HIV Infection – Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Anatomy of HIV cell

Anatomy of HIV cell

HIV Infection, its First Occurrence and Transmission

Human Immune deficiency Virus (HIV) is responsible to produce AIDS in human beings. The virus was first detected in certain primates in Africa. The virus was later transmitted through the monkey bites to Humans.

In humans it is mostly transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse. Once entered into the body it will not produce any symptoms for a long time sometimes even up to 10-12 years. It settles in the immune cells of the body and slowly destroys them.

This causes weakening of the immune system of the person and exposing him to several infectious diseases like tuberculosis, gastro-intestinal diseases etc. The effected person finally succumbs.

HIV transmission during Delivery

HIV transmission during Delivery

What is the nature of transmission?

  • HIV is generally transmitted from person to person by unprotected sexual intercourse vaginal, anal or oral methods. Women get the infection quickly from infected men. But the infection can spread from women to men also. Anal sex is highly at risk since the mucous lining of the anus and rectum are very delicate and supplied with number of blood vessels likely to rupture and the virus passes into the blood stream.
  • The next major route of transmission of the virus is by using infected needles without sterilization by the drug abusers.
  • Body tattooing is another source of infection with HIV.
  • A blood transfusion with infected blood is also a source of transmission, but due to stringent methods of testing this route of infection is on decline.
  • Infection can also pass from infected mothers to babies during pregnancy and child birth. The infection can also pass from mother’s milk since the virus will be present in the breast milk also.
  • Laboratory personnel, nurses and doctors delivering HIV infected women are at a greater risk for getting infection if proper care is not taken.

Pathogenesis of the HIV Disease:

Once entered into the body the virus attacks the C T4 lymphocytes cells of the responsible for protecting against diseases which are known as immune cells of the body. The body first reacts to the attack of virus and fights. But the virus multiplies very rapidly and attacks more number of cells weakening the immune system. In some individuals this happens rapidly but some others take a long time even up to 10-12 years.. When the immune system is damaged the individual will be exposed to different types of infections and the person is said to be suffering with AIDS (Acquired immune deficiency syndrome)

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What are the symptoms of the disease?

  • Mild symptoms usually appear in about six weeks after the infection. The following symptoms are seen
  • Sickness appearing like flu
  • Fever
  • Skin rashes
  • Muscular pains of the body
  • Infection of the throat (Sore throat)
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • These earlier symptoms disappear in about few weeks and the person appears to be healthy. If untreated the disease further progresses. The following symptoms are seen.
  • Swollen lymph nodes which are persisting
  • Cough and infections of the upper respiratory tract and lung infection
  • Gingivitis (Inflammation of the gums)
  • Mouth infections- Candidiasis
  • Genital warts
  • Dermatitis-Inflammation of the skin
  • Gastro intestinal infections
  • Weight loss and weakness
  • Cancer particularly skin cancer and cervical cancer in women.

How HIV is diagnosed?

HIV can be diagnosed by several tests. But the tests should be done correctly as wrong results cause panicky among the patients and confuse the physicians. There are several blood tests to diagnose the disease. The virus after entry into the blood the body produces antibodies to fight against the disease. The presence of the antibodies in the blood confirms the disease. The following tests are usually carried out in many of the HIV testing labs.

  • ELISA test: (Enzyme Linked Immunosorbant assay)
  • EIA test (Enzyme Immune Assay)

Both these tests are carried out in most of the HIV testing labs. These tests are very accurate and aim to identify the presence of HIV antibodies in the blood. It takes about two weeks to complete the tests.

