HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It can be transmitted through unprotected sexual contact of all kinds. HIV infection presents with symptoms that might not be readily noticeable. That’s why it’s easy to shrug them off and not know that you already have HIV.
Recognising symptoms and having them checked by a doctor can pave the way for crucial treatment to commence. Untreated HIV infection can lead to a life-threatening AIDS condition.
If you think you’ve been infected by HIV, or simply have some questions about it. Please, you can always book an appointment for a video consultation with any of our Mobidoctor GPs.
HIV is a virus that lives on bodily fluids and can be passed on through both sexual and non-sexual means. It mainly targets the immune system, weakening it to a point where the ability to fight off infections becomes compromised.
You must stop HIV in its early tracks so that it won’t progress to the deadly AIDS infection. AIDS is a severely debilitating condition where your immune system isn’t working anymore to ward off infection and other serious illnesses.
Modern advanced in medicine enabled HIV-infected people to live healthier lives despite the virus. It is crucial to get an early diagnosis and prompt treatment to manage HIV symptoms well and continue living your life as healthy as possible.
Flu-like symptoms are commonly experienced by up to 80% of people initially infected with HIV. The following symptoms may indicate a possible HIV infection but do not totally guarantee it.
It’s best to see your doctor if you experience the following symptoms 2-6 weeks after having unprotected sex or exposure to needles:
Accompanying these main red flags are swollen glands and joint pain.
You may not notice any further symptoms once these initial signs have passed. The virus could inflict harm on your immune system for many years and go undetected. This should ideally be prevented for the HIV infection not to evolve into the more severe AIDS.
These symptoms strongly suggest the shift from HIV infection to AIDS. See your doctor immediately if you experience:
• Frequent diarrhoea bouts
• A rapid weight loss that occurs suddenly
• Skin problems that don’t go away easily
• Night sweats
All of these symptoms may indicate that your immune system is starting to weaken and fail hugely. You may also notice that you easily catch common illnesses such as cough and colds.
You are highly encouraged to consult your doctor at the first signs of possible HIV infection. Especially if you have risky sexual behaviours or have continuously been exposed to bodily fluids.
The HIV virus lives in bodily fluids, such as:
• Vaginal secretions
• Anal linings
Saliva and sweat may contain the virus, but in such low amounts that cannot infect others. Hence, activities such as towel-sharing or kissing are thought to have no direct participation in spreading the virus.
Most HIV cases in the UK are contracted through unprotected sex. Around 95% of cases started off from casual sex and unprotected vaginal, oral, and anal sexual activities. Sharing sex toys is also included.
The remaining 5% of HIV cases were contracted through non-sexual means such as:
• Needle sharing for frequent IV drug users
• Pricks from needles infected with blood (mostly faced by health care professionals like nurses and laboratory technicians)
• Mother-to-child transmission through pregnancy and breastfeeding
You can’t cure HIV, but antiviral medications can help you manage symptoms and control the growth of the virus inside your body. These medications are known as antiretroviral therapy (ART) and consist of tablets that work by:
• Preventing the rapid replication of HIV inside the body
• Letting the immune system break free from the virus for a while, helping it to recover its strength little by little
HIV is a virus that continually evolves. This is why your ART regimen may frequently change to ensure that the virus doesn’t become resistant and continues to respond to the medication. Your physician may prescribe combination drugs or switch medication regimens regularly throughout your life.
Lifestyle changes also play a significant role in successfully managing HIV. Your doctor may give you advice on quitting vices such as smoking and alcohol intake, exercising regularly, and including nutritious foods to your daily fare.