The criterion for diagnosing an HIV infection is simple: Detectable levels of the virus in the blood of a person are a sign enough to diagnose the infection; the exception being only in the case of newborns, where if the mother is HIV positive, the baby is likely to have inherited the infection.
Detectable levels and a positive test for the presence of antibodies in the blood test are signs that the person is infected, and will, in time, acquire and develop AIDS, which is “Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome”. The presence of HIV infection in the blood will in course of time, lead to AIDS.
As discussed, the case of newborns is slightly different. While there are chances that the baby may have inherited the infection from the mother, there also possibilities of the baby may not be infected. In these cases, even though there might be antibodies present in the baby’s blood, they may be overpowered and the infection eradicated by 18 months of age.
Year 2010 statistics show, that only in the United States, there are about 47,500 people who have been recently infected and diagnosed with HIV. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates, that in 2009 United States, there were about 1,148,200 infected with the virus, among which 18% were unaware or undiagnosed for their HIV+ status.
HIV: Its Effects on the Body
The main symptom of an HIV infection is drastic reduction in the body’s immune system’s power to fight diseases. This will lead to the infected person falling prey to other infections, as simple as a common cold, much faster and severely, than an uninfected person.
HIV: Communicable or Not?
HIV is found in high concentrations in body fluids like semen, vaginal secretions, and blood. It can thus be transferred from an infected person to a non infected person through exchange of bodily fluids. These include intercourse of heterosexual or homosexual nature, or even sharing of needles with an infected person.
Even though the immuno virus is present in saliva, tears, and sweat, it concentration in these fluids is much less, and not enough to transfer and cause the infection.
HIV: Signs and Symptoms
A person detected with HIV present in the blood may not have any significant signs for years or even decades. AIDS develops in time, and a person’s lifestyle and health choices are considered a factor in its development. Most common early signs of the infection have been reported to be drastic loss of weight, unexplained fever, and extreme fatigue and lethargy.
Only a blood test, in most cases, is a sure shot sign on detecting the virus’s presence. 2 factors indicate the gravity of the infection. These are:
- The number of CD4+ T-cells. These cells are produced by the body to fight off the HIV virus. Also called CD4 cells, the lower the count, the more severe the infection is. A low count also signifies weak immunity.
- The degree of the presence of 26 tell-tale signs. These include defining conditions like cryptococcosis (which is a fungal disease), TB, pneumocystis pneumonia, and Kaposi’s sarcoma (a type of skin cancer). The presence of all or any of these together is significant in detecting the presence of the HIV infection.
HIV Is Not AIDS
The HIV infection does not manifest into AIDS immediately. AIDS is considered, and is, the most severe, and the final stage of the infection.
Also, it has been noted, that the presence of HIV infection in a person does not, in all cases, lead to the progression and manifestation of AIDS. Treatment with Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapies, also called HAART, has been reported curb the development of HIV into AIDS. HAART can thus be considered, in a way, a cure for HIV, treatment with which can ensure longevity and decreased chances of developing AIDS.
As a chronic disease, HIV is not considered treatable with HAART, which has aided in reducing the stigma associated with having an HIV infection. The infection is now not treated as a death sentence.
HAART has provided hope for a better life, as an increasing number of HIV infected people now seek to be tested and treated at early stages.