The human immunodeficiency virus is a pathology that destroys the body’s natural defenses. Its danger is that it reduces the body’s resistance to various infections, contributing to the development of serious diseases and their complications.
It is completely impossible to cure the disease, since its structure is constantly changing, which does not allow pharmacists to create substances that can destroy it. Treatment of HIV infection is aimed at strengthening the immune system and blocking the activity of the virus.
The disease has four stages, the last of which – AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is terminal.
Features of the virus
HIV infection has a very long incubation period. After entering the body, the virus does not manifest itself for a long time, but continues to destroy the immune system. A person begins to get sick more and for a longer time, since the immune system is unable to cope even with “harmless” infections that give complications, worsening health conditions more and more.
At the terminal stage, immunity is completely destroyed, which gives rise to the development of oncological tumors, severe damage to the liver, kidneys, heart, respiratory organs, etc. The result is the death of the patient from one of the diseases of these organs.
HIV has four types, of which the first two are diagnosed in 95% of cases of infection, the third and fourth are extremely rare.
The virus is unstable to environmental influences, antiseptics, alcohol solutions, acetone. It also does not tolerate high temperatures and dies already at 56 degrees for half an hour, and when boiled it is destroyed instantly.
At the same time, its cells remain viable when frozen (they are able to “live” for 5-6 days at a temperature of 22 degrees), in solutions of narcotic substances they remain active for about three weeks.
For a long time, HIV was considered a disease of drug addicts, homosexuals and women of easy virtue. Today, among the carriers of the virus, there are people with a high social status, heterosexual orientation. Neither an adult nor a child is immune from infection. The main route of transmission is body fluids. Pathogenic cells are found in:
- cerebrospinal fluid;
- vaginal secretion;
- breast milk.
The risk of infection increases in proportion to the number of pathogenic cells in these fluids, and it takes at least ten thousand viral particles to transmit an infection.
Methods of infection
The main routes of transmission of the virus are
- Unprotected sex.
According to statistics, infection in this way is diagnosed in 75% of patients, but the risk of transmission of pathogenic cells is the lowest: at the first vaginal contact, about 30% of sexual partners are infected, with anal contact, about 50%, and with oral contact, less than 5%.
Increases the risk of genitourinary pathologies (gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, fungi), injuries and microdamages of the mucous membranes of intimate organs (scratches, ulcers, erosion, anal fissures, etc.), frequent sexual contact with an infected person.
Women are more likely to accept the virus than men, since the area of the vagina and direct contact with pathogenic cells is larger.
- Intravenous injections.
The second most popular path, since more than half of drug addicts suffer from it. The reasons are the use of one syringe or utensils for preparing a solution, as well as unprotected intimate contacts with dubious partners in a state of drug intoxication.
- intrauterine route.
During pregnancy, the risk of virus penetration through the placenta does not exceed 25%, natural childbirth and breastfeeding increase it by another 10%.
- Penetrating wounds with non-sterile instruments: Infection occurs during surgical operations in dubious clinics, tattooing, manicure procedures, etc.
- Direct blood transfusion, untested organ transplant.
If the donor is HIV positive, transmission is 100%.
The possibility of infection depends on the strength of the recipient’s immunity. If the natural protection is strong, the course of the disease will be weaker, and the incubation period itself will be longer.
Manifestations of pathology
The symptoms of HIV infection are a manifestation of curable diseases provoked by a weakened immune system, which makes it very difficult to diagnose, since a person takes only the necessary tests, treats the consequences of the disease, without even realizing his true status. There are slight differences, depending on the stages of infection.
There are no symptoms characteristic of the virus: the manifestations of the disease are individual and depend on the general health of the patient, the diseases caused by it.
The first stage is the incubation period. This is the initial stage, which develops from the moment pathogen cells enter the body and up to one year. In some patients, the first symptoms appear after a couple of weeks, in others – not earlier than after a few months.
The average incubation period is one and a half to three months. Symptoms during this period are completely absent, even tests do not show the presence of the virus. It is possible to detect a dangerous disease at an early stage only if a person has encountered one of the possible ways of infection.
The second stage is the stage of primary manifestations. They arise as a reaction of the immune system to the active reproduction of harmful cells. Usually occurs 2-3 months after infection, lasts from two weeks to several months.
It can run differently
- Asymptomatic is when the body produces antibodies and there are no signs of infection.
The stage is typical for 15-30% of patients, the manifestations are similar to the symptoms of acute infectious pathologies:
- temperature rise;
- enlarged lymph nodes;
- skin rashes;
- bowel disorders;
- inflammatory processes of the upper respiratory tract;
- enlargement of the liver, spleen.
In rare cases, the development of autoimmune pathologies is possible.
- Acute with secondary pathologies – typical for most patients.
Weakened immunity allows the existing representatives of conditionally pathogenic microflora to actively multiply, which leads to an exacerbation or the appearance of infectious diseases. At this stage, it is not difficult to cure them, but soon their relapses become more frequent.
The third stage is the deterioration of the functioning and condition of the lymphatic system. It lasts from two to 15 years, depending on how the immune system copes with viral cells. The increase in lymph nodes occurs in groups (except inguinal), not interconnected.
After three months, their size returns to a healthy state, pain on palpation disappears, elasticity and mobility return. Sometimes there are relapses.
The fourth stage – terminal – the development of AIDS. The immune system is practically destroyed, the virus itself multiplies unhindered. All remaining healthy cells are susceptible to destruction, many of them degenerate into malignant ones, and severe infectious pathologies develop.
AIDS also proceeds in four stages
- The first comes in 6-10 years. It is characterized by a decrease in body weight, rashes on the skin and mucous membranes containing purulent contents, fungal and viral infections, diseases of the upper respiratory tract. It is possible to cope with infectious processes, but the therapy is long.
- The second develops in another 2-3 years. Weight loss continues, body temperature rises to 38-39 degrees, weakness and drowsiness occur. Frequent diarrhea, lesions of the oral mucosa, fungal and viral lesions of the skin are observed, the manifestations of all previously diagnosed infectious pathologies are intensified, and pulmonary tuberculosis develops.
Conventional drugs are unable to cope with the disease, only antiretroviral therapy can relieve symptoms.
- The third stage occurs 10-12 years after infection. Symptoms: exhaustion of the body, weakness, lack of appetite. Pneumonia develops, viral infections become aggravated, the healing of their manifestations does not occur. Pathogenic microflora covers all internal and external organs and their systems, diseases are acute, give new complications.
- The fourth is terminal. There are dysfunctions of vital organs and systems, it is impossible to restore them even with medications, and the patient dies.
The period of HIV infection from the moment of infection to the death of the patient is individual. Some die in 2-3 years, others live 20 or more years. Cases have been recorded when people burned out from the virus in a few months. The lifespan of a person depends on the general state of his health and the type of virus that has entered the body.
Features of HIV in adults and children
The clinical picture of the disease in the representatives of the stronger sex does not differ from the manifestations that develop with a weakened immune system. Girls, on the other hand, endure the infection more severely, as they begin to have menstrual irregularities.
Menses occur with severe pain, become profuse, bleeding is observed in the middle of the cycle. A frequent complication of the virus is malignant tumors of the reproductive system. Cases of inflammation of the organs of the genitourinary system are becoming more frequent, they proceed harder, longer.
In babies and newborns, the disease does not manifest itself for a long time, there are no external signs. The only symptom by which one can suspect the presence of a pathology is a delay in the mental and physical development of the child.
Diagnosis of the disease
It is difficult to detect HIV at an early stage, since the symptoms are absent or similar to manifestations of treatable pathologies: inflammatory processes, allergies, infectious diseases. It is possible to identify the disease by chance, during the passage of a planned medical examination, admission to a hospital, registration during pregnancy.
The main diagnostic method is a special test that can be done both in the clinic and at home.
There are a lot of diagnostic methods. Every year, scientists develop new tests and improve old ones, reducing the number of false positive and false negative results.
The main material for research is human blood, but there are tests that can make a preliminary diagnosis when examining saliva or urine, using scrapings from the surface of the oral cavity. They have not yet found wide application, but are used for home preliminary diagnostics.
HIV testing in adults is carried out in three stages:
- screening study – gives a preliminary result, helps to identify people who have been infected;
- reference – carried out to persons whose screening results are positive;
- confirming – establishes the final diagnosis and the duration of the presence of the virus in the body.
Such a phased survey is associated with a high cost of research: each subsequent analysis is more complex and expensive, therefore it is not economically feasible to conduct a full complex for all citizens. In the process of research, antigens are detected – cells or particles of the virus, antibodies – leukocytes produced by the immune system to pathogenic cells.
It is possible to determine the presence of harmful cells only upon reaching seroconversion – a state when the number of antibodies will be sufficient for their detection by test systems. From the moment of infection until the onset of seroconversion , there is a “window period”: at this time, transmission of the virus is already possible, but no analysis can detect it. This period lasts from six to twelve weeks.
If the results of the diagnosis are positive, you should consult a doctor for the appointment of antiretroviral therapy. Which doctor treats HIV infection? An infectious disease specialist who is usually present in the central clinic of a city or district center.
Treatment of human immunodeficiency virus
Once in the body, the virus remains in it forever. Although studies of infection have been going on for decades, scientists have not been able to invent drugs that can destroy pathogenic cells. Therefore, almost 100 years after the discovery of the virus, the answer to the question of whether HIV infection can be treated remains a sad “No”.
But medicine is constantly inventing drugs that can slow down the activity of HIV, reduce the risks of developing pathologies, help to cope with them faster and prolong the life of the infected, making it full. Treatment of HIV infection involves taking antiretroviral therapy, prevention and treatment of concomitant inflammatory processes.
