Progression from HIV TO AIDS

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Many people who are HIV positive are living longer now than in the past. HIV is not an immediate death sentence. There is a great deal that can be done to live a happy and healthy life for a number of years.


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Many people who are HIV positive are living longer now than in the past. HIV is not an immediate death sentence. There is a great deal that can be done to live a happy and healthy life for a number of years.
The most important approach to being HIV positive is to maintain a positive attitude. Support is available to help deal with the physical and emotional needs, worries and anxieties. Being HIV positive or finding out you have AIDS will lead to feelings of guilty, fear, shock, and anger. These feelings are normal and to be expected.
It is important to know how the disease progresses from HIV infection to being ill with AIDS and eventually death. The process can be described in six stages
Primary HIV infection
This stage occurs in the first 4 to 8 weeks after becoming infected or until the immune response system develops enough antibodies to reduce the amount of HIV in the body.
During this period, people are very infectious. It will take some weeks, even months, before the body produces enough "antibodies' or cells that fight the HI virus to reduce the amount of HIV in the body.
Some people may develop a flu-like illness resulting in symptoms such as
• Fever, headache, sore throat and general flu-like symptoms
• Enlarged lymph nodes or glands in the neck and groin areas
• Skin rash may also appear together with painful muscles and joints
These symptoms usually disappear quickly and are often mistaken for colds or flu.
The silent phase
An HIV positive person experiences a silent stage during which time they remain perfectly healthy. This stage can last anything from three years to as much as ten years. Although the infection is silent, the virus is continuing its attack on the immune system.
Minor phase
A variety of minor complications begin to surface because of the weakened immune system. One of the first symptoms experienced by many people infected with HIV is the lymph nodes become swollen and remain enlarged for a long period of time. This is usually for a period of three months or more.
Other symptoms that may occur during this phase are
• A lack of energy and weight loss
• Frequent fevers and sweats
• Persistent or frequent thrush infections either in the mouth or vaginal area
• Persistent skin rashes, dry and itchy skin
• Recurrent mouth ulcers and or throat infections
Symptomatic phase
5-8 years after infection, the immune system finds it more and more difficult to defend against the HI-virus and the viral load increases progressively.
Symptoms are now more severe and can include
• Recurrent oral and vaginal thrush called Candida
• Constant occurrence of fever blisters and cold sores
• Hairy fungal growth of the tongue
• Chronic bacterial skin infections and other skin rashes
• Chronic diarrhoea. Weight loss of more than 10% of the original body weight
• Swollen lymph glands or other swollen glands
• Persistent and unexplained fevers and night sweats

Full-blown AIDS
The infected person becomes vulnerable to serious infections that take advantage of the weakened immune system. These are referred to as opportunistic infections. Some cancers may also occur. At this stage the person moves from being HIV positive to having full-blown AIDS.
Any of the following infections, signs and symptoms may occur
• A variety of skin rashes and infections
• Persistent coughing and chest pains caused by pneumonia and tuberculosis (TB)
• Severe vaginal and oral thrush extending down the throat and causing pain when swallowing
• Chronic diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting. Weight loss, tiredness or weakness
• Brain infections causing severe headaches and/or convulsions
• Poor concentration and memory loss.
• Enlarged lymph nodes, glands, spleen and liver
• Blindness can also occur at this stage
Terminal and final stage
Death usually occurs within 6 months to 3 years from the time of developing full-blown AIDS. People living with AIDS go through periods of being very sick alternating with periods of reasonable health. You may have heard it said that a person "died of AIDS". This is not strictly true. The majority die of AIDS related diseases. It is usually one of the many opportunistic infections that eventually cause death.
AIDS IS A KILLER DISEASE
PROTECT YOURSELF FROM INFECTION - USE A CONDOM
Written by: W D Squire
Contact Des on 011 884 5456 or [email protected]

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