HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. This is the virus that causes AIDS. HIV is different from most other viruses because it attacks the immune system. The immune system gives our bodies the ability to fight infections. HIV finds and destroys a type of white blood cell (T cells or CD4 cells) that the immune system must have to fight disease.
AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection. It can take years for a person infected with HIV, even without treatment, to reach this stage. Having AIDS means that the virus has weakened the immune system to the point at which the body has a difficult time fighting infection. When someone has one or more specific infections, certain cancers, or a very low number of T cells, he or she is considered to have AIDS.
Living with HIV/AIDS
The most difficult part of living with HIV/AIDS depends on whether you have, at a minimum, a good individual health insurance plan. If you have one before symptoms start, you are most likely going to have more positive attempt at stabilizing your symptoms. The earliest disease symptoms occur while your body begins to form antibodies to the virus (known as seroconversion) between six weeks and three months after infection with the HIV virus. Those who do show early HIV symptoms will develop flu-like symptoms. This can include: fever, rash, muscles aches and swollen lymph nodes and glands. However, for most people, the first symptoms of HIV will not be apparent.
As the infection progresses, people with HIV grow increasingly susceptible to illnesses and infection that don’t normally affect the healthy population. Even though many of these illnesses can easily be treated, those with HIV often have such weakened immune systems that typical cures fail.
Without treatment, people infected with the illness can expect to develop AIDS eight to ten years after HIV infection. Taking HIV medications, however, can slow down this progression. With treatment, it can take ten to 15 years or more before you develop AIDS. In the later stages of HIV, before it progresses to full blown AIDS, signs of HIV infection can involve more severe symptoms. These include:
The only way to know whether you are infected is to be tested for HIV. You cannot rely on symptoms alone because many people who are infected with HIV do not have symptoms for many years. Someone can look and feel healthy but can still be infected. In fact, one quarter of the HIV-infected persons in the United States do not know that they are infected.
Treatment for HIV/AIDS
It is important to remember that HIV is not a death sentence. However you will need good healthcare which can become costly. You will need to consider various affordable health insurance companies and speak with a health insurance agent to find what works best for you.
HIV treatment has made significant progress from what it was even a few years back. Important new medications and older, proven medications can now be taken less frequently with reduced side effects.
HIV medications and determining when to begin treatment are important decisions. Fortunately, newly infected people not on treatment typically can go several years without a single symptom. This means that when you test positive for HIV, depending on when you were infected and what your CD4 count and viral load are, it’s usually OK to wait to make an informed decision about using HIV medications.