Written by : Dr.M.D.Mazumdar, MD
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a deadly disease caused
by infection with a retrovirus, the Human Immunovirus (HIV).
A person who carries the virus is said to be HIV positive. AIDS is the end-stage of HIV infection.
The HIV is a highly infectious virus that spreads quickly from person to person through exchange of body fluids, specially during sexual intercourse.
But it can also spread by anything that causes direct entry of blood into the body such as by infected syringes and blood transfusion. HIV infection or AIDS is not caused by kissing, touching, sharing of towels and utensils, swimming pools or even using the same toilet seats.
The HIV virus gradually destroys cells in the human immunity system. It specifically infects the T-cells (which is a type of lymphocyte) that stimulates the cells of the immune system to fight against other virus, bacteria and infecting organisms.
HIV infection and AIDS occurs in four stages and the signs and symptoms depends on the stage of the disease. The first symptoms of HIV infection occurs within 2 - 4 weeks from the time of exposure to the virus.
Do you have an Obgyn question? Something you are concerned about?
Consult Dr. Mazumdar - Ask a question and get a reply within 24 hours.
Consultation fees - $20 only through Paypal.
Diagnosis of HIV infection in the primary acute stage can be done by screening for the HIV genetic material in the blood. But these are screening tests, not diagnostic tests.
The diagnostic tests are mainly for the HIV antibodies (antibodies to the virus) in the blood. These can take about 1-3 months and sometimes as late as 6 months to show up in the blood.
Two different types of HIV antibody tests are done - the ELISA test and the Western Blot test. If the tests are negative and there is a likelihood of an infection, the tests are again repeated after 6 months for a more accurate diagnosis.
If the tests for HIV infection and AIDS are negative after one year of exposure to unprotected sex, then the chances of infection with the HIV virus are minimal.
Treatment is with a group of drugs known as the anti-retroviral drugs. Each drug blocks the virus in a different way. They act mainly by preventing the virus from making copies of itself or by preventing it from producing infectious viral particles. Some of these drugs also work to damage the outer covering of the virus.
But none of the currently available drugs can cure HIV infection. What they can do is suppress the virus to a greater or lesser degree. As most of these viruses have become resistant to a single drug, a combination of drugs are usually prescribed called HAART - Highly Active AntiRetrovirus Therapy.
The disease can remain in remission for many years after treatment, but flare up again at any time.
The viral load and the CD4 count (a type of white blood cell) should be regularly monitored to determine the response to the treatment.
It has been estimated that there are more than 35 million infected people in the world today ( amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research).
Do you have a gynecological or obstetrical problem? Would you like to discuss it in private? Consult our online gynecologist Dr.M.D.Mazumdar, MD (O&G), at any time you want and get your reply within 24 hours.We charge a nominal fee of USD 20 ($20) per question through Paypal.com.
The procedure of asking a question is quite simple. Clicking on the link below takes you to the Paypal website where the payment is made. After the payment goes through, you will be directed back to this website where you can ask your question. And rest assured, you will get your answer within 24 hours. And usually, even sooner.