Therapy is taking medications, but it is impossible to cure immunodeficiency with traditional medicine methods. The rejection of pharmaceutical products in favor of non-traditional recipes is a direct path to the development of AIDS and the death of the patient.
The effectiveness of treatment depends on many factors, but the most important condition for therapy is the responsible attitude of the patient to the prescribed treatment. In order for it to give results, medications should be taken at a strictly defined time, their dosage should be observed, and interruptions in treatment should not be allowed. It is also shown to follow a diet and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
If these recommendations are followed, the number of defender cells increases dramatically, the virus is blocked, and even highly sensitive tests often cannot detect it. Otherwise, the disease continues to progress and leads to dysfunction of vital organs: heart, liver, lungs, endocrine system.
For HIV infection, the most effective treatment is antiretroviral therapy (HAART). Its main task is to prevent the development of complications and comorbidities that can shorten the life of the patient. Also, HAART helps to improve the quality of life of the patient, to make it full.
If the therapy is carried out correctly, the virus goes into remission, secondary pathologies do not develop. Such treatment has a positive effect on the psychological state of the infected: feeling support and knowing that the disease can be “slowed down”, he returns to his usual way of life.
In our country, all antiretroviral drugs are provided to a person free of charge after he receives the status of an HIV-positive patient.
Features of antiretroviral therapy
HAART is prescribed on an individual basis, and the pills included in its composition depend on the stage of infection. At the initial stage, specialized treatment is not prescribed, it is recommended to take vitamins and special mineral complexes that help strengthen the body’s natural defenses.
preventive method , but only to those persons who have been in contact with an HIV-positive person or a potential carrier of the virus. Such prophylaxis is effective only in the first 72 hours after a possible infection.
At the second and subsequent stages, therapy is prescribed based on the results of clinical tests that determine the state of immunity. The terminal stage, that is, the presence of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, requires the mandatory intake of drugs. In pediatrics, HAART is always prescribed, regardless of the clinical stage of the child’s disease.
This approach to treatment is due to the norms of the Ministry of Health. But new research shows that early initiation of antiretroviral therapy leads to better treatment outcomes and a more positive effect on the patient’s condition and life expectancy.
HAART includes several types of drugs that are combined with each other. Since the virus gradually loses its sensitivity to the active substances, the combinations are changed from time to time, which makes it possible to increase the effectiveness of the treatment.
A few years ago, scientists introduced the synthetic drug Quad , which includes the main properties of prescribed drugs. A huge advantage of the drug is taking only one tablet per day, which greatly facilitates the treatment. This tool has practically no side effects, is easier to tolerate by the body, solves the problem of loss of sensitivity to active ingredients.
Many patients are interested in whether it is possible to block the activity of the virus with folk methods and how to treat HIV infection at home? It should be remembered that such treatment is possible, but only if it is auxiliary, and agreed with the attending doctor.
Folk recipes are shown to strengthen the body’s defenses. This can be decoctions and infusions of medicinal herbs, the use of gifts of nature rich in vitamins, minerals and useful microelements.
The immunodeficiency virus is a disease that can be prevented but not cured. Today, developed countries have developed special programs aimed at the prevention of HIV and AIDS, the control of which is carried out at the state level. Every person should know the basics of preventive measures, since there is no guarantee that infection will not happen.
You can avoid severe pathology if you take your own intimate life responsibly. You should avoid sexual contact with dubious persons, always use condoms when having sex with a new sexual partner, about whose condition there is no reliable information.
It is important that the sex partner is one and permanent, who has medical certificates about the absence of HIV.
One of the popular myths is that the condom is unable to protect against the virus, since the latex pores are larger than the cells of the virus. This is not true. To date, barrier contraceptives are the only way to prevent infection during sexual intimacy.
If a person suffers from drug addiction and injects drugs, he should always use disposable medical instruments, inject with sterile gloves, and have individual dishes for preparing a narcotic solution. In order not to become a victim of direct transmission of the virus through the blood, it is worth refusing blood transfusions.
For procedures in which there is access to blood, choose trusted institutions, ensure that their employees carry out all manipulations with gloves, and the instruments are disinfected in the presence of the client.
If HIV is present in a woman who is preparing to become a mother, monitoring of the condition of the baby is carried out throughout the pregnancy. Reduce the risk of infection of the child allows caesarean section and refusal to breastfeed. It will be possible to determine the HIV status of the crumbs no earlier than six months later, when the mother’s antibodies to the virus leave the baby’s body.
Artificial insemination methods can prevent the occurrence of a severe infection in a child.
A future HIV-positive mother should exclude all factors that reduce the baby’s immunity: quit smoking, stop drinking alcohol, eat more vitamins, cure all infectious and inflammatory diseases, treat chronic ailments to prevent their recurrence during pregnancy.
By following these rules, you can prevent infection with a dangerous pathology and prevent its transmission to healthy people. Since there is no cure for the disease, the only way to rid the world of the virus is to block its spread.