HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), also called the AIDS virus, is probably the most dangerous organism humanity has ever faced. It’s epidemic potential and virulence are without comparison. Statistics prove that.
It has become a worldwide epidemic since years that cannot be stopped and for which there is still no cure in spite of aggressive research. This, despite knowing what causes the HIV infection and what are the risk factors that can infect you with the virus.
There is, however, a treatment that controls the virus and allows you to spend a normal lifespan. But, you stay infectious throughout your life because the virus stays in your body, though contained, throughout your life.
Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a result. Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the cause. AIDS is the disease caused when you get infected by the virus. You should know that it is the HIV that causes AIDS, which kills ultimately if there is no treatment.
It is a fatal disease, which results in the death of the person, when not treated. Know how you get infected by the virus and become HIV positive, what the risk factors are and how HIV causes AIDS.
How long for HIV positive patient to develop AIDS after getting infected?
After you are infected with HIV, it may take 5 to 12 years to develop AIDS. In the past when there was no effective treatment, most people succumbed within one to two years to the AIDS disease once it developed.
Today however, thanks to sustained medical research, life gets prolonged for years with modern antiviral medicines called antiretroviral therapy.
Though this is a boon, many groups have begun to become protection free and are venturing into the high STD risk lifestyle because of decreased fear of this disease.
How You Can Get HIV Infection? Causes
HIV is found in blood, other body fluids including semen, vaginal fluid, and breast milk. For the virus transmission, fluid from an infected person has to get into the bloodstream of an uninfected person. These are various reasons that cause you to get infected and which are relevant to men and women of all age groups
Major causes of HIV in women
The Human immunodeficiency virus is transferred from the infected person through unprotected sexual contact or sharing of needles with an infected person, and which are contaminated with infected blood.
Women who have regular unprotected sex with an infected person are highly exposed to the risk of getting HIV infection. They are more at risk than the men because they are usually more exposed to body fluids than their male partners.
Oral sex with an infected man and swallowing of the fluids is another hidden cause that has infected many women.
Another cause, which is more likely to affect young women, is sharing of needles with an infected person.
Men who are on drugs or those who are MSM or bisexual or those who have been to jail are high risk men and likely to harbor the infection and pass it to a woman.
Biggest cause of HIV
Among the millions of HIV positive individuals worldwide, the largest component is men who have sex with men (MSM).
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), men who have sex with men make up 55% of people living with the virus in the United States in 2013.
Causes of HIV during pregnancy
During pregnancy, the pregnant woman can get infected with the HIV by transfusion of infected blood if she has been given it.
Again, IV fluids transfused with reused needles can also pass on the infection. This can happen in poor economic areas where adequate medical supplies are lacking and the need is acute.
During pregnancy, an infected mother can pass the infection to her baby during pregnancy, labor and lactation through her infected body fluids such as breast milk.
Of course, today, every pregnant woman is tested for HIV routinely during her prenatal visits.
Transfusion of infected blood to a healthy individual can also pass on the infection.
Risk to medical staff
A cut in the skin can also be a risk if the cut comes in contact with infected blood – for example an infected patient can pass on the infection to his doctor, pathologist or dentist in this fashion.
The virus can remain latent in the body for years before AIDS develops. But even such an asymptomatic person can infect others. It can take years for the HIV or the AIDS virus to damage the immune system and for AIDS to develop.
How you can get HIV from kissing?
Deep, open-mouth kissing if both partners have sores in the mouth or bleeding gums and blood from the HIV-positive partner gets transferred into the bloodstream of the healthy partner.
Which people are at risk of getting HIV?
- People with multiple sex partners
- Men who visit prostitutes
- Homosexual men – Men who have sex with men (MSM). This category is a very high risk one. This could be because of the bleeding and tissue trauma that can occur from rectal intercourse A broken tissue easily facilitates invasion by the virus and other pathogens.
- Vaginal sex during a period (menstruation) may increase the risk of HIV transmission from an HIV positive female to an uninfected male. During menstruation, there is a lot more blood in the vagina to which the male partner is exposed. Therefore, sex during a period increases the risk of HIV transmission in heterosexuals. Catholics are more likely to have sex during the woman’s period because it is a safe time to have sex vis-à-vis pregnancy and the Church prohibits the use of contraceptives.
- Drug users who share needles
- People who have received blood transfusion
- Dentists, pathologist, doctors and the paramedic staff who do not wear gloves when required.
- Ethnicity. According to the CDC, Blacks/African Americans form the biggest group of new HIV diagnoses, those living with HIV, and those diagnosed with AIDS. In 2015, African Americans accounted for 45% of the people newly diagnosed, though they account for 12% of the total US population.
HIV/AIDS myths – You cannot get HIV infection from
- Touching or hugging or kissing an infected person – HIV is not spread through saliva.
- Sharing chairs, toilet seats, utensils, telephones or computers
- Eating from the same dish or drinking from the same glass or cups
- Breathing the same air
- Sharing the same cigarette
- Mosquito bites
- Kissing without blood present.
How HIV Causes AIDS?
There is no way to reduce the risk of HIV transmission to zero once an exposure occurs. Once you are infected, the infection goes through three stages and proceeds to the last stage of the AIDS disease.
As the name suggests, human immunodeficiency virus interferes with the immune system of the body and begins to weaken it. The body’s ability to fight infections reduces and the person becomes susceptible to opportunistic infections and cancers, which progress rapidly in the body.
Because of the weak immune system, the virus multiplies unchallenged in the body, the disease worsens and the person ultimately succumbs to it.
The person is not killed by the virus but by the opportunistic infections that develop and worsen over time to their logical end, which is death.
The most common infection of this type is tuberculosis and seen more in the developing countries. In 2015, tuberculosis (TB) killed 390, 000 people living with HIV. It is the number one leading cause of death among people living with HIV in Africa, and the leading cause of death among the HIV population worldwide.
Other opportunistic infections include:
- cryptococcal meningitis
- PCP, a type of pneumonia
- oesophageal candidiasis
- certain cancers, including Kaposi’s sarcoma.
The virus destroys the CD4 cells (also called the T cells), which are the white blood cells important to the immune system. When the CD4 count decreases below 200 per micro liter of blood, the person becomes vulnerable to infections and diseases, and is defined to have developed AIDS.
The normal CD4 (T cell) count in a healthy person is 500 to 1200 per micro liter of blood or per mm3.
When you are infected with the virus (which is detected through lab tests), you are said to be HIV positive. When one of the opportunistic disease sets in, you are said to have AIDS.
Anti retroviral medicines can help prevent this damage and prolong the life of a person by decades.