Human Immunodeficiency Virus infection and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) is a spectrum of conditions caused by infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Following initial infection, a person may not notice any symptoms or may experience a brief period of influenza-like illness. Typically, this is followed by a prolonged period with no symptoms. HIV infects vital cells in the human immune system . As the infection progresses, it interferes more with the immune system, increasing the risk of common infections like tuberculosis, as well as other opportunistic infections, and tumors that rarely affect people who have working immune systems. These late symptoms of infection are referred to as AIDS. This stage is often also associated with weight loss.

How Does this Virus Spread?

HIV is spread primarily by unprotected sex (including anal and oral sex), contaminated blood transfusions, hypodermic needles, and from mother to child during pregnancy, delivery, or breast feeding. Some bodily fluids, such as saliva and tears, do not transmit HIV. Methods of prevention include safe sex, treating those who are infected . Disease in a baby can often be prevented by giving both the mother and child antiretroviral medication.

Diagnosed by PCR testing for HIV RNA or DNA, or via testing for the p24 antigen.

Treatment for HIV

There is no cure or vaccine; however, antiretroviral treatment can slow the course of the disease and may lead to a near-normal life expectancy. Treatment is recommended as soon as the diagnosis is made. Without treatment, the average survival time after infection is 11 years.

Treatment consists of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) which slows progression of the disease. Treatment also includes preventive and active treatment of opportunistic infections. The World Health Organization and United States recommends antiretrovirals in people of all ages including pregnant women as soon as the diagnosis is made regardless of CD4 count. Once treatment is begun it is recommended that it is continued without breaks or ‘holidays’.

Benefits of treatment include a decreased risk of progression to AIDS and a decreased risk of death.In the developing world treatment also improves physical and mental health. With treatment there is a 70% reduced risk of acquiring tuberculosis. Additional benefits include a decreased risk of transmission of the disease to sexual partners and a decrease in mother-to-child transmission.The effectiveness of treatment depends to a large part on compliance.

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Types of HIV tests - what do hiv tests look for in the body

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