HIV / AIDS Diagnosis

HIV / AIDS, is a virus that attacks the immune system, specifically the CD4 cells (T cells), which play a crucial role in the body's defense against infections and diseases. If left untreated, HIV can lead to the disease AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).

HIV is transmitted through contact with certain body fluids, such as blood, semen, vaginal fluids, rectal fluids, and breast milk, from a person who has HIV. The most common modes of transmission include unprotected sexual contact, sharing of needles or syringes among injection drug users, and transmission from an infected mother to her child during childbirth or breastfeeding.

A person infected with HIV may go through different stages. The initial stage, known as acute HIV infection, often presents with flu-like symptoms, but many people may not experience any noticeable symptoms. If not diagnosed and treated, HIV can progress to the chronic stage, during which the virus remains in the body and continues to weaken the immune system over time.

AIDS is the final and most severe stage of HIV infection. At this point, the immune system is severely damaged, and individuals are highly susceptible to opportunistic infections and certain cancers. The criteria for an AIDS diagnosis include a CD4 cell count below a certain threshold or the occurrence of specific opportunistic infections or cancers.

However, with proper medical care and early and sustained antiretroviral treatment (ART), people with HIV can live healthy lives and manage the virus effectively. ART helps lower the viral load in the body, maintain a healthy immune system, and reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to others. While there is currently no cure for HIV, advancements in medical research and treatment have significantly improved the prognosis for individuals living with the virus. HIV/AIDS education, prevention, and access to healthcare remain crucial in the global effort to combat the epidemic.

Howard Seth Meiselman, DO

Medically reviewed by Howard Seth Meiselman, DO — Written by Mark Conklin: Editorial Process