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HIV/AIDS In Africa: Causes, Signs and Symptoms of HIV/AIDS in Men and Women

An illness caused by the HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus is called AIDS. This disease disturbs and modifies the immune system of a person and makes him vulnerable to diseases and infections. Usually when a person gets affected with the HIV virus he suffers from influenza like problems and soon this infection gets much more active and causes common infections like tumors, tuberculosis and opportunistic infections.

As the time passes by, the illness keeps on increasing and worsening the condition of the infected person via many more diseases. The problems caused to the people suffering from this disease are usually not caused to the people who have a working and much better immune system . HIV and AIDS is usually misinterpreted as one and the same thing however AIDS is a stage referred to the late symptoms caused by the HIV virus which we will discuss in depth in a short while.

The transmission of the HIV virus usually and most commonly takes place by having unprotected sex with an infected person . Other sources of transmission of this virus are hypodermic needles, inheritance from mother from birth or during breast feeding and via infected blood transfusions. This virus is usually found in the body fluids of an infected person.

According to research, since the discovery of HIV/AIDS back in early 1980s, it has caused nearly 36 million deaths worldwide. A person suffering from this infection who bypasses the stage of AIDS due to the development of numerous diseases and infections within the body ultimately dies. Till date no sustainable cure for HIV/AIDS has been found out however with the help of a few certain treatments a person who is infected with this disease can relatively live a longer life.

This disease has had a great impact on economic as well as social society. It became a source of discrimination among people and also gave rise to many misconceptions. Since its discovery it has attracted tons of large scale funding for research as well as it attracted much political and medical attention which also made it a major subject to many controversies.

In many cases it has been found out that the infected persons have no signs and symptoms for several years where as others experience flu like symptoms probably within 3 weeks after catching the virus. The symptoms caused due to the HIV virus lasts for about 4-6 weeks in normal cases however with proper medication, care and treatments this time frame reduces drastically.

Common Early Signs and Symptoms:

Weight loss
Mouth Sores And Thrush
Skin Rash
Esophagus Sores
Liver And Spleen Enlargement
According to research it has been discovered that there are 3 main stages of this infection which are:-

Acute Infection
Chronic Infection
Acute Infection:
The stage of contraction of the HIV virus is called primary HIV, acute retroviral syndrome or simply as acute HIV. At this stage a lot of people develop an influenza or flu like illness due to the virus’s effects. As told previously these signs and symptoms usually show up after 2-3 weeks of exposure to the HIV virus. At this stage most of the infected people suffer with early signs and symptoms that we have discussed just now. These include fever, weight loss, malaise, skin rash, myalgia, vomiting, nausea etc. In most of the cases these symptoms vanish within 2 weeks however there is no specific timeline for how long you may suffer from these symptoms.

An interesting fact is that usually these symptoms are not diagnosed as signs and symptoms of HIV infection when you pay a visit to a doctor for a checkup. Although you may get recommended by them to proceed for a HIV test for surety but in most cases these symptoms get overlooked for an HIV infection due to their nonspecific characters.

Chronic Infection:
The stage of acute HIV is followed by a stage called as chronic HIV, asymptomatic HIV or clinical latency. This stage of infection usually lasts for about 8 months to 1 year however if no treatment is undergoing for the HIV infection then this stage may last for as long as 8-12 years!

At this stage most of the infected people start experiencing symptoms at its end. In most of the cases infected people suffer with muscle pains, fever and lymphadenopathy. If no treatment is done at this stage then the infected person is transferred to the next and the worst level of this infection which is defined as AIDS.

The stage of chronic HIV is followed by a stage popularly known as AIDS which is defined as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome . Recent research reveals that more than 65% of the infected people who are not treating the HIV infection properly develop AIDS.

Signs and Symptoms:

Pneumocystis Pneumonia
Blurred Vision
Swollen Glands
Chronic Diarrhea
Various Types Of Cancers
White Spots Appearing On Tongue
Most commonly a person suffering from AIDS suffers pneumocystis pneumonia, respiratory tract infections and esophagitis at the start. As the time passes by opportunistic infections are visible. The infections caused at this stage by the HIV virus effects nearly each and every organ of the body as the HIV infection is at its peak stage.

Other than this people suffering from AIDS are attacked by various kinds of cancers and the most common one is Kaposi’s sarcoma . Moreover, cervical cancers, conjunctival cancer and Burkitt’s lymphoma have also been diagnosed in many patients. The worst part is that all these diseases that occur to HIV infected patients at this stage is life threatening and without proper medication and treatment these diseases ultimately lead to death.

Transmission of the HIV virus basically occurs from 3 paths:

From Mother To Child By Various Different Means
Exposure To Infected Blood or Body Fluids
The HIV virus basically directly effects human vital organs and causes serious damage to them . Without any antiretroviral therapy this virus progresses without any stoppages or interruptions and keeps damaging the human body system at a very fast pace.

The HIV virus is most frequently transmitted by sexual contact with an infected person. In 75%+ cases the transmission is based on heterosexual contact all over the globe however the pattern of transmission is different for different countries. Recent studies show that the chance of transmission of the HIV virus is 5-10 times more in low income countries than high income countries with respect to unprotected sexual intercourse. It has also been revealed that the risk of transmission is pretty high from anal intercourse as compared to others.

In the presence of genital ulcers the risk of transmission via sexual activity increases to a much higher state than normal and currently it is approximated to nearly 5 times. The viral load in an infected person also plays an important role in transmission. It is highest at the start of the infection and at this stage it spreads at the highest rate possible. Moreover, the risk of transmission is much higher from the infected person who has reached the late stages of HIV infection .


Parental Transfer:
HIV is also transmittable from the mother to her child. It gets transmitted from the mother to her child by various means such as during pregnancy or delivery or while breastfeeding. Most commonly the transmission of the HIV virus occurs during breastfeeding. The risk of transmission via this way can be minimized to very low rate by taking proper treatment during pregnancy.

It is highly recommended to get the newborn child tested for the HIV infection if the mother who gave birth to the newborn is infected with HIV infection to stay on the safe side. In order to minimize the risk, preventive antiretroviral treatment and therapy must be taken by the pregnant mother and it is strongly advised to avoid breastfeeding to the newly born child.

Contaminated Blood and Body Fluids:
In most of the developed countries the transmission of the HIV infection via blood and body fluids is extremely low as compared to other means of transmission. Most commonly HIV infection is transmitted via needle sharing on drug use in this case. Other sources of transmission in this case include use of injections for medicinal purposes with unsterilized needle and transfusion of contaminated blood.

In high income countries transmission of the HIV infection rarely occurs via this particular source due to enough precautions and medical guidelines however in low income and underdeveloped countries the transmission of the HIV infection by this source is still considered to be a big problem. Theoretically, people receiving tattoos and piercings are also at a risk of HIV infection transmission.

Is it really possible to prevent HIV/AIDS? Yes, you can actually prevent HIV/AIDS by using certain precautions. HIV/AIDS can be prevented by following ways:

Protected Sexual Contact
Pregnancy Precautions
Blood and Body Fluids Exposure
Although by applying the methods listed above reduces the risk of transmission to the highest possible extent but it is to be noted that HIV transmission cannot be fully prevented. Even if all the methods suggested above are applied effectively there is still a very small amount (<1%) of risk present of transmission of the HIV infection.

Protected Sexual Contact:
Protected sexual contact is one of the most effective methods of reducing the risk of HIV transmission. By consistent use of condom while having a sexual intercourse the risk of HIV transmission is reduced to more than 85%. While having sexual intercourse, condom can either be used by female or male. Research shows that risk of HIV transmission can also be prevented up to 40-50% by the use of vaginal gel by the female a few minutes (<5) before having an intercourse.

Circumcision in males can also prevent the risk of HIV infection transmission however there are many other drawbacks of circumcision such as penis cancer. Apart from that research also shows that the risk of HIV transmission is significantly higher in low income and underdeveloped countries as compared to developed and high income countries.

Pregnancy Precautions:
The transmission of the HIV infection can also be prevented if necessary precautions are taken by a HIV infected woman. By the use of certain treatments and medications the risk of transmission via a pregnant mother to her new born child can be minimized to less than 1%. The treatments primarily include antiviral medications and are often taken during the time of pregnancy.

The antiviral treatments and medications that are provided are easily available, affordable and feasible. One thing that is to be kept in mind is that the infected mother should not feed his infant in order to neutralize the risk of transmission. Research shows that in most of the newborns the infection is transmitted by breastfeeding only so, if the mother is infected thenavoiding breastfeeding is a must.

Blood and Body Fluids Exposure:
The exposure of contaminated blood and body fluids from a HIV infected person to a normal person often results in HIV transmission. Blood and body fluids exposure is considered to be one to most common ways of HIV transmission in low income and underdeveloped countries. It is advised that the infected persons should use proper coverings on their wounds and if they are injured then they should avoid physical contact with other people.

In developed countries, shared drug usage and needle sharing is considered to be an important factor in HIV transmission. It is the number one source of HIV transmission to the people who are drug addicts.

Effect of HIV/AIDS to Human Life since Its Discovery:

HIV/AIDS was first discovered in 1981 and since then it has became the reason for the death of more than 45 million people worldwide till date. Research shows that approximately 1.8 million people died worldwide due to HIV/AIDS in 2011 alone.

Till date no certified and effective cure for HIV/AIDS has been found out however the condition of the people suffering from HIV can be improved by taking certain antiviral therapies, medications and treatments. Scientists are doing the best they can in order to find out a cure for the HIV virus and it is predicted that with the pace the research is going on, an effective cure for the HIV virus will be available in the upcoming 10-15 years.

Every year, 1 December is celebrated as World AIDS Day in order to provide an opportunity to the people all over the globe to unite together and fight against HIV/AIDS. World AIDS Day is basically celebrated in order to show support to the infected people and to commemorate the people who have died due to this deadly disease.

Why is World AIDS Day Important?
An estimated of 200,000 people are diagnosed with HIV infection every year globally. Approximately more than 45 million people have died from HIV infection, making it one of the most deadly diseases the world has ever seen.

Scientists have been continuously researching on this virus in order to find out a cure and save the people who have been affected with this disease. There are many laws and gains in knowledge to secure and protect people suffering with HIV but still people are unaware of the myths and facts on how to protect others and most importantly themselves.

This day is celebrated in order to remind the government and the people that HIV/AIDS hasn’t yet gone away and they still need to fight it, spread awareness about it and raise money for further research in this segment.

What’s Your Duty on This Day?
Your duty is to spread awareness about the significance and importance of this day. World AIDS Day provides an opportunity to everybody to learn about HIV/AIDS. You should take benefit of this and should try to gain immense knowledge about HIV/AIDS and help spread out the word about it to others by various means such as Social Media, Online and Offline Ads etc.

You should help and support the people who are suffering from this deadly disease and commemorate the people who have died from it. If you are well aware of how HIV is transmitted, how it is prevented and how to treat it then you can stay protected from this disease and you can use your knowledge to ensure others also stay protected.

It is highly recommended to wear a red ribbon on this day to support the people living with HIV as it is the international symbol of HIV/AIDS awareness and support. You should know that this problem hasn’t yet been eradicated and you should do your best to let others know about this fact too so that one day we become able to eradicate this destructive disease out of everyone’s life.



Written by PH

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