HIV Basics

Of course you've heard of HIV and maybe you've even signed up for the support group found on Facebook. The question here is, do you know how it spreads or exactly what HIV is? HIV is not as common as a disease as a cold, but it severely affects the lives of those it plagues. Do you know how to protect yourself from it? Let us first get to know what HIV really is.

HIV or human immunodeficiency virus is a retrovirus that plagues humans when it comes into contact with tissue like the vagina, mouth, eyes, anal area or simply through a break in the body's primary defense – the skin. This slow progressive disease has three stages:

1. Initial stage or Primary Infection that occurs in just weeks of getting the virus. This stage is characterized by a "mono-" or "flu" like illness that gets better in weeks.

2. Chronic Asymptomatic Infective Stage. This stage has no symptoms present that last from 8 to 10 years.

3. Symptomatic Infective Stage. This stage is where the body's immune system has already become suppressed so allowing infections or diseases to easily latch on to the body making the person with HIV sicker.

The only goal for HIV treatment is to strengthen the immune system and prevent further damage to it by halting the progress of the infection to that of a symptomatic disease. Therapy for HIV includes drug combinations that markedly decrease the growth of the virus by bolstering the immune system.

As I've mentioned above, the virus spreads by coming into contact with the areas such as the eyes, mouth, anal area, and vagina or through a break in the skin. The most common way is through unprotected sexual contact with an individual diagnosed with HIV. Sharing needles or even during labor is also a way through which HIV can spread. Unprotected oral or anal sex with an infected person is also a way through which one can get infected with HIV.

Contrary to the belief of some, kissing an individual infected with HIV does not cause you to get HIV. Sharing items suck as razors or toothbrushes may transfer the infection to you especially if you've got an open sore or break in the skin. Knowing how it infects others what exactly are the symptoms of HIV? Symptoms are classified into groups which are as follows:

* Symptoms of Acute HIV: fever, muscle or joint pain, headache, sore throat, diarrhea or rashes.

* Symptoms of the Immune System: swollen lymph nodes, night sweats or fever.

* Symptoms of the GI tract: rapid weight loss, diarrhea, substantial fatigue and poor appetite.

* Symptoms of the Respiratory system: shortness of breath, dry or productive cough

* Symptoms of the Mucous membranes and skin: skin rash, lesions on the skin with colors ranging from red, pink, purple or brown; Patches of white inside the mouth, gums and tongue.

* Emotional or neurological symptoms: depression, peripheral neuropathy suggested by numbness or tingling of the face, feet or hands, and confusion or change in level of consciousness.

Knowing all the symptoms, how it transfers and most importantly what HIV is, you are now armed with the knowledge to prevent the occurrence and spread of HIV.