AIDS (Acquired Immune deficiency syndrome) is a disease caused by a virus called HIV. HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV infection is a serious condition in the world today. World Health Organization (WHO) has considered AIDS as Pandemic (epidemic across the very large region) disease.
As the name suggests, HIV virus leads to a deficiency of the immunity in humans. That, in turn, leads to a range of disease conditions, primarily due to seriously impaired immunity due to the invasion of the virus. AIDS leads to decrease in the body’s self-healing mechanism and many opportunistic infections like Tuberculosis, Pneumonia, fungal infection; diarrhea, etc. affect the body.
Incidence of HIV
From 1981 to 2006 over 25 million people have died due to HIV infection. About0.26 million children have died of AIDS in 2009. Estimated 0.6% world population suffers from AIDS.
About HIV virus
The causative organism of AIDS is HIV virus, which was discovered in 1982 by two scientists Robert Gallo and Luc Montagnier, individually. This virus was found in some gay individuals who suffered from the then-unknown infection. HIV virus is believed to have come from chimpanzees. There are two types of HIV virus, simply called HIV type I and HIV type II. Type I is the most common.
HIV-1 is more dangerous and more infective and is the cause of the majority of HIV infections globally. HIV-2 infects about 5% of all HIV infections., more common in West African countries.
How does one get HIV infection?
HIV virus infection is always routed through blood, semen, vaginal fluid, pre-ejaculation fluid (pre-cum), or breast milk. The transfer of virus may take place through these fluids. It may transfer via genital, anal, or anal routes through sexual contact. HIV never transmits by air or touch. Infected syringes by doctors, nurses, drug-addicts, tattooing, etc. form another major source of infection. HIV is largely a sexually transmitted disease. It must be noted that HIV does not spread by the touch of healthy skin to healthy skin.
- Following are the modes of transmission of HIV
- Unsafe sex
- Contaminated needles (clinics, hospitals, drug-addicts, tattooing)
- Breast milk
- Trans-placental – Transmission from an infected mother to her baby at birth
Once a person is infected with HIV, the virus is present both as free virus and virus within infected body cells. In simple words, HIV virus attacks white blood cells, called CD4 cells. White blood cells are fighter cells. As a result, CD4 cells get destroyed and reduce in number, which leads to collapse of immune or defense mechanism. As the number of CD4 cells keeps reducing, the patient continues getting prone to various infections such as colds, chest infections, Tuberculosis, diarrhea, typhoid, viral fevers, and many other conditions (diseases) like psoriasis, arthritis, weight loss, tumors, and even cancer.
Every person infected with HIV virus is not labeled as a case of AIDS. Time taken for the appearance of AIDS symptoms varies from patient to patient and it depends upon patient’s immunity, number of viral episodes, and environmental factors.
Most of the patients may develop AIDS within 10 years of HIV infection. While few of them may progress much sooner, and some will take much longer. Treatment of HIV infected patients with anti-retroviral may increase the life expectancy.
Following infection with HIV a period of rapid viral multiplication ensues, leading to an abundance of virus in the blood. There can be millions of viruses per milliliter of blood during this primary infection. HIV then brings internal changes in RNA and DNA and gets integrated within. As a result of these changes, the immune system is not able to detect the virus inside the body and simultaneously virus keep on destroying cells responsible for immunity.
Symptoms of AIDS
HIV infection may remain silent and without any symptoms for days or months.
It is observed that few patients may show early symptoms once they get infectedwith HIV. Following early symptoms may be misdiagnosed as influenza.
- Low gradefever
These symptoms may occur 4-7 years after infection with HIV. Following signsand symptoms may be warning signs of late-stage HIV infection:
- Rapid weight loss (more than 15 %)
- Relapsing fever
- All kind of bacterial, viral, parasitic and fungal infections
- Excessive fatigue
- Enlargement of lymph glands in the armpits, groin etc
- Diarrhea more than a week
- Recurring Pneumonia
- Loss of memory and other neurological disorders
- Increased risk of Cancer, lymphoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma and cervicalcancer
Many patients may develop influenzalike symptoms called as acute HIV infection (usually 2–4 weeks post-exposure).The common symptoms are
- Swelling ofLymph nodes
- Skin rash
- Recurrentnon healing oral ulcers
- Swelling ofliver/spleen
- Weight loss
These symptoms are often consideredas a common viral infection and not HIV infection. Patient is much moreinfectious during this period and recognizing the syndrome can be important.
As the CD4 cells (fighter cells) reduce in number, body’s vitality goes low,making itself prone to various infections. Common opportunistic infectionsinflicting the HIV patients are those by bacteria, virus, fungi and parasites.For example: Mycobacterium tuberculosis, typhoid, dysentery, Cytomegalovirus,Viral hepatitis, Herpes, Human papilloma virus (HPV), Progressive multifocalleukoencephalopathy (PML), Candidiasis (fungus), Cryptococcal meningitis(fungus), Toxoplasmosis, Cryