HIV / AIDS Definition Human immunodeficiency virus infection or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is a range of diseases created by an infection of the body by the human immunodeficiency virus. This virus compromises the effect of the immune system and gradually destroys the body’s natural ability to fight disease. This compromise of the immune system leaves the body highly susceptible to the infiltration of other harmful viruses and diseases that are very opportunistic eventually leading to death. Since its discovery and naming by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in 1981, the virus has claimed the lives of 36 million people worldwide. The disease has been labeled as a pandemic and is of worldwide concern. Transmission   HIV is transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse, contaminated blood transfusions, mothers to their children, and used hypodermic needles. The programs designed to combat the increase of this disease include expansive educational programs, heightened awareness of safe sex practices, and government subsidized new needles for drug users. To date, there is no cure for this viral disease, but medications have been developed that will lengthen the life span. Stages of Development   Acute HIV: After contracting HIV, the individual is said to be experiencing acute HIV. This stage is characterized by flu-like symptoms. The individual may have an elevated fever, enlarged lymph nodes, rash, headache, sores in the mouth and on the genitalia, and inflammation of the throat. Nausea may appear, vomiting, diarrhea and neuropathy. Clinical latency is a stage that can last three to twenty years. Few symptoms may present in the beginning months of this stage, but eventually the individual may experience fever, extreme weight loss, stomach and intestine issues and muscle pains. Lymph nodes will continue to enlarge and become over taxed and eventually rendered incapacitated. Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is the final stage of the virus in the body. At this stage, other diseases have usually infiltrated the body and caused other systemic issues. The individual may see the onset of cachexia in the form of HIV wasting syndrome, pneumonia, esophageal candidiasis, and profound respiratory tract infections. Every organ system of the person’s body is then impacted by a bacteria, fungi, parasite, or virus and the eventual shutdown of these organs is predicted. AIDs patients are highly susceptible to various kinds of cancers. Classifications   HIV and HIV related diseases are classified and codified by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The WHO has created a five stage classification system: Primary HIV infection Stage I: The CD4+T cell count is greater than 500 per microliter of blood. Stage II: The CD4+T cell count is less than 500 per microliter of blood. At this point, mucocutaneous infections appear with respiratory infections. Stage III: Chronic diarrhea longer than one month, bacterial infections and a CD4+t cell count of less than 350 per microliter of blood. Stage IV or AIDS: Severe symptoms appear including candidiasis, Kaposi’s sarcoma, toxicity in the brain and a CD4+T cell count of less than 200 per microliter of blood. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention classifies the categories in the following manner: Stage I: CD4 count is equal to or greater than 500 cells per liter of blood. Stage II: CD4 count is 200 to 500 cells per liter of blood with no AIDS conditions. Stage III: CD4 count is equal to or less than 200 cells per liter of blood with conditions. Unknown parameters Treatment   There is no comprehensive and effective vaccine for HIV or AIDS. Some medications have reduced symptoms and prolonged life. Treatments include high active antiretroviral therapy which slows the disease, but does not eradicate it. Certain expressions of alternative medicine have proven to benefit patients with this virus. Micronutrient supplements including vitamin A, zinc, and iron have proven helpful. The use of medical cannabis has not been subjected to clinical trials to determine its effectiveness in increasing appetite. The average survival time across the globe for individuals with AIDS is 9 to 11 yrs who have treatment. For those without treatment, the average time after contracting the disease is 6 to 19 months.
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