What is HIV? What is AIDS?
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus that can be contracted through sexual contact with someone who has HIV.
AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS is caused by a virus known as the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV. This virus attacks the body’s immune (defence) system and over period of time destroys it. This leaves the body defenceless against infections by other germs and the growth of cancers
If I get HIV does it mean I will get AIDS?
HIV infection occurs after the virus enters and establishes infection in the body. In the early stages people look and feel totally well. Even at this stage it is possible to diagnose HIV infection through a blood test. Only when the immune system becomes seriously damaged do persons begin to fall ill. The term AIDS is reserved for this late stage of infections.
Not everybody who is infected with HIV will develop AIDS at the same time. About 30% of clients develop AIDS 5 years after they are infected, and 50% will develop AIDS within 8 to 10 years. Others may be well for longer periods of time. The percentage of the clients who shows symptoms of AIDS in those time period are usually the ones who are not on HIV medical treatments.
Since there is no cure, the only way to beat AIDS is to not let virus into your body.
How can I stay healthy with HIV?
First and foremost, get a good doctor. Try to find a doctor who has experience with treating HIV-positive people. You also want someone you can talk to openly and honestly.
There are many other things you can do to keep yourself healthy. Eat well, exercise and get enough rest.
Look after your mental and emotional health. Stress, depression and anxiety often go hand- in-hand with HIV, and sometimes drugs and alcohol do too. If you need someone to talk to, get hooked up with a counsellor, a therapist or a buddy.
Will I have to start medications right away?
Having HIV doesn’t necessarily mean you have to take medications right away. As long as your immune system is still healthy enough on its own, you may not need to take antiretrovirals. However, most HIV-positive people have to start medications at some point, to avoid getting AIDS. How long you can wait depends on a lot of things.
You and your doctor will make the decision to start treatment based on your blood test results and your symptoms.
What is a CD4 count?
Your CD4 count tells you how many CD4 cells you have: a “normal” CD4 count is anywhere from 600 to 1,200 cells/mm3. That’s how many CD4 cells are in a “cubic millimetre” of blood ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼(about the size of a grain of rice).
CD4 counts are one of the biggest factors in deciding when to start treatment. When your CD4 count dips too low, your doctor will likely talk with you about your treatment options.
If you have HIV, your CD4 count will probably be lower than normal. A count of 200 or lower means a much greater danger of getting sick. Staying healthy means keeping your count well above 350.
What is a viral load?
A viral load test tells you how much HIV is in each “millilitre” of your blood (about the volume of a kidney bean). If you’re not on treatment, your viral load could vary widely— anywhere from a few thousand or less to a million or more. Although a lower viral load usually means you stay healthier longer, this link varies a lot among people.
What are opportunistic infections (OI)?
Such diseases are rare because people with healthy immune systems can usually fight them off. However, these diseases can strike if they have the opportunity; that is, they infect people with weakened immune systems. For that reason, they are called opportunistic infections (OIs for short).
Is there a cure for HIV / AIDS?
While there is no cure for HIV infection and AIDS at this moment, there are medicines that can treat and manage the infections and cancers which occur in AIDS. Drugs which attack the HIV virus are also available. Advancements in treatment means that lifespan and quality of life of persons living with HIV has dramatically improved and is on par with that of a person without HIV.
Research into vaccines may one day yield an effective medical prevention, but until that time the only effective preventions is not to allow the virus to enter your body.