Types and Symptoms of Human Immunodeficiency virus (HIV)

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Q: What is a Human Immunodeficiency virus (HIV)?

It is a retrovirus that causes HIV infection and is spread primarily by unprotected sex (including anal and oral sex), contaminated blood transfusions of the infected person, unclean infected hypodermic needles, and from mother to child during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding. Some bodily fluids, such as sweat, saliva, tears and urine, do not transmit HIV.

If it is left untreated overtime it can lead to AIDS( acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) which is a group of diseases in which there is progressive failure of the immune system, which allows the life-threatening infections and cancers to attack the body.

HIV infects the key cells of human immune system by which immunity decreases, and the body becomes progressively more susceptible to opportunistic infections.
Human Immunodeficiency virus (HIV) | Drsafehands

Q: What are the types of HIV?

Two types of HIV have been characterized: HIV-1 and HIV-2.

HIV-1 is the virus that was initially discovered and is more virulent, more infective, and is the cause of the majority of HIV infections globally.
The lower infectivity of HIV-2 compared to HIV-1 implies that fewer of those exposed to HIV-2 will be infected per exposure

Symptoms :

The symptoms of HIV can differ from person-to-person and some people may not get any symptoms at all.
There are three main stages of HIV infection: acute infection, clinical latency and AIDS

Acute primary infection
Some people may experience a flu-like illness within 2-4 weeks after HIV infection. But some people may not feel sick during this stage.

Symptoms can include :

  • fever (raised temperature)
  • body rash
  • sore throat
  • swollen glands
  • headache
  • upset stomach
  • body rash
  • joint aches and pains
  • Muscle pain.

The above symptoms can last from a few days to several weeks. During this time, infection may not show up on an HIV test, but people who have it are highly infectious and can spread

Clinical latency/Chronic HIV infection/Asymptomatic stage:

While typically there are few or no symptoms at first, near the end of this stage many people experience fever, weight loss, G.I. problems and muscle pains. Some persons may also develop persistent generalized lymphadenopathy, characterized by unexplained, non-painful enlargement of more than one group of lymph nodes (other than in the groin) for period of 3 to 6 months.
During this stage, HIV is still active but reproduces at very low levels. This period can last a decade or longer, but some people may progress through this stage faster. But medicine and treatment helps keep the virus in check.
Most importantly people can still transmit HIV to others during this phase even if they have no symptoms.

Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)/Symptomatic HIV infection

This is the end stage. If infected with HIV and are not on ART medicines, eventually the virus will weaken your body's immune system and you will progress to AIDS, which is the last stage of HIV infection.

Symptoms can include:

  • Rapid weight loss
  • Extreme and unexplained tiredness
  • Diarrhoea that lasts for more than a week
  • Recurring fever or profuse night sweats especially at night.
  • Sores of the mouth, anus, or genitals
  • Prolonged swelling of the lymph glands in the armpits, groin, or neck
  • Red, brown, pink, or purplish blotches on or under the skin or inside the mouth, nose, or eyelids
  • Memory loss, depression, and other neurologic disorders.
  • Pneumonia
Many of the severe symptoms of HIV disease come from the opportunistic infections because your body's immune system has been damaged.
Having AIDS doesn't mean that person will die from an AIDS-related diseases but getting the right treatment is really important at this point.