reduces the risk of contracting it from your sexual partners.
Speak to a doctor for advice if you are worried about your HIV and STI status or suspect you may have been exposed to an STI.