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What Part Of The Body Does Hiv Affect

Symptoms Of Hiv Infection

AIDS, HIV & STDs : How Does AIDS Affect the Body?

Most people experience a short flu-like illness 2 to 6 weeks after HIV infection, which lasts for a week or 2.

After these symptoms disappear, HIV may not cause any symptoms for many years, although the virus continues to damage your immune system.

This means many people with HIV do not know they’re infected.

Anyone who thinks they could have HIV should get tested.

Some people are advised to have regular tests as they’re at particularly high risk.

What Is The Treatment For Hiv

Individuals who are HIV positive will likely need to see a specialist. As with many other conditions, early detection offers more options for treatment. Today, there are medical treatments that can slow down the rate at which HIV weakens the immune system. However, there are other treatments that can prevent or cure the conditions associated with HIV. Anti-retroviral drug therapy may be given to a pregnant woman, which has proven to greatly reduce the chance of an infant developing HIV. A cesarean section may be recommended to reduce infant transmission from the birth canal. In the U.S., where other feeding options are available, an infected mother should be discouraged from breastfeeding her infant. Consult your child’s doctor for more information regarding various drug therapies.

Hiv And Mental Health

Receiving a diagnosis of HIV and living with the condition can have significant effects on a persons mental health.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, people living with HIV are twice as likely to have depression than those without HIV. They are also at a higher risk for mood, anxiety, and cognitive disorders.

There are specific sources of stress relating to the condition, such as having to find and manage medical support, managing the lifelong use of medications, and dealing with the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV.

Some antiretroviral drugs may also cause mental health side effects, such as anxiety.

Many mental health problems are treatable. Talking therapies, medications, and social support can all help.

The CDC provide a list of services that can help people manage the stigma and discrimination linked with HIV and receive additional support.

For more information about where to find support when living with HIV, people can visit the website.

Read Also: How Long Can Hiv Go Undetected

Antiretroviral Treatment And The Hiv Lifecycle

Antiretroviral treatment for HIV combines several different types of drugs, each of which targets a different stage in the HIV lifecycle. This means that the replication of HIV is stopped on multiple fronts, making it very effective.

If taken correctly, it keeps the immune system healthy, prevents the symptoms and illnesses associated with AIDS from developing, and means that people can enjoy long and healthy lives.

If someone doesnt take their treatment correctly or consistently , the level of HIV in their blood may increase and the drugs may no longer work. This is known as developing drug resistance.

How Hiv Attacks The Body And Progresses To Aids

The Effects of HIV on Your Body

As viruses go, HIV ranks among the most wily. In fact, it is a retrovirus, meaning it is composed not of DNA but of RNA. Like other retroviruses, HIV has the capacity to enter a cell and then use the machinery of its host to replicate itself. It does this by transcribing its RNA into the DNA of the host cell. After this occurs, the cell will translate and transcribe viral genes along with its own. Once a cell is infected, then, it is transformed into the perfect factory for producing copies of the virus.

Another reason HIV is highly dangerous is it attacks the immune system, the bodys defense system that detects and destroys intruding bacteria and viruses. In particular, HIV goes after T cells. A type of white blood cell, T cells always work in teams of two. Scientists divide them into two categories based on their function . CD4 cells, referred to as helper T cells, lead the fight against infections by signaling for help, and CD8 cells swoop in for the kill.

Healthy T CellNIAID

However, HIV penetrates CD4 cells before they can sound the alarm. Carried through the blood stream, the virus injects its own genes into these helper cells which begin to replicate the virus. With the helper cells unable to perform their crucial function, other immune system cells begin to fail in their duties. And so begins the methodical destruction of the immune system.

HIV-infected T cellNIAID

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Hiv And Menstrual Problems

Many women living with HIV experience menstrual changes . It is important to discuss any changes with your health care provider.

The changes women living with HIV may experience include:

  • Irregular periods:

  • Different in frequency
  • Different in duration
  • Different in amount
  • Missed periods

  • No period for more than 90 days

  • Spotting

  • Studies have found that menstrual irregularities are less common if you have a high CD4 cell count and are taking HIV drugs. Menstrual irregularities are more common if you have a low CD4 cell count or high viral load or are significantly below your ideal body weight.

    Respiratory And Cardiovascular Systems

    HIV makes it hard to fight off respiratory problems such as the common cold and flu. In turn, an HIV-positive person may develop related infections, such as pneumonia.

    Without treatment for HIV, advanced disease puts an HIV-positive person at an even greater risk for infectious complications, such as tuberculosis and a fungal infection called pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia .

    PJP causes trouble breathing, cough, and fever.

    The risk of lung cancer also increases with HIV. This is due to weakened lungs from numerous respiratory issues related to a weakened immune system.

    According to available research , lung cancer is more prevalent among people with HIV compared to people without it.

