HIV / AIDS is a disease of the human immune system caused by a virus. It is an incredibly devastating disease, both because of its physical manifestations and the lingering social stigma. HIV / AIDS (human immunodeficiency virus infection / acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is a relatively recent disease that has had an explosive impact on the global community.
The disease was first recognized in 1981, and since then has spread with incredible rapidity throughout the world. According to one health report, approximately 34 million people had HIV in 2010. Of those, approximately 16.8 are women and 3.4 million are younger than fifteen. Since 1981, AIDS has led to nearly 30 million deaths.
Causes and Risk Factors
HIV is transmitted via certain bodily fluids. It is most commonly transmitted via unprotected sex (including oral and anal sex). It can also be transferred from hypodermic needles, contaminated blood transfusions, and from mother to child during pregnancy. Certain bodily fluids such as saliva and tears do not transmit HIV.
There are a few different stages to the disease: acute infection, clinical latency, and then AIDS.
The period immediately following the contraction is called acute infection. This period tends to last one to two weeks, but varies per individual. Because these symptoms are similar to more common infectious diseases, HIV is frequently misdiagnosed during this time. Symptoms during this period include:
- Influenza-like illness
- Large tender lymph nodes
- Throat inflammation
Without treatment, this period can last anywhere from three years to more than twenty, with an average of about eight years. Generally there are few symptoms at the beginning of the period, but at the end people develop symptoms such as:
- Weight loss
- Muscle pains
- Gastrointestinal problems
AIDS develops when the CD4+T helper lymphocyte cell numbers drops below 200 cells per uL. At this point, the immune system is so weak that many other diseases such as various cancers (Kaposi’s sarcoma, lymphoma) and pneumonia.
HIV causes AIDS by depleting the CD4+ cell count. T lymphocytes are crucial for the immune system. Without them, the body cannot effectively fight off diseases, which is why there is such a high occurrence of other sicknesses during AIDS.
Doctors believe there is no medical cure for Aids and HIV. Dherbs believes the body can heal itself, given the opportunity.
Doctors frequently prescribe “cocktails” or combinations of multiple antiviral drugs to combat the specific symptoms. Unfortunately many of these medications also bring debilitating side effects.