HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus, attacks and destroys the immune system. Without treatment, the virus progresses into AIDS. The biggest concern with HIV is that the virus weakens the immune system’s function, making the body more susceptible to infections and diseases.
What Causes HIV?
HIV is primarily spread via bodily fluids during sexual contact. One of the most common ways people get infected is through exposure to the sperm of an infected individual during unprotected sexual intercourse. HIV can also be transmitted through vaginal fluids.
Blood is another way the virus can be spread, which means sharing needles and contact with the open sore of an individual with HIV increase the risk of transmission. HIV can also be passed onto a child during pregnancy, and also through breast milk.
First Signs and Diagnosis
Early detection of HIV is critical. The issue is that HIV can be asymptomatic, so waiting to get tested until there is a major decline in your overall health is not recommended if you are at risk.
Following the exposure, the virus completes four stages, and most people only exhibit symptoms during the first stage and might not show any symptoms again for up to a decade as the virus can stay dormant in the body.
If an individual does show signs following the exposure, the first symptoms appear as early as two weeks or can up to two months and are similar to the flu, such as fever, headaches, fatigue, sore throat, diarrhea, night sweats, rashes, and genital sores.
After getting tested and reaching a diagnosis, the next step is antiretroviral therapy or ART. ART refers to a cocktail of medications that stops the virus from replicating itself, hence progressing, which effectively reduces the viral load in the system.
With ART, people with HIV live longer and healthier lives with a dramatically lower risk of spreading the infection to others.
Preventing HIV Transmission
#1 Get regularly tested
Depending on your risk factors and how sexually active you are, the ideal regularity is usually every three to six months. Know your sexual history, and confirm your sexual partner’s’ status.
#2 Always use condoms
For most STDs, condoms are not entirely foolproof, but condoms are almost 98% effective in preventing HIV transmission.
#3 Be wary of multiple partners
Having more than one sexual partner puts you at a higher risk of HIV transmission. For those with multiple partners should establish trust and ascertain their partners’ status.
#4 Do not share needles
If you depend on injections, ensure that they are properly sterilized and do not share needles with others.
#5 You can get a prescription of PrEP
Although it is very costly if you do not have the right health coverage, if you are in the high-risk group, your doctor may find it appropriate to prescribe pre-exposure prophylaxis, which is 90% effective in protecting against HIV transmission.
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