AIDs stands for Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome. The causative agent of Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is HIV that stands for Human Immuno Deficiency Virus. AIDs is a severe and life-threatening disease that has no cure but could be controlled by proper vaccination and medication. ART (Anti-Retroviral Therapy) is the only control measure that uses a combination of HIV medicines.
In the year 2003, 3 million people died due to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. During 2003, around 5 million adults and children acquired HIV. To create awareness among people, UNAIDS (United Nations AIDs), UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Fund) and WHO (World Health Organization) have put on many efforts to control and cure the disease.
Now, on the 1st of December, World’s AIDs day is being celebrated. The incubation period of AIDs is more than 8-10 years to show visible symptoms, and 50% of the cases are occurring in the age group between 15-24. Here, we will discuss the meaning, transmission, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and preventive measures of the AIDs. You can also know some of the important facts and complications of the AIDs disease.
Definition of AIDs
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is a disease caused by the infectious agent HIV, which primarily damages the CD4 cells (A type of effector T-cells) that protects the body against the foreign particles. A person infected with HIV may acquire various types of infections or diseases that we call as AIDs.
Transmission of AIDs
AIDs can be transmitted through the following means:
- The exchange of bodily fluids like blood, semen, vaginal fluids, rectal fluids, breast milk etc., but mainly occurs through the blood.
- AIDs can be transmitted during the blood transfusion.
- Spreads through unsafe sexual practices.
- Also, transmitted through injecting a needle and tattoo equipment infected with HIV to a healthy person.
Facts about AIDs
- Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is the last or advanced stage of HIV infection.
- If HIV is left untreated, it progresses to AIDs and controlled only through an ART (Anti-Retroviral Therapy).
- AIDs is the advanced stage of HIV, which means a person with HIV does not mean that he/she has AIDs.
- The normal count of CD4 cells, which is about 500-1500/mm3 reduces below 200/mm3 in a person with AIDs.
- Without any control measures, the life expectancy in AIDs is about 3 years because of severe illness and weakened immune system.
- Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome makes the person highly vulnerable to many diseases and infections.
Symptoms of AIDs
After the infection of HIV, the first visible symptoms occur after a few weeks of infection called the acute stage of infection. This stage of infection lasts for few weeks to few months. The symptoms of the acute stage of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome include:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Muscle ache
- Skin Rashes
- Sore throat
After a few months of acute infection, HIV enters the severe clinical latency stage lasting for several years to a few decades. This stage includes some non-specific symptoms like:
- Recurrent fever
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Night Sweats
- Weight loss
- Skin Rashes
- Oral or vaginal yeast infections
After a chronic latency period, HIV causes Acquired Immuno Deficiency syndrome that severely damages or suppresses the immune system to fight off against infections and disease. AIDs includes the following symptoms like:
- Recurrent fever
- Night Sweats
- Chronic fatigue
- Chronic swollen in lymph glands
- Dark splotches under the skin
- The appearance of spots, sores and lesions on the mouth, tongue and genital areas
- Rashes and lesions appear on the skin
Complications of AIDs
Complications arise due to the weakened immune system and the complications of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome include:
- Pneumonia: It infects the lungs, and it is a clinical disease where the air sacs get filled with the fluid.
- Tuberculosis: Mycobacterium tuberculosis causes tuberculosis (a respiratory disease that also affects the lungs).
- Oral thrush: It is a fungal infection in the mouth or throat.
- Cytomegalovirus infection: Cytomegalovirus is a type of Herpesvirus that causes infection in the eyes, brain and internal organs.
- Cryptococcal meningitis: It is the fungal infection of the brain.
- Toxoplasmosis: Toxoplasma gondii is the parasite that infects the brain.
- Cryptosporidiosis: Cryptosporidium causes cryptosporidiosis (a parasitic disease that affects the intestine system leading to diarrhoea).
The acquired immunodeficiency syndrome has to be diagnosed early as the symptom appears. Several tests are being widely used for the diagnosis of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome:
ELISA-test: It stands for Enzyme-Linked ImmunoSorbent Assay, and it is an immunoassay technique detects the presence or absence of HIV in the patient’s blood. If the ELISA gives a positive test for antigen, i.e. HIV, then the western blotting test is generally employed to confirm HIV-infection.
Home test: This test is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. This test is called the home access express test that is also common in the pharmacies.
Saliva tests: Firstly, the saliva is collected from the patient’s mouth using a cotton pad. Then, place a cotton pad in a vial and subject it for further testing in a lab. It gives the result within three days. But, for the more positive result, the blood test is recommended.
Viral load test: This test measures the amount of HIV in a patient’s serum at the early stage of the HIV infection. There are three methods used to detect the viral load in the blood, and it involves the binding of the DNA sequences, particularly to HIV if a person has HIV.
- Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR)
- Branched DNA (bDNA)
- Nucleic acid sequence-based amplification assay (NASBA)
Western blotting test: It is a confirmatory test used to confirm the positive ELISA test result.
The treatment of HIV- infection or AIDs is done using ART therapy that stands for “Antiretroviral Therapy”. This is the only way to treat or to control HIV infection. Antiretroviral Therapy not only manages the HIV-infection but also reduces the risk of transmission. Antiretroviral therapy uses the combination of HIV medicines to cure the disease, which contains NNRTIs, NRTIs, PIs, Fusion inhibitors, CCR5 Antagonists, INSTIs and Post attachment inhibitors.
- Non-Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NNRTIs): This medicine particularly switches off the protein required by HIV to replicate. Examples: Efavirenz, Etravirine, Nevirapine etc.
- Nucleoside/ Nucleotide Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTIs): This medicine acts as faulty building blocks utilized by HIV to form its replicas. Examples: Abacavir, Descovy etc.
- Protease Inhibitors (PIs): These inhibit the HIV protease enzyme that helps HIV to make its new copies. Examples: Atazanavir, Darunavir, Fosamprenavir etc.
- Entry or Fusion Inhibitors: It inhibits the entry of HIV to the CD4 cells. Examples: Enfuvirtide, Maraviroc etc.
- Integrase inhibitors: This kind of medicine inhibits the protein integrase that helps the HIV at the time of insertion of genetic material in the CD4 cell. Examples: Raltegravir, Dolutegravir etc.
- Eat healthy food like whole grains, fruits and vegetables to support the immune system.
- Avoid eating unpasteurized animal products like raw milk, raw eggs, raw seafood etc.
- By the proper vaccination, one can prevent complications of HIV like pneumonia, flu etc.
- Maintain proper hygiene.
- Avoid sharing personal items.
- Take precautions while getting intimate.
AIDs has resulted in epidemics in many regions like Africa, India, South America and South-East Asia. Therefore, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is spreading worldwide and still spreading at an alarming rate. Therefore, we should be aware of this disease. If there are any symptoms like AIDs, we must consult a doctor or physician, and we must take precautions to prevent the disease.