    People with HIV are more likely to develop high blood pressure. HIV also raises the risk of pulmonary arterial hypertension . PAH is a type of high blood pressure in the arteries that supply blood to the lungs. Over time, PAH will strain the heart and can lead to heart failure.

    If a person has HIV with a low CD4 count, theyre also more susceptible to tuberculosis .

    TB is an airborne bacterium that affects the lungs. Its a leading cause of death in people who have AIDS. Symptoms include chest pain and a bad cough that may contain blood or phlegm. The cough can linger for months.

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    People Living With Hiv/aids Are At A Higher Risk For Mental Disorders

    The stress associated with living with a serious illness or condition, such as HIV, can affect a persons mental health. It is important for people living with HIV to know that they have a higher chance of developing mood, anxiety, and cognitive disorders. For example, depression is one of the most common mental health conditions faced by people living with HIV. It is important to remember that mental disorders are treatable. People who have a mental disorder can recover completely.

    Situations that can contribute to mental health problems for people living with HIV include:

    • Having trouble getting mental health services
    • Experiencing a loss of social support, resulting in isolation
    • Experiencing a loss of employment or worries about being able to perform at work
    • Having to tell others about an HIV diagnosis
    • Managing HIV medicines and medical treatment
    • Dealing with loss, including the loss of relationships or the death of loved ones
    • Facing stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS

    HIV and related infections can also affect the brain and the rest of the nervous system. This may change how a person thinks and behaves. Also, some medications used to treat HIV may have side effects that affect a person’s mental health.

    Understanding how living with HIV can affect mental health and knowing what resources are available can make it easier for people to manage their overall health and well-being.

    Stages Of Hiv Infection

    how does hiv affect the body (hiv life expectancy)

    About a month after you get HIV, you might feel like you have the flu. This is the first stage, called primary or acute HIV infection. Symptoms include:

    • Fever
    • Fatigue
    • Swollen lymph nodes

    The next stage is called clinical latency, or chronic infection. You might have no symptoms, or only mild ones, for 10 years or more.

    Without treatment, as HIV keeps multiplying inside your body, youâll move into the third stage, which is AIDS. A person who has HIV is diagnosed with AIDS when they have fewer than 200 CD4 cells per cubic millimeter of blood or when they get whatâs called an AIDS-defining condition.

    AIDS-defining conditions are certain cancers and illnesses called opportunistic infections.

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    How Is Hiv Treated

    Treatments for HIV typically involve antiretroviral therapy. This isnt a specific regimen, but instead a combination of three or four drugs. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has currently approved nearly 50 different medications to treat HIV.

    Antiretroviral therapy works to prevent the virus from copying itself. This maintains immunity levels while slowing the progression of HIV.

    Before prescribing medication, a healthcare provider will take the following factors into consideration:

    • a persons health history
    • the levels of the virus in the blood

    HIV doesnt cause a lot of outward or noticeable symptoms until the disease has progressed. For this reason, its important to understand how HIV is transmitted and the ways to prevent transmission.

    HIV can be transmitted by:

    • having sex, including oral, vaginal, and anal sex
    • sharing needles, including tattoo needles, needles used for body piercing, and needles used for injecting drugs
    • coming into contact with body fluids, such as semen, vaginal fluid, blood, and breast milk

    HIV is not transmitted by:

    • breathing the same air as a person living with HIV
    • getting bitten by a mosquito or other biting insect
    • hugging, holding hands with, kissing, or touching a person living with HIV
    • touching a door handle or toilet seat thats been used by an HIV-positive person

    Keeping this in mind, some of the ways a person can prevent HIV include:

    Symptoms can take years to appear, which is why its so important to get tested regularly.

    Hiv Is An Infection That Can Lead To Aids

    HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. Its a virus that breaks down certain cells in your immune system . When HIV damages your immune system, its easier to get really sick and even die from infections that your body could normally fight off.

    About 1.1 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV, and more than 38,000 new infections happen every year. Most people with HIV dont have any symptoms for many years and feel totally fine, so they might not even know they have it.

    Once you have HIV, the virus stays in your body for life. Theres no cure for HIV, but medicines can help you stay healthy. HIV medicine lowers or even stops your chances of spreading the virus to other people. Studies show that using HIV treatment as directed can lower the amount of HIV in your blood so much that it might not even show up on a test when this happens, you cant transmit HIV through sex.Treatment is really important . Without treatment, HIV can lead to AIDS. But with medicine, people with HIV can live long, healthy lives and stop the spread of HIV to others.

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    How Long Does It Take To Develop The Disease

    There is no fixed period between the first contact with HIV and the development of the disease. Signs and symptoms resulting from infection with HIV develop in stages. Many infected individuals may have no symptoms for several years. But others may develop symptoms within three years from the time of infection.

    Symptoms of HIV infection are fever, swollen lymph glands in the neck and armpits, sweating, aches, fatigue, unexplained weight loss and diarrhea.

