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*HIV & AIDS* - A Closer Look

Updated on January 18, 2016
mahsa setareh profile image

Mahsa graduated with a degree in molecular biology and is studying for the MCAT to pursue further studies in pathology and immunology.

Hiv & Aids

What is HIV?

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV is a virus. Some viruses, such as the ones that cause the common cold or the flu, stay in the body only for a few days. Some viruses, such as HIV, never go away. When a person becomes infected with HIV, that person becomes "HIV positive" and will always be HIV positive. HIV disrupts the functioning of the immune system. A weakened immune system allows the development of a number of different infections and cancers, and it is these diseases which cause illness and death in people with AIDS.

Acute HIV infection is a condition that develops within two to four weeks after someone is infected with HIV. Acute HIV infection is also known as primary HIV infection or acute retroviral syndrome. It is the primary stage of infection and lasts until the body has created antibodies against HIV. During this first stage of infection, the virus is duplicating at a rapid rate. Unlike other viruses, which the body's immune system can normally fight off, HIV can’t be eliminated by the immune system. This means the virus can live in your body for extended periods of time. As HIV progresses, the virus attacks and destroys immune cells, leaving the immune system unable to fight off other diseases and infections. When this happens, the HIV infection can lead to the development of AIDS.

Signs and Symptoms..

HIV is spread through four body fluids:

  • semen
  • vaginal fluid
  • blood
  • breast milk

HIV is NOT spread through:

  • tears
  • sweat
  • feces
  • urine

HIV attacks and destroys a type of white blood cell called a CD4 cell, commonly called the T-cell. This cell's main function is to fight disease. When a person's CD4 cell count gets low, they are more susceptible to illnesses.

Symptoms of acute HIV infection include:

  • rash
  • fever
  • chills
  • headache
  • fatigue
  • sore throat
  • loss of appetite
  • ulcers that appear in the mouth, esophagus, or genitals
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • muscle aches

After being infected with HIV, your body works really hard to attack the virus. With your body fighting, the virus can't make as many copies of itself. Even though you still have HIV, you'll begin to look well and feel well again. The usual blood tests will be normal. However, during this time, the virus is still attacking your lymph nodes. The virus may also attack your brain tissue and slowly cause damage there.

Hiv & Aids

HIV Positive and Pregnancy

Many HIV positive women all over the world give birth to healthy negative children with the use of HIV treatments. There is nothing medically stopping you from having this baby if you decide you want to continue with the pregnancy. In terms of the risks to your health during pregnancy, HIV positive women are not usually at any further risk of pregnancy-related complications than negative women. There is some controversial evidence which suggests that around 14% of positive women on HIV treatment during pregnancy have the baby a bit earlier than full term. As far as the HIV is concerned, most women see a drop in their CD4 count of about 50 but this goes up again once the baby is born.

Patient Education Video: HIV and AIDS

The Stages of HIV to AIDS

Some medications you may have to take to control HIV cause changes in the way your body produces, uses, and stores fat. These changes are called lipodystrophy. This condition causes you to gain or lose fat in particular parts of your body.

You can get extra fat in the following places:

  • Abdomen
  • Neck
  • Breasts (both men and women)
  • Face
  • In addition, you can also develop small deposits of fat, called lipomas

Other changes can occur when the fat under your skin (called subcutaneous fat) is lost. This can occur in your:

  • Face
  • Arms
  • Legs
  • Buttocks

The Stages of HIV:

Acute Primary Infection - Within the first few weeks of contracting HIV, 70% of people will experience flu-like symptoms.

Clinical Latent Infection - This is the scary stage of HIV! The second stage of an HIV infection has an average duration of 10 years. During this phase, people infected with HIV live almost normal, asymptomatic lives because the infection has likely not caused any additional symptoms or complications. The circulating level of HIV in the blood will become very low and possibly almost undetectable. However, people with HIV remain infectious and can pass HIV to another individual during this phase.

Symptomatic HIV Infection - The Third Stage! Over time, HIV destroys your immune system. Many patients will begin treatment with antiretroviral medications at this point. If the anti-HIV drug treatment does not work, or if a person chooses not to begin treatment, the immune system will begin to deteriorate more quickly. During this time, opportunistic infections become increasingly likely. But on how the diseases progresses it's impossible to indicate that.

Progression from HIV to AIDS - In the final stage of HIV, the immune system is severely damaged. Infections become increasingly worse. He or she is diagnosed with a stage-4 HIV-related condition (such as tuberculosis, cancer, and pneumonia), the HIV has progressed to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (aka AIDS). Once HIV progresses to AIDS, a person is more likely to die. Some patients will live only a few months after reaching the fourth stage of HIV, while others will live many years.

These are some kinds of antibody tests:

  • Enzyme immunoassay (EIA) tests. These tests are the most common and give results in a day to one to two weeks.
  • Rapid tests. These are antibody tests that give you results quickly, usually in about 20 minutes. Rapid tests use blood from a vein or a finger stick or fluid from your mouth to look for antibodies to HIV.
  • Home Access Test. With this antibody test, you take your blood sample at home and mail it to a lab for testing. Results are provided over the phone by a counselor. You do not have to give your name. You will receive an ID number to use when you call for the results.


Be safe while in sexual intercourse with someone who has HIV and never share needles with anyone else. If you have any of the symptoms listed above please visit your M.D as soon as possible for a check up and a HIV test - You could be saving your life and the lives of others.

Center For Disease Control and Prevention - 1600 Clifton Road Atlanta, GA 30329-4027 USA
800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636)

AIDS webpages:

HIV & AIDS* - A Closer Look

5 out of 5 stars from 2 ratings of HIV & AIDS* - A Closer Look

© 2016 Mahsa S


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    • mahsa setareh profile image

      Mahsa S 2 years ago

      Thank you, it's great to know these information about certain diseases and their condition

    • mahsa setareh profile image

      Mahsa S 2 years ago

      Yes it's good to know the different diseases and infections

    • profile image

      Kath 2 years ago

      Thanks for the's so great to know about these disease and how to prevent ourselves from it

    • profile image

      Michael 2 years ago

      Thanks,as usual .well done

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for the facts on HIV. You answered many questions and your section on the stages gives information which may not be popular. Very helpful and informative!