Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS as we commonly call it occurs due to the presence of a virus called HIV or human immunodeficiency virus. This disease eats away the human immune system completely, so much so that, a person becomes susceptible to all kinds of infections and tumors which become severe as the disease progresses.
Here it is important to note that these infections normally do not affect people having healthy immune systems.
So how does a person acquire this disease? As is mentioned above human immunodeficiency virus is the main cause of AIDS, and this virus is passed on from one person to another through oral, anal or vaginal sex, blood transfusion, using hypodermic needles, during childbirth or pregnancy and during breast feeding. Therefore, in a gist one can safely say, any direct physical contacts especially those which involve your blood stream or mucus membrane with any type of bodily fluid of an infected person will lead to the spread of this disease.
Common Symptoms Of AIDS
There are several signs and symptoms of AIDS and even though they may take years to develop, it makes sense to keep your-self informed about them. This article deals with all those details that can help prevent the disease getting transmitted from one person to another.
Initial Stages of HIV
The initial stages refer to the time when a person gets infected with the HIV virus, and within weeks of infection he/she begins to display the first signs. The symptoms at this stage can be best described as mononucleosis, which means flu like illness, that include fever, swollen glands, digestive problems, chills, weakness, body pain, weight loss and skin rashes. However these symptoms are not enough to reach the diagnosis of HIV, and therefore they are broadly termed as non diagnostic.
The Asymptomatic Stage
The symptoms that develop during the initial stages gradually disappear much like the flu virus. This stage is called asymptomatic stage which means the disease remains in the body without displaying any signs or symptoms.
This period could last as long as 10 to 20 years wherein the person is totally unaware that he/she has contacted HIV. It is this ignorance that leads to the spread of the disease while making physical contact with ones sexual partners or while sharing hypodermic needles etc.
The Symptomatic Stage
During the asymptomatic stage, HIV reduces the CD4 cells which are the blood cells that strengthen the immune system. The deteriorating immune system at this stage therefore leads to the flaring up of all those symptoms that commonly represent HIV. Besides chronic influenza like illness, a person also experiences vaginal and oral fungal infection, fungal infection of the nails, chronic rashes on the skin, weight loss, diarrhea, breathing problems, weakness and night sweats. This stage actually acts as an eye opener for most people as they realize for the first time that they are HIV positive.
The Final Stage – The Diagnosis of AIDS
The above mentioned symptoms undoubtedly trigger HIV testing. The functions of the immune system deteriorates even further making the infected person vulnerable to severe complications of HIV, like opportunistic infections, severe weight loss, cancers of the skin like Kaposi’s sarcoma and lymphomas and mental dysfunction. AIDS is diagnosed when an HIV positive person’s CD4 cell counts falls below 200 cells per mm3. Low CD4 cell counts are a sure shot sign that a person has developed AIDS after contracting HIV.
It is very obvious from the facts that AIDS can hardly be prevented when a person gets infected with the HIV disease. However, depending on the initial symptoms of the disease a test can be performed that particularly concentrates on the virus circulating in the blood. Timely diagnosis and identification is the best way to ensure proper care for the disease. Besides, it also allows counseling of the infected person regarding the spread of the disease.