    Within eight years, about 50 percent of all infected people develop specific conditions categorized as AIDS. These conditions include a lung disease called “pneumocystis carinii pneumonia,” skin tumours called “Kaposi’s sarcoma,” fungal and viral infections such as candidiasis and herpes zoster, and severe diarrhea.

    Some AIDS patients also suffer from dementia resulting in problems with memory and thinking. AIDS patients are prone to various infections of the brain, just as they suffer from an unusually high number of cancers, bacterial and viral infections of other parts of the body.

    The Effects Of Hiv On The Body


    Most people are likely familiar with HIV, but they may not know how it can affect the body.

    HIV destroys CD4 cells , which are critical to the immune system. CD4 cells are responsible for keeping people healthy and protecting them from common diseases and infections.

    As HIV gradually weakens the bodys natural defenses, signs and symptoms will occur.

    Find out what happens when the virus enters the body and interrupts its systems.

    Once HIV enters the body, it launches a direct attack on the immune system.

    How quickly the virus progresses will vary by:

    • a persons age
    • how quickly theyre diagnosed

    The timing of their treatment can make a huge difference as well.

    HIV targets the types of cells that would normally fight off an invader such as HIV. As the virus replicates, it damages or destroys the infected CD4 cell and produces more virus to infect more CD4 cells.

    Without treatment, this cycle can continue until the immune system is badly compromised, leaving a person at risk for serious illnesses and infections.

    Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is the final stage of HIV. At this stage, the immune system is severely weakened, and the risk of contracting opportunistic infections is much greater.

    However, not everyone with HIV will go on to develop AIDS. The earlier a person receives treatment, the better their outcome will be.

    Early on, HIV symptoms may be mild enough to be dismissed.

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    How Is Hiv Transmitted

    HIV is transmitted from an infected person by body fluids such as blood, semen, breast milk, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids or other blood-containing secretions. Transmission occurs when these fluids come in contact with the various mucous membranes of the body, through cuts/openings of the skin, or directly injected into the bloodstream. As a result, anyone who is occupationally exposed to these body fluids risks contracting the disease. Preventive measures include wearing protective clothing, gowns, gloves, masks and goggles to control the spread of HIV among workers who may be at risk.

    Unprotected sexual intercourse with infected people poses the single most important risk of infection. HIV can also be passed from one partner into the bloodstream of the other through tiny cuts or scratches.

    Intravenous drug abusers may contract HIV if they share needles with infected people. Hemophiliacs requiring frequent transfusions or blood products are at risk due to the possibility of receiving contaminated blood. Since 1985, Canada’s Red Cross has been screening all blood donations for HIV antibodies.

    If an individual is struck with a HIV-contaminated needle or sharp object can also pose an opportunity for transmission. Health care workers are at high risk for this type of exposure.

    British Columbia Specific Information

    Human Immunodeficiency Virus causes an infection that damages the immune system. The immune system is the part of the body that fights infection and disease. If untreated, HIV infection will lead to a serious disease called Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome .

    For information on HIV infection and care in British Columbia, visit BC Centre for Disease Control and BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. For information on HIV drug coverage in B.C., please visit the Ministry of Health BC PharmaCare website.

    In B.C. HIV testing guidelines recommend that everyone have an HIV test at least every 5 years. They recommend more frequent testing for people who belong to populations that have a greater chance of having HIV, are pregnant, experience a change in their health that suggests HIV, or if someone requests a test. For information on HIV testing, see HealthLinkBC File #08m HIV and HIV Tests and HealthLinkBC File #38a HIV Testing in Pregnancy.

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    What Are Hiv And Aids

    HIV is the virus that causes AIDS . HIV attacks the immune system by destroying specific white blood cells called CD4 positive T cells that are vital to fighting off infection. The resulting shortage of these cells leaves people infected with HIV vulnerable to other infections and diseases, and additional complications.

    AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection. A person infected with HIV is diagnosed with AIDS when he or she has a dangerously low number of CD4+ T cells as well as one or more opportunistic infections, such as some types of pneumonia or tuberculosis, that do not typically affect people with healthy immune systems.

    Although HIV infection and AIDS primarily affect the immune system, they also disturb the nervous system and can lead to a wide range of severe neurological disorders, particularly if HIV goes untreated and progresses to AIDS. Many of the most severe neurological conditions can be prevented with antiretroviral therapy. However, even individuals who receive this treatment can develop less severe neurological and cognitive difficulties.

    Who Is At Risk

    How does HIV affect the body and brain?

    The risk of cognitive problems increases as you get older. Because of genetic factors, you are at greater risk if a close family member has had cognitive impairment or dementia. Women are at greater risk.

    Having any of these health conditions puts you at increased risk: raised cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis , stroke or transient ischaemic attack . Having previously had depression increases the risk of cognitive impairment later in life.

    The lifestyle factors mentioned in the previous section are also important.

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