AIDS or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome is a disease caused by HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). The virus affects the immune system making the body an easy target for diseases and infections. AIDS is the final stage of the HIV infection, the moment when the body is too weak to fight life-threatening infections.
HIV is a fragile virus which does not livelong outside the body. The virus can be found in the body fluids: semen, blood, anal and vaginal fluids, breast milk, but not in the urine or sweat. The most common way of getting infected with HIV is through unprotected sex.
Ways of getting infected with HIV
Almost 80% of people who got infected with HIV experience the seroconversion illness, which is similar to the flu and occurs two to six weeks after infection. The most common symptoms are:
After these initial symptoms, the virus might become silent for many years. This period is known as the asymptomatic HIV infection and can last for about 10 years. Although the virus will continue to spread and damage the immune system, the infected person will feel and appear well. Left untreated, the infection will continue to develop and lead to the late-stage HIV infection or AIDS. At this stage the body is exposed to life threatening illnesses such as pneumonia, TBC or various types of cancer.
Symptoms of AIDS
First of all, if you believe you have been exposed to HIV infection, you should immediately get a HIV test. Although there is no cure for HIV/AIDS there are treatments which can slow the development of the disease and offer patients a long and healthy life.
Emergency HIV drugs
The post-exposure prophylaxis medication or PEP may stop the individual from becoming infected with HIV if it is started within 72 hours from coming into contact with the virus. The treatment lasts for a month, has serious side effects and its success is not guaranteed.
The treatment with antiretrovirals (ARVs) fights the HIV infection and slows down its development. Usually the patients take a combination of medications known as HAART (highly active antiretroviral therapy), which is adapted to each patient. The treatment is lifelong and the side effects are quite severe.
Complementary or alternative medicine
Mineral or vitamin supplements, herbal medications and other alternative and complementary treatments and medications may show some benefits for some patients.
Cost of HIV treatment
In the US the cost for the HIV treatment varies from $2,000 to $5,000 per month. In the UK patients pay around $30,000 annually. Although some patients qualify for public assistance programs, many of them are uninsured. The AIDS Drug Assistance Program or ADAP and Medicaid are offering assistance programs for people with AIDS.
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