Communicable Diseases

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) Disease

What's AIDS:
AIDS is a disease that occurs when the human immunodeficiency virus enters the body and gradually overpowers the immune system.
The word AIDS means: (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). The virus that causes this disease is called: the human immunodeficiency virus. In other words, HIV is the cause and AIDS is the result.

Definition of AIDS:
AIDS is caused by infection with the AIDS virus, which is a virus that multiplies upon entering the human body and infects the cells responsible for the immune system. These cells are called T cells. The virus lives and reproduces inside the body’s cells and gradually eliminates the immune cells and hinders their performance, which causes the body to become weak and unable to resist diseases as it is exposed to them due to some microbes such as bacteria and viruses, and thus the body shows sick symptoms, and these symptoms vary from person to person and from time to time depending on the level of immune cells.
The difference between HIV infection and AIDS:

  • Acquired immunodeficiency virus infection: It is an infection that results from infection with a virus called (human immunodeficiency virus), which attacks the body’s immune system, which is responsible for fighting infection. Therefore, when a person is infected with HIV without treatment, he can get sick easily because his immune system does not work properly to fight infections.
  • AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome): is the name used to describe the disease resulting from a number of infections and potentially life-threatening diseases that occur when the immune system is severely damaged due to failure to control the HIV virus.
  • The word (acquired) means that it is not genetically inherited.
  • (Immunodeficiency) means lack of immune cells that lead to collapse of the immune system and make it weak.
  • (Syndrome) means that AIDS is not just one disease or one symptom, but rather a group of diseases and symptoms.

How HIV is transmitted:

The HIV virus is present in the body fluids of an infected person, such as blood and its derivatives, and fluids secreted during sexual acts from the male and female genital systems, even if the sexual process is not complete. The virus is also present in the milk of a mother infected with AIDS, and the virus can be transmitted from an individual infected with (HIV) to a healthy person when any of these fluids enter the healthy body through:

  • Unprotected sexual intercourse (without using a condom) with a person infected with HIV of all types, including vaginal, anal and oral sex.
  • Transferring contaminated blood or any of its derivatives from a person infected with the virus to a healthy person.
  • From the infected mother to the fetus or child during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding.
  • When exposed to acupuncture or sharp tools contaminated with the AIDS virus, or sharing needles or syringes with a person infected with HIV.

The infection is not transmitted through normal daily contact, such as:
External (non-intimate) kissing, handshakes or hugs, food or water, sneezing, coughing, swimming, using the same toilet, sharing food and drink utensils, using the same car or bus. However, human immunodeficiency virus is not transmitted through the air.

Risk factors:
Practices and situations that increase the likelihood of contracting the virus include:

  • Having anal or vaginal sex with a person infected with the virus without protection (condom).
  • Contracting other infections transmitted through sexual contact, such as syphilis, herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and bacterial vaginosis, as they make a person more vulnerable to contracting HIV or transmitting it to others easily.
  • Engaging in drinking alcohol and drugs in the course of sexual behavior.
  • Sharing contaminated needles, syringes, other injection tools, and drug preparation solutions when injecting drugs.
  • Multiple gender partners.
  • Undergoing unsafe injections, blood transfusions, or tissue transplants, or medical procedures that involve cutting or piercing the skin without sterilization.
  • Accidental exposure to needles contaminated with HIV, such as what happens among health workers.

Signs and symptoms:
The symptoms of the virus vary depending on the stage of infection, and although the ability of those living with the virus to transmit the infection is often greatest in the first few months following infection, many of them do not realize that they are infected until later stages.

In the first few weeks following a primary virus infection, the infected person may have no symptoms or most people may develop flu-like symptoms within 2 to 4 weeks after infection. Symptoms may last for a few days or several weeks and include:

  • Headache.
  • Sore throat.
  • Fever
  • Skin rash.
  • Feeling exhausted.
  • Sweating during the night.

The infection then weakens the immune system, causing other symptoms:

  • High temperature.
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes.
  • Weight loss.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Cough.

As infection persists without treatment, people with HIV infection can also develop serious diseases such as:

  • Tuberculosis.
  • Cryptococcal meningitis.
  • Severe bacterial infections.
  • And some types of cancer, such as lymphoma.
  • HIV causes other infections to worsen, such as hepatitis C and rheumatoid arthritis B and smallpox.

Some infected people have no symptoms at all so the only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested.

Examination and confirmation of infection
The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested, where knowing your HIV status helps you make healthy decisions to prevent getting or transmitting HIV to others.

Mechanism for examining and confirming infection
Through voluntary counseling and testing clinics, which is a preventive service in the field of combating AIDS provided by the Ministry of Health. It is carried out in complete confidentiality, in which the name or identity is not specified, but is done by giving each visitor a code number and a card with this code number written on it, which he presents upon his return to find out the result of the test and every time he comes for follow-up. The service includes:

  1. Providing counseling before the examination.
  2. Conducting the examination for anyone who wishes, without any pressure and in confidentiality.
  3. Providing advice when giving the test result.
  4. Providing follow-up advice to anyone who wants it.
  5. Directing the visitor to the appropriate service areas while maintaining privacy

Diagnosis of the disease:
Infection with the virus can be diagnosed using rapid diagnostic tests, the results of which appear on the same day, and this greatly facilitates its early diagnosis and referring infected people for treatment and care. There are tests to detect the virus that allow people to conduct the examination themselves. There is no single test that gives a complete diagnosis of the virus, so a confirmatory test must be performed by a qualified and experienced health practitioner in a medical center or clinic. Most commonly used virus diagnostic tests detect antibodies produced by an infected person in their immune response to combat the virus. In most cases, a person produces antibodies within 28 hours of becoming infected. During this time, the person goes through a period called the “Window” during which antibodies are not produced in large quantities and the person does not show signs of infection with the virus.
After an individual is diagnosed with the virus, he or she should be retested before being registered in treatment and care records to avoid any potential error in testing or reporting of results. In particular, a person should not be retested after being diagnosed with HIV infection and starting treatment.

Methods of prevention:
People can reduce the likelihood of becoming infected with the virus by reducing exposure to risk factors. The main methods for preventing HIV infection that are often used in combination to ensure prevention are listed below.

  • Use a condom during sexual intercourse.
  • Receive medical care to eliminate transmission of the virus from mother to child.
  • Male circumcision
  • Reducing risks for injecting drug users.
  • Avoid sharing razors or toothbrushes with others
  • Treatment with antiretroviral drugs and their use by the healthy spouse for prevention purposes.
  • Get tested for screening, receive counseling for HIV and STDs, and be linked to care services.

The virus can be controlled by following treatment courses consisting of a combination of 2-3 types of antiretroviral medications. Antiretrovirals do not currently treat infection with the virus, but they contribute greatly to suppressing the spread of the virus in the body of the infected person and allow his immune system to recover, strengthen it, and regain the ability to deal with opportunistic infections and some types of cancer.

Last Update : 19 November 2023 11:16 AM
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