HIV is a virus that weakens the immune system over time. Without treatment, it progresses through three stages over time. Many factors influence the timing, including medications, age, and overall health. HIV attacks white blood cells known as CD4 T cells, which help the body fight infection.
HIV gradually weakens the body’s defenses against infection and illness by killing these cells, leading to complications that can be fatal unless a person receives effective, ongoing treatment.
Antiretroviral therapy can help prevent HIV progression, especially if started early. People with HIV who receive this treatment have the same life expectancy as people without HIV. This article examines the timeline of HIV symptoms, the stages of infection, and the prognosis. We also discuss how to keep HIV from spreading.
HIV Infection Stages
When a person gets HIV and does not get treated, the infection progresses through three stages. Anyone who has been exposed to HIV should seek advice from a healthcare provider and inquire about a preventive therapy known as post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)Trusted Source.
People at risk of HIV exposure can take pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) regularly to prevent the infection from taking hold, even if they are exposed.
Acute HIV infection is the first stage.
When a person comes into contact with HIV, the virus replicates quickly, and high levels of the virus are found in the blood. It can easily spread at this time through blood, sperm and pre-seminal fluids, rectal fluid, vaginal fluid, and breast milk.
Some people develop a nonspecific syndrome with a fever and other flu-like symptoms within 2-4 weeks of being exposed to the virus through a trusted source. This could last several days or weeks. These symptoms, however, do not affect everyone. If a person does not get tested, HIV can spread throughout the body with no warning.
Among the flu-like symptoms of stage 1 HIV infection is:
• a high temperature
• joint or muscle pain
• sweating at night
• rashes on the skin
• mouth ulcerations
• throat pain
• glandular swelling
• vomiting or nausea
These symptoms are referred to as a seroconversion illness. They are the body’s natural response to an infection in which it attempts to kill the virus. However, once present, the human body is unable to eliminate this virus. At this point, the virus replicates and spreads throughout the body by using the body’s CD4 T cells. It does so by destroying CD4 T cells.
This process eventually settles. The immune system reduces the number of viral particles, and CD4 T cell levels may increase. The number of these cells, however, may not return to its original level.
HIV Infection, Stage 2
Even after the acute phase has passed, the virus is still active and can replicate at low levels, doing damage to immune cells even if the patient has not been treated.
No symptoms, or only mild ones, are typical at this point. This is why some doctors refer to stage 2 as “asymptomatic HIV infection” or “clinical latency.” Although no symptoms may be present at this time, the virus is still contagious to others.
In the absence of treatment, this phase of HIV can last for as long as ten years before progressing to stage 3. However, the progression of the infection can be halted with the help of modern antiretroviral medications. As a result of taking these medications, the viral load (the amount of HIV in the body) is drastically reduced.
At viral loads too low to be detected by standard laboratory methods, HIV can no longer cause immune system dysfunction or spread to others. Some people use the term “U=U” to mean “undetectable equals untransmittable. “Someone with HIV at Stage 2 who is treated with effective antiretroviral therapy may never progress to Stage 3 if they are treated promptly.
HIV Infection, Third Stage
Stage 3 HIV, also called AIDS, is a fatally progressive disease. This condition arises when the immune system has been compromised to the point where it can no longer effectively fend off infections.
Keeping the immune system healthy with antiretroviral medication is crucial in preventing HIV from reaching this point.
Without treatment, the viral load and CD4 cell count will continue to rise and fall, respectively. If a person’s CD4 cell count drops below 200 cells per cubic milliliter or if they contract an opportunistic infection, they will be classified as having stage 3 HIV. Credible Information.
Various opportunistic infections can cause a wide range of symptoms at this point.
HIV stage 3 symptoms may include:
• Nighttime perspiration
• the sickness that causes fever
• chronic hacking cough
• issues with the mouth, skin, or both
• chronic diseases
• constant loose stools
• shedding pounds
As a result of advances in medicine, opportunistic infections are becoming less common. Although there is a wide variety, the following are the most frequently diagnosed opportunistic infections in the USA:
Infections and diseases caused by HIV can be treated, and the virus can be kept under control with medication. Medications such as antivirals, antibiotics, and antifungals are used to treat opportunistic infections.
Infection with HIV: Preventing Progression
The antiretroviral medication works best when started as soon as possible and when taken regularly and as directed. Taking antiretroviral medication helps maintain a healthy immune system and drastically lowers the likelihood of spreading HIV to others.
Treatment is most effective when started as soon as possible after a diagnosis has been made. Getting treatment quickly can help the patient and reduce the spread of the virus.
Drugs used to combat HIV/AIDS
Antiretroviral treatment maintains a functional immune system and stops the spread of the virus. Everyone with HIV can benefit from it.
HIV/AIDS Treatment with Antiretroviral Drugs
• blocks virus reproduction
• enhances one’s resistance to disease and longevity
• decreases the likelihood of viral spread
A person’s viral load for HIV can be brought down to undetectable levels with antiretroviral treatment. The majority of people who take antiretroviral drugs achieve viral suppression within 6 months. After the viral load has dropped below the detection threshold, the transmission of HIV to others is extremely unlikely to occur.
If necessary, a doctor can modify the medication regimen to better suit the patient. Medication is more effective and the risk of the virus developing resistance is decreased when it is taken regularly as directed.
PEP can stop the virus in its tracks if you’ve recently been exposed to it. You should only consider this if necessary.
When taken within 72 hours of when HIV exposure was suspected, PEP is the most effective. PEP is effective in preventing HIV infection when used in this way. When taken as directed, the 28-day PEP course reduces the risk of HIV infection by over 80%, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Factors of living
Certain lifestyle factors may contribute to the progression of HIV. A person can strengthen their immune system by doing the following:
Preventing infections: Take precautions to avoid infections and illnesses, and get regular vaccinations if your doctor recommends it. Stress reduction: Stress weakens the immune system and raises the risk of other illnesses and opportunistic infections.
Using condoms during intercourse: Condoms protect HIV-positive people from other sexually transmitted infections, which can further erode their immunity. Regular exercise has numerous advantages, including a lower risk of heart disease, increased energy, improved circulation, and lung capacity, better sleep, and less stress.
Eating a healthy diet: Eating a balanced diet with limited alcohol consumption helps to boost the immune system and ward off infections. Nutritious food can also aid in the treatment’s effectiveness. Quitting smoking: Smokers with HIV are more likely to develop infections like candidiasis and pneumonia, as well as illnesses like certain cancers, heart disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Other factors influencing the progression
Some of these are beyond anyone’s control. Other factors that can contribute to HIV progression include:
• the subtype of HIV
• before the infection, overall health
• the presence of additional infections
The outlook for someone living with HIV is largely determined by whether they have consistent access to treatment and are taking it as prescribed.
If a person with HIV receives consistent antiretroviral therapy before the infection progresses, he or she can live a long, healthy life with a life expectancy comparable to that of someone who does not have HIV.
Without treatment, a person may develop stage 3 HIV 2-15 years after infection. After a stage 3 HIV diagnosis, the average life expectancy is three years. However, with effective treatment, many people never progress to stage 3 HIV, and the prevalence of opportunistic infections is much lower than it was previously.