HIV and AIDS: A Complete Guide

HIV‌ ‌is‌ ‌a‌ ‌type‌ ‌of‌ ‌virus‌ ‌that‌ ‌damage‌s ‌a‌ ‌person’s‌ ‌immune‌ ‌system.‌ ‌If‌ ‌left‌ ‌untreated,‌ ‌HIV‌ ‌reduces ‌CD4‌ ‌cell‌ ‌count‌.‌ ‌CD4‌ ‌cells‌ ‌belong‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌T‌ ‌cell,‌ ‌a‌ ‌type‌ ‌of‌ ‌immune‌ ‌cell.‌ Over‌ ‌a‌ ‌long‌ ‌period‌ ‌of‌ ‌time,‌ the number of ‌CD4‌ ‌cells‌ ‌killed‌ ‌by‌ ‌HIV‌ ‌will‌ ‌increase‌ ‌and‌ ‌render‌ ‌the‌ ‌body‌ ‌more‌ ‌susceptible‌ ‌to‌ ‌many‌ diseases, such as ‌cancer.‌ ‌

Acquired‌ ‌Immunodeficiency‌ ‌Syndrome‌ ‌is‌ ‌a‌ ‌disease‌ ‌that‌ occurs in ‌people‌ ‌who‌ ‌have‌ ‌HIV.‌ ‌It‌ ‌is‌ ‌the‌ ‌most‌ ‌fatal‌ ‌and‌ ‌advanced‌ ‌stage‌ ‌of‌ HIV.‌ It‌ ‌is‌ ‌important‌ ‌to‌ ‌note‌ ‌that‌ ‌a‌ ‌person‌ ‌with‌ ‌HIV‌ ‌will‌ ‌automatically‌ ‌develop‌ ‌AIDS‌ ‌eventually.‌

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between HIV and AIDS? 

When a person who has HIV is not given proper treatment, the disease will progress into a more serious condition known as AIDS or Acquired‌ ‌Immunodeficiency‌ ‌Syndrome. When‌ ‌that‌ ‌happens,‌ ‌the‌ ‌body’s‌ ‌immune‌ ‌system‌ ‌becomes‌ ‌too‌ ‌weak‌ ‌to‌ fend ‌off‌ ‌other‌ ‌diseases,‌ ‌ especially‌ ‌the‌ ‌opportunistic‌ ‌pathogens‌ ‌that‌ ‌cause‌ ‌infections.‌ ‌

Without ‌treatment,‌ ‌the‌ ‌life‌ ‌expectancy‌ ‌of‌ ‌a‌ ‌patient‌ ‌with‌ ‌end‌ ‌stage‌ ‌AIDS‌ is about‌ ‌3‌ ‌years.‌ ‌But‌ ‌with‌ the‌ help‌ ‌of‌ antiretroviral‌ therapy,‌ ‌HIV‌ is‌ manageable. Antiretroviral therapy can ‌extending‌ ‌the‌ patient’s ‌life‌ ‌expectancy‌ ‌almost‌ ‌the‌ ‌same‌ ‌as‌ ‌someone‌ ‌who‌ ‌has‌ ‌no‌ ‌HIV.‌ ‌

Is it easy to catch HIV? 

HIV‌ ‌can‌ ‌be‌ ‌passed‌ ‌on‌ ‌to‌ ‌someone‌ ‌else‌ ‌via‌ ‌bodily‌ ‌fluids,‌ ‌especially through semen, blood, breast milk, and rectal and vaginal fluids. It‌ ‌can’t be ‌acquired‌ ‌from‌ ‌water,‌ ‌air‌, ‌or‌ ‌casual‌ ‌human‌ ‌contact.‌ ‌It’s most often spread through sexual contact.

Which group represents the majority of new HIV infections? 

The most common way of getting infected with HIV in the United Kingtom is through vaginal or anal sex without a condom. There is also a possibility of transmission through oral sex, but the risk is much lower in this regard.

You may be at an increased risk if you:

  • Are a man and have unprotected sex with other men
  • Use drugs to enhance your sexual experience
  • Are a woman and have unprotected sex with a man who has unprotected sex with other men
  • Suffer from another sexually-transmitted disease
  • Share drug injection equipment
  • Have sex with someone who shares drug injection equipment

What is the most common way of getting HIV in the UK? 

Most HIV patients in the United Kingdom have become infected through anal or vaginal sex without a condom. Other ways of getting infected include: sharing needles, syringes or other injecting equipment.

In 2019, it was estimated that there are more than 105 thousand HIV sufferers in the UK. 94% of these patients are diagnosed, and therefore aware that they have the virus. However, 1 in 16 people living with HIV in the UK are unaware that they have the virus, and therefore pose a life-threatening danger to any sexual partners. 

98% of people diagnosed with HIV in the United Kingdom are receiving treatment, and 97% of them are in the virally suppressed state. This means they can’t pass the virus on. Of all the HIV patients in the UK, 89% are in the virally suppressed state.

Can you get rid of HIV? 

HIV incorporates itself ‌into DNA. ‌It‌ ‌then‌ ‌turns‌ ‌into‌ ‌a‌ ‌lifetime‌ ‌condition.‌ ‌Currently,‌ no drug is able to effectively remove this disease from the body,‌ ‌but‌ ‌scientists‌ ‌are‌ ‌already‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌verge‌ ‌of‌ ‌this‌ ‌breakthrough‌ ‌discovery.‌ ‌With‌ ‌the‌ ‌advancement‌ ‌in‌ ‌medical‌ ‌care,‌ ‌patients‌ ‌treated‌ ‌with‌ ‌antiretroviral‌ ‌therapy‌ ‌were‌ ‌able‌ ‌to‌ ‌live ‌with‌ ‌HIV‌ ‌for‌ ‌many‌ ‌years.‌ ‌

Special medicines can slow the spread of the virus or even completely stop it from multiplying. Although these drugs don’t remove the virus from the body, they keep the amount of it as low as possible. This safeguards the health of the patient and can also prevent HIV transmission through sexual contact. The amount of virus in the blood is called the viral load, and can be measured with a simple test.