  • Rapid HIV Test: It is also similar to that of ELISA but in this a single sample is analyzed. Therefore it is highly expensive. If the test is found negative it can be taken as confirmatory. But a positive result should be confirmed with Western Blot Test.
  • Home Testing Kits: Many home testing kits are available now a day but they are not reliable. A blood drop is collected with a special device supplied in the kit and placed on a card .The card will be sent to the licensed lab for confirmation. The lab informs the sender the test result confidentially with a special code word of the sender.
  • Oral Tests: Here in the test saliva is used to detect the presence of the antibodies instead of blood. It is similar to that of EIA. A positive result should be confirmed with Western Blot Test.
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction Test (PCR): It is a new blood test which can detect the presence of the virus in very early period of infection. A negative result should be repeated after 3 months. It is an accurate test but expensive.
  • Western Blot Test: It aims to detect the presence of the antibodies by a special technique called Gel Electrophoresis. It is more specific to detect the antibodies of the HIV. Therefore this test is used as a confirmatory test after EIA and ELISA. In this test the antibodies of the HIV virus obtained from the patient’s serum bind to the HIV antigen which was transferred on to a strip. The results can be visualized clearly and confirmed.
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Treatment for HIV and AIDS:

Once the disease is diagnosed as HIV the individual will be referred to a specialized and nominated clinic for giving necessary advice and treatment. Specific antiviral drugs are given to prevent the spread of the virus. These drugs control the spread and multiplication of virus in the body thereby further progression is halted. Though the drugs cannot completely cure the disease the progression is arrested. The treatment available at present is generating lot of hope for the people affected with HIV. Once AIDS is developed the treatment aims to cure the affected disease and continued for long term. Besides treatment counseling and support will be given to patients from time to time. There are several support groups and philanthropic and charitable organizations to help the HIV affected patients.


If early and regular treatment is carried out the HIV can be controlled and progression to AIDS can be prevented. Although it cannot be cured completely progression can be halted. If treatment is not commenced early or not followed properly it passes on to AIDS and complications commence. Ultimately the individual succumbs to the disease within 10 years.

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What are the preventive measures to be taken for HIV?

  • Educating and creating awareness among people about HIV and AIDS is very important to understand the risks of the disease.
  • Preventing sexual transmission by using a condom during sexual activity prevents the attack of the virus.
  • Avoid sex with multiple partners
  • Always use disposable and sterilized syringes to prevent use of contaminated syringes.
  • Extreme care should be exercised at the time of blood transfusion to transfuse HIV free blood only. Strict testing is necessary.
  • Anti viral drugs should be given to pregnant women infected with HIV to control the risk of transmission of the virus to the fetus.
  • Proper care and sterile measures should be taken while doing caesarian operations and delivering the child in HIV infected women in the nursing homes. Necessary precautions should be taken by doctors, nurses and other staff to protect from infection. All the staff in the nursing home should be informed about the risk of infection and measures to be followed.
  • The labor room waste material should be disposed carefully packed in special bags and disposed.

HIV support groups in India:

  • Saathi, 78, Pushpa Nagar Main Road, Nungambakkam, Chennai – 600 034 Telephone: (044) 2817-3948 FAX: (044) 2817-3947 Website
  • Phone Indian Network for People Living with HIV/AIDS(INP+) Flat No.6, Kash Towers, 93, South West Boag Road, T.Nagar, Chennai – 600 017 Phone: 4329580 and 4329581, Tel/Fax: 4329582 Email Address:
  • Save the Children, Bal Raksha, Bharat, 4th Floor, Farm Bhawan, 14-15 Nehru Place, New Delhi – 110019, India Tel: (+91) 11 4229 4900 Fax: (+91) 11 4229 4990 Email: Website
  • Asha Foundation No. 58, 3rd Main, S B M Colony, Anand Nagar, Bangalore INDIA – 560 024 Telephone: (+91- 80) 2354 5050 Telephone & Fax: (+91- 80) 2333 2921 Email Address : Website
  • The Humsarfar Trust, II floor, Old BMC building, Besides Shree Chakra Resturant, Above Vakola Post Office, Nehru Road, Vakola, Santacruz (East), MUMBAI – 400 055 Phone: +91 22 26673800 / 26650547 Telefax: +91 22 26650547 Email Address: Website
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