Symptoms and Stages of HIV Infection

The HIV virus keeps on replicating in the body after the person is infected. At this time, the type and severity of the infection vary from person to person. The symptoms will vary in the time of manifestation in every person where it may take several years in one person and a few years in others. The damage caused by the virus to the immune system is irresistible which calls for immediate treatment to avoid further damage. There exists various symptoms and stages of infection as explained in this article.

Symptoms and Stages of HIV Infection

Acute Primary Infection/ Stage 1

This refers to the initial stage of infection. At this time, the body immune system reacts to the virus within the first one to four weeks leading to the development of flue like symptoms. These symptoms do not last for a very long time. They will be over within a few days and the infected person may or may not get them. Since such symptoms are very common, it may not be enough indicator of an infection hence being diagnosed would not be easy. Visiting a health professional is advised if you suspect that you might have been exposed to the virus. Moreover, if you are experiencing some of these symptoms like muscle pain, joint aches and pains, upset stomach, headache, swollen glands, sore throat, body rash or fever, you should get tested to confirm that you have or have not been infected by the virus.

The process of seroconversion takes place during the initial stage after a person has been exposed to the virus. The immune system of the body tends to produce antibodies that react against the virus. Since the infected cells tend to circulate throughout the whole body, the body will, as usual, react to the foreign material just like it does to the other foreign materials. This process of reaction tends to cause flu-like symptoms. The time when seroconversion takes is different in different people. The process can take several months in some people and a few months or even weeks in others. Getting accurate results of the HIV test at this stage is not easy. The virus tends to replicate very fast hence increasing the number of viruses in the circulatory system. Since you are not fully aware of the presence of the virus in the body, it is necessary to make use of condoms when having sex if you fear that you have already been exposed to the virus.

Asymptomatic Stage/ Stage 2

This is the second stage of infection. It is the stage after the occurrence of seroconversion and acute primary stage. At this stage, the symptoms may not manifest themselves and the number of years that it takes for the symptoms to be manifested varies depending on the general health, background and age of the person. This stage is characterized by general good health. However, it does not mean that the virus lies dormant in the body. In this stage, the virus makes replicas of itself and infects new cells damaging the immune system. It then calls for the treatment of the virus in order to avoid severe damage of the immune system which would otherwise lead to infection by opportunistic diseases.

Symptomatic Stage/ Stage 3

There is a difference between HIV and AIDs. The virus itself is the HIV virus while AIDs is the set of symptoms that arise from the activities of the virus. During stage 3, the boy’s system would have severely been damaged and the opportunistic infections kick in. due to the severe damage to the body’s immune system, fighting off any bacterial, fungal or even another viral infection is not easy since the body is too weak to do so. The stage is characterized by serious disease or illnesses, regular infections, skin and mouth problems, persistent cough, fever, night sweats, chronic diarrhoea and weight loss.

Conclusion

The HIV virus is a very deadly virus that needs to be kept in check. Thanks to the existence of the antiretroviral treatment, the virus is kept at bay and its ability to infect more cells and replicate is attenuated. Every person should go for an HIV test. If the test turns out positive and the existence of the virus in the body is confirmed, the person should begin the treatment immediately in order to avoid progressing to the third stage where the body is unable to fight even the simplest infections. Make sure that you go for a test today.

Read more : Prevention of HIV Infection

Prevention of HIV Infection

The HIV virus is spread through direct contact with an infected person’s body fluids like breast milk, blood, vaginal fluid and semen. However, it can never be spread through casual contact like shaking hands or even hugging since the virus does not survive outside the body for a long time. Moreover, the virus is never spread through urine, faeces, vomit, tears or even sweat. Most of the times, the virus is spread through having unprotected oral, anal or vaginal sex. This article will give an insight into the precautions that one can take to avoid contracting the HIV infection

Using Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)

PrEP

This is a preventive medication against HIV for the people who are at a high risk of contracting the infection. It is common among many people and readily available in health centres in order to minimize the number of people in society with the infection.  Research indicates that Truvada, a South African PrEP kind of drug which is a combination of tenofovir and emtricitabine has been so effective in alleviating sex workers from HIV infection. Note that strictly following the instructions when taking PrEP and using other protective measures is the best way to protect yourself against getting infected.

Taking a Step after Exposure to HIV Infection

At times, you can realize that you have been in contact with breast milk, semen, and blood or vagina fluid from an infected person. At this time, it would be hard to establish whether you have been infected or not. Within 72 hours of exposure, you can take PEP which is an antiviral medication aimed at reducing the chances of infection.  This drug is available to those that have been sexually assaulted, those who shared drug needles with infected persons or those that work in medical environments and have been exposed to the infection. The medication lasts for 28 days. It is good to note that you should not rely on this medication to substitute the other measures of prevention.

Practising Safe Sex

Mutual masturbation, erotic massage and kissing are safe sex activities that you cannot get an HIV infection from. However, having unprotected oral sex increases that chances of getting the infection. Neither having unprotected sex nor unprotected oral sex is safer but research indicates that unprotected sex is far worse than unprotected oral sex.

Know Your Partner’s And Your HIV Status

You can never be safe without taking precautions. Getting to know your partner’s status first before engaging in sex for the first time is a precaution that is worth taking. If your partner is okay, you can then go ahead and ensure that this partner becomes your only sexual partner to avoid multiple sex partners who would then increase the chances of you contracting the disease. Not everyone will be comfortable and completely honest to disclose their sexual life hence having a test is very necessary.

Know Your HIV Status

To protect yourself and the people you love, it is very necessary to get tested since you would never know your next step of action without being tested. However, establishing the presence of the virus in the body during the window period is hard. That is why would need a test after every six months in order to keep track of your status. That way, you will be able to protect your friends and family by not infecting them without being aware.

Be Faithful

Once every six months, you should make sure that you and your sexual partners undergo an HIV status test. You should then make sure that you stick to your partner and avoid sleeping around with multiple partners. This reduces the chances of you contracting HIV from the infected people. If the tests come out negative, you cannot contract the virus from your partner through unprotected sex.

Conclusion

HIV prevention calls for one to avoid contact with the infected blood, semen, vaginal fluid or breast milk. You can avoid all this by practising safe sex, avoiding unprotected sex, knowing your partner’s HIV status as well as your status, staying away from drugs, abstaining, being faithful to one sex partner, considering PrEP or PEP, being circumcised and avoiding infecting the unborn in cases where the mother is infected. When this happens, you can ensure that you

The Future of HIV Therapy

The actual treatment for the HIV virus has not yet been confirmed. However, extensive research is being carried out to determine the best way to destroy the virus completely without affecting the host’s body health wise. Since the discovery of the virus in the 1980s, the antiretroviral treatment has been used to change the lives of many people. This article will give an insight into the future of HIV therapy.

The Future of HIV Therapy

A few years ago, a Berlin HIV positive patient was cured of the disease after receiving a bone marrow transplant from a naturally resistant person. This transplant led to the complete cure and Timothy Ray, the patient, in this case, has never been on antiretroviral treatment since that day. This, however, has not been the absolute cure since the procedure involved in bone marrow transplant poses a lot of risks to the HIV positive patient. Also, replicating a similar case has not achieved any success. Various improvements have been made on the antiretroviral therapy in order to reduce the dosage. A vaccine for the virus is underway but the actual treatment for the virus has not yet been found.

In a bid to stop the virus from further replicating a similar procedure that is used to control herpes is being used. This is where the ability of the virus to produce more copies of itself is disabled. However, this method does not fully eliminate the virus but its spread is inhibited. In 2017, Abivax Company in France showed the potential of using this method as the absolute cure for the virus. The main idea behind this method is that even the reservoir of the viruses hiding deep within the body cells can fully be exploited hence eliminating the virus completely. The current inventions in the antiretroviral treatment tend to suppress the virus from further forming new viruses. However, it does not involve exploitation of the reservoirs. However, if you stop the treatment, the virus comes back after 10 to 14 days as stated by Abivax CEO. Nonetheless, the ABX464 drug when taken together with antiretroviral medication indicated a decrease of 25 to 50% of the virus reservoirs within a period of 28 days. This drug binds to the Viruses’ RNA hence inhibiting it from reproducing more copies of itself. The company is now on phase to which should have been achieved by the year 2020 where maximum action on the virus reservoirs is aimed to be achieved in the long run as the company prepares for phase 3.

Shock and Kill

This is an approach where the latency-reversing agent that tends to kick the viruses reservoir is used. The normal antiretroviral therapy is then used to kill the viruses. With the use of this method, the potential to find the cure has been high with Zion Medical Company, Gilead and AELIX therapeutics in Spain showing positive results. Binor Company in Norway is using this method to produce vaccines that act on the virus reservoir through stimulation of antibody production to stop the virus replication while on the other side the virus is being destroyed. The problem with this method is that the available LRAs have the capability to activate only 5% of the virus reservoir.

Immunotherapy and Gene Therapy

Immunotherapy revolves around strengthening the immune cells hence giving them the ability to fight any infection. The current invention in immunotherapy involves the combination of a drug that activates the virus reservoir and another vaccine that tends to induce a very strong immune response.  However, some patients respond to the treatment and others do not. Another approach is the development of the T-cell receptors that are said to instruct all the T cells to destroy any cell that is infected with the virus. The approach works on human tissues but has not been tested on people living with the infection. The most successful of the methods has been the production of a VAC-3S vaccine that stimulates antibodies active against protein 3S to be produced. The activity of this vaccine together with a Finnish FIT Biotech vaccine is still being tested. Gene therapy, on the other hand, involves the editing of the CCR5 protein-encoding gene which makes the virus to lack a cell to bind on.

Conclusion

With various forms of research still being carried out, the success of developing a functional HIV cure is still experiencing numerous challenges. With the most advanced development being the invention of the Gammora treatment in a combination of the antiretroviral therapy which has shown complete elimination of the virus, we hope that the best cure will soon be found through immune or gene therapy, shock and kill or any other method.

Read more : Prevention of HIV Infection