AIDs symptoms can be subtle and difficult to spot. AIDs occurs if HIV goes untreated for an extended period of time.
AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, it is also referred to as stage 3 HIV.
AIDs is a condition acquired after contracting HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) that causes deterioration at a cellular level disrupting the body’s immune system. Untreated HIV leads to AIDS symptoms.
Stage 1: Acute Symptoms
During the early stages of HIV also called the acute infection stage, the virus in the body replicates and reproduces itself at a rapid rate. With less or no symptoms altogether, the person starts experiencing effects ranging from mild to severe. These symptoms mimic flu or seasonal infection and often go unnoticed.
These symptoms include:
- Gastric problems like nausea and vomiting
- Sores in the mouth and oesophagus
Stage 2: Asymptomatic Phase
During this stage, the flu-like symptoms go away and are followed by depletion and killing of healthy cells.
Without HIV care, the person can remain in this stage for 10 to 15 years. Unlike AIDS symptoms, the effects felt during this phase are nonspecific symptoms meaning the symptoms not specific to a particular disease or infection.
These symptoms include:
- Body ache and fatigue
- Lung problems like pneumonia, chest pain and shortness of breath
- Swollen lymph nodes, sore throat and mouth ulcers
- Loss of appetite
Stage 3: AIDS
The advancement of HIV can lead to the diagnosis of AIDS symptoms. Destruction of white blood cells makes the immune system vulnerable. In addition to the symptoms found in stage one and stage two other symptoms include:
- Rapid weight loss
- Highly susceptible to severe diseases
- Neurological problems
- Vaginal yeast infection
- Changes in menstruation
- Stomach pain
- Pelvic inflammatory diseases
- Fever and chills
A compromised immune systemmakes you more likely to develop complications such as:
- Chronic diarrhoea
- Hepatitis C
- Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy
- Cervical cancer
What is the difference between HIV and AIDS?
HIV is a pathogen that targets the immune system which renders the body’s defence against illness.
HIV is a retrovirus, and more precisely, a subgroup of lentiviruses, that cause illness slowly. There are two types of HIV namely HIV 1 and HIV 2.
HIV 1 is predominant affecting more than 90% of the human population as compared to its counterpart HIV 2 that is geographically limited to West Africa.
T- Helper cells also called CD4 cells are a type of white blood cells which are destroyed by this virus. HIV replicates and attaches itself to the cells that cause irreversible damage to the body’s ability to recognise and fight infection making it more susceptible to various diseases and cancer.
AIDS is the last stage of a spectrum of conditions caused by HIV. An individual suffering from untreated HIV moves towards three stages before experiencing AIDS symptoms.
- Acute HIV: Flu-like symptoms that appear days or even weeks after contracting HIV
- Chronic HIV: also referred to as clinical latency or asymptomatic stage, can last for several years.
AIDS: Occurs when CD4 cell count falls below 200, rendering the individual vulnerable to opportunistic infections and AIDS-defining symptoms.
How to protect yourself from AIDS
People can reduce their chances of contracting HIV and AIDS symptoms by:
- Use condoms, male latex condoms are highly effective in preventing HIV and STI’s
- Be monogamous and limit your sexual partners
- Get tested for STI’s (sexually transmitted disease) and HIV
- Get vaccinated for HPV and hepatitis B
- Avoid sharing needles and drugs
- Immediately consult a doctor if you are experiencing any above HIV or AIDS symptoms
What are the myths surrounding HIV/AIDS?
The taboo and often hysteria surrounding HIV and AIDS causes unwanted panic and circulation of false information regarding transmission of AIDS.
Lets debunk some of the myths around HIV and AIDs by providing the facts.
1. AIDs can only be transmitted by an individual who already has HIV.
2. AIDs cannot be passed through the air, kissing, sharing food, toilet seats, sweat, sneezes and coughs.
3. Mutual masturbation, fingering, and hand-jobs carry a very low risk of transmission.
5. Herbal medicines are not a cure for HIV/AIDS
6. Taking a contraceptive pill after sex would not protect you from HIV infection.
Written by Anushka Lazar, on May 25, 2021