Olga Berezhko

General practitioner

Olga Berezhko

Experience 36 year

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks the body's immune system. More specifically, it affects certain immune cells and kills them. The longer and more actively this process lasts, the weaker the immune system becomes - over time, it is simply not able to cope even with infections that are relatively safe for an average person.

HIV and AIDS - differences, duration of development, prognosis

AIDS is the terminal stage of HIV, which is characterized by severely reduced immunity. From HIV infection to AIDS without treatment, the disease can take 9-11 years to develop. When a patient is diagnosed with AIDS and it is untreated, his/her life expectancy is short, averaging up to 19 months.

If treatment is started in time, it is possible to live a very long life at the HIV stage - the life expectancy of such patients thanks to modern treatment is 20-50 years. Although the situation is much more complicated at the AIDS stage, many patients with proper treatment and a strong body can live for more than 10 years.

Obviously, taking therapy is a critical factor in treating HIV and living a full life. Moreover, it is the treatment that can significantly reduce the viral load and make the infected person harmless to the partner, as well as for family members.

Ways of HIV transmission

Main ways of transmitting HIV:

  • unprotected sex with an infected person. A person can get infected both after a single contact and after several ones;
  • using a needle to inject some drugs after an infected person. Or when a healthy person's blood comes into contact with the blood of an infected person;
  • transmission from mother to fetus during childbirth or from mother to child during breastfeeding. But if the woman is treated and monitored by doctors, she has a good chance of having a healthy baby;
  • transfusion of infected blood. In modern clinics and hospitals this is already excluded, because all materials are very seriously tested.

There are also so-called risk groups - these are people who are more susceptible to HIV infection than others:

  • people leading a promiscuous sex life;
  • homosexuals;
  • drug addicts who inject;
  • people with a partner infected with this virus.

Such people should constantly be tested.

Speaking about how you can get HIV, it should be clarified in which cases it is impossible:

  • during household contacts;
  • when using utensils of an infected person;
  • with an insect bite;
  • while kissing.

Contact with an HIV-infected person at the household level (at home, at work, etc.) is absolutely safe and does not pose any threat to others.

The main stages of the disease

The stages of HIV are divided into the following:

  • incubation. This is the stage at which infection and subsequent multiplication of the virus in the blood occurs. It lasts up to six weeks, sometimes less. Even if infected, at this stage a person will not see obvious signs and a blood test will not show that there are antibodies in the blood;
  • primary. The first signs of infection may already appear. The second stage lasts for 3 weeks - at this time antibodies appear, the virus is determined in the laboratory;
  • subclinical. The first sign of infection appears - enlarged lymph nodes. The patient feels completely healthy;
  • emergence of secondary diseases. The immune system begins to malfunction, resulting in all kinds of illnesses: from frequent colds and thrush to pneumonia and tuberculosis;
  • terminal. The stage involves exhaustion (quite fast and progressive), as well as the subsequent death of a patient.

Stages do not have a single correct time frame - they can differ from person to person. For example, it is common for HIV-infected people to feel well for years or ignore small signs. The disease is detected only at the stage of severe deterioration of well-being or due to random analyzes.

HIV symptoms

Having found out how HIV is transmitted, you need to understand the symptoms. The problem is that these symptoms appear at an early stage, then disappear and do not bother a person for a long time. And they are very similar to the manifestations of other diseases, which can be misleading.

So, in the first stage, when the virus has manifested itself, a person may feel:

  • sore throat, raise of temperature;
  • soreness of the skin, joints, bones;
  • chills, fever.

At the same time, the cervical lymph nodes enlarge and various rashes may appear.

New symptoms of HIV return after several years of a quiet and healthy life. These include:

  • severe and rapid fatigue;
  • an increase in lymph nodes;
  • weight loss. Usually it looks causeless;
  • fever, chills, sweating (mainly nocturnal);
  • problems with the gastrointestinal tract.

At this stage, as a rule, the disease is detected - because the patient goes to the doctor and the specialist prescribes an additional examination.

How HIV is diagnosed in Moscow

To diagnose this virus, there are two tests: a preliminary ELISA and the most accurate immunoblot. The accuracy of the ELISA is about 90%. It is recommended to be done 3-6 months after contact with the virus, then it gives maximum accuracy. The usual ELISA test is based on a blood test, there are also rapid tests that help get information based on urine or saliva. Such texts should be bought exclusively in a pharmacy (never on the Internet!).

If the express test gave a positive result, you must go to the infectious disease specialist. In such a situation, and also when ELISA in a blood test gives a positive result, the patient is prescribed an immunoblot. Its reliability is 99.9%. The diagnosis is made either on the basis of two repeated tests or on a combination of both. The analysis is rechecked and only after that a diagnosis can be made. This is necessary in order to exclude false positive results.

Important: the test does not show how HIV is transmitted in a particular situation - it is possible to determine the route of infection only by analyzing your own actions.

HIV treatment

Antiretroviral therapy is administered during treatment. The patient is given a medication regimen - and this must be followed as closely as possible without deviating from the programme. Otherwise, the virus can develop resistance to treatment and cannot be suppressed further.

Indicators of good treatment are a lower viral load and an increase in CD4+ cells in the blood, which indicates that the immune system is active.

Medicines for treatment are dispensed at health centers. Patients are registered and given medication free of charge. Information about the disease is confidential - it is not sent to work, school or other places. The patient has the right to keep it secret (only if it is not stipulated in separate work contracts).

If the therapy is followed, the virus in the blood gradually decreases. Over time, the patient becomes completely safe for his or her sexual partner and is unable to infect anyone else.

Prevention of HIV infection

The first and foremost rule is to be regularly tested for HIV, even if you have not had suspicious contacts.

Careful attention should be paid to the choice of partners. You should not trust a person who says that he is definitely not sick. It is better to ask for the results of the study.

Prevention of HIV is about:

  • protected sex with non-regular sex partners, as well as with regular ones if you are not sure that your partner is not sick or faithful.
  • avoidance of drugs and promiscuity;
  • observance of general hygiene.

The main prevention is to be aware of the infection and its risk.

Popular questions and answers about HIV

How does HIV affect men and women?

The symptoms are exactly the same. Manifestations may differ only in the urogenital system when the body is already very weakened. For example, women are more likely to have thrush.

Can HIV be cured?

Technically, we can say that HIV is not curable - patients are constantly shown special therapy. But the results of continuous therapy help to make the patient a healthy person - he/she just needs to constantly take medications and monitor his/her health.

HIV is no longer a fatal disease!

Is HIV a disease of drug addicts and people with a disorderly lifestyle?

In fact, this is a myth. Unfortunately, a person who leads a healthy lifestyle and is responsible for his relationships can also get this disease. HIV is not always a sign of an irresponsible attitude towards one's life.

Who are HIV dissidents?

These are people who deny the existence of the virus. They refuse treatment, which inevitably leads to early death. Such people are also dangerous because, due to the lack of treatment, they spread the virus among their sexual partners without warning them of the possible danger.

The success of HIV treatment and long life lies in seeking help and starting therapy as early as possible.

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