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Frequently Asked Questions About HIV

What is HIV

The human immunodeficiency viruses (HIV) are two species of Lentivirus (a subgroup of retrovirus) that causes HIV infection and over time can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). AIDS is a condition in humans in which progressive failure of the immune system allows life-threatening opportunistic infections and cancers to thrive. Having HIV however, does not guarantee that you will have AIDS.

How is it transmitted

The most prevalent mode of transmission is through vaginal sex, oral or anal sex or through sharing sex toys with infected persons. It can be transmitted through both heterosexual and homosexual contact.

What are the symptoms

There are a variety of short and long-term symptoms from the infection. Some people with HIV exhibit flu-like symptoms during the four-week period after exposure to the virus. Men and women may both develop an oral yeast infection. Women may develop acute vaginal yeast infections as well as other pelvic inflammations and diseases. One of the earliest symptoms a person with HIV may have is Shingles.

Other symptoms of HIV and AIDS can include:

  • Fatigue

  • Constant fever

  • Night sweats

  • Feeling like you have the flu frequently

  • Weight loss

  • Swollen glands

How is it treated

There's no cure for HIV/AIDS, but many different drugs are available to control the virus. Such treatment is called antiretroviral therapy, or ART. Each class of drug blocks the virus in different ways. ART is now recommended for everyone, regardless of CD4 T cell counts. It's recommended to combine three drugs from two classes to avoid creating drug-resistant strains of HIV.

The classes of anti-HIV drugs include:

  • Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs) turn off a protein needed by HIV to make copies of itself.

  • Nucleoside or nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) are faulty versions of the building blocks that HIV needs to make copies of itself. 

  • Protease inhibitors (PIs) inactivate HIV protease, another protein that HIV needs to make copies of itself. 

  • Entry or fusion inhibitors Tblock HIV's entry into CD4 T cells. 

  • Integrase inhibitors work by disabling a protein called integrase, which HIV uses to insert its genetic material into CD4 T cells. 

How can I prevent

Just like other infectious diseases, the only sure way to prevent HIV is by avoiding sexual contact with infected persons.

One can, however, reduce the risk of infection by:

  • Use of male or female condoms during any act of sexual encounter.

  • Avoiding sharing of sex toys.

  • Performing safe oral sex by use of a dental dam.

What to do if diagnosed

If you are in doubt with your sex partner, and you suspect you have HIV, it's important to visit a health clinic to have the test performed on you. The severity of the diseases is usually lower when the symptoms are treated at an early stage.