AIDS & HIV though distinctly different from one another are often terms used interchangeably, although there is a world of difference between the two. HIV i.e. Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a virus that infects people by various means. It gets inside the body and multiplies itself bringing down the immunity of the patient to a drastic low. AIDS or Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome is the result of HIV infection.
HIV is a virus. AIDS is a medical condition.
The human body is wonderfully designed to in such a way that it confronts disease-causing micro-organisms in the best way possible. The process is such that even the patient takes a while to come to terms with their infection and are quite unaware of the happenings within their body. If the immune system is strong and powerful enough, the infection is completely cured, and the virus or bacteria is driven out of the body by the T-cells. The chances of the disease occurring are raised only when the virus or bacteria is more powerful than the immune system of the body and easily takes it over.
HIV is not one of those usual viruses that get inside a human body and immediately put up a ‘fight’. Unlike other viruses, HIV doesn’t start killing the host cells right after it enters but instead starts integrating its own genetic material with that of the host cell’s, to convert to DNA for the host. It then uses the host cell’s machinery to replicate itself.
The entire scenario takes place so discreetly and secretly that the body still does not realize that we are infected. This is why, even after infection, HIV test results take anywhere between 3 weeks to 6 months for the virus to show in the bloodstream. And by the time the presence of an ‘intruder’ is felt, it’s too late.
This intruder is now King.
The functioning of HIV can be compared to a friend who is seemingly lovable and harmless, but eventually stabs you in the back, and ends up killing you.
How to prevent HIV from spreading?
Once you become HIV positive, there is no way you can get rid of it. Becoming aware of it is the easiest way to save yourself from HIV infection. Following are some ways through which we can prevent the HIV virus from spreading:
By remaining faithful: HIV spreads primarily through blood, semen, rectal and vaginal fluids. During sexual intercourse, there is a high chance that one will exchange these fluids. By remaining faithful, you can ensure that you do not come in such a contact with anyone who might have contracted HIV from elsewhere.
By using Condoms: By using condoms, you can greatly reduce the risk of spreading HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases. It is a necessity if you are indulging in sexual activities with someone you don’t know very well. If you are a woman, you can use female condoms. Moreover, if you are using a condom, you should avoid using oil-based lubricants, as they might reduce the strength of the condoms.
By using clean needles: Always ask your doctors to use disposable needles. If you do self-medication, make sure you don’t share your needles with anyone. In addition, always sterilize the needles before using.
By taking HIV treatment during pregnancy: Since a pregnant woman exchanges fluids with her child, the child stands at a high risk of contracting the disease from the mother. However, you can reduce this risk considerably by taking HIV treatment while delivering the child, and while breastfeeding it.
What is AIDS?
An HIV positive person, who develops AIDS, slowly ends up succumbing to other diseases due to lack of strength to ‘fight’ them. At the same time, another HIV positive person may lead a healthy life without the viral infection culminating in AIDS. The use of proper treatment and medications can keep the harmful viral effects to a minimal level.
Medicines are only meant to suppress the HIV from developing further and infecting more cells so that patient stays away from opportunistic infections. Despite these methods, HIV cannot be completely wiped off the body since it is quite resistant to medicines and strong enough to survive treatments too.
What sets apart AIDS from HIV?
There is 50-50 chance of the HIV infection progressing to AIDS. This solely depends on one’s personal immune system and the power to withstand infections. But if it does, over a certain period of time, the body starts losing the sense of self and foreign cells. The immune system is then cheated and unknowingly starts destroying its own cells. It happens because now most of them are carrying the viral genetic material replicated in them by HIV. This definitely weakens the ‘soldier cells’ of the body (WBCs, T-cells particularly) with every passing day.
An AIDS patient is needed to undergo blood tests at certain durations after every few months. This is carried out only to keep a check on these ‘soldier cells’. A decrease in the number of these T-cells below a certain limit will ensure the death of the patient.
How can they be addressed?
Currently, there is no known cure for HIV. More than 76 million people have suffered from HIV since its beginning, and about 35 million people out of those died because of it. The virus and its replicating system are so advanced that current treatment methods can do nothing to beat it. However, there has been a case in 2008 of an individual being cured of HIV. Though this seems like no big deal in a world where almost everyone is losing their battle to HIV, there stills seems to be hope. Many types of research are being made on the lines of totally getting rid of the infected DNA in the infected viral cell. Also, there have been studies going on by which the viral genome becomes apparent and is destroyed by current methods of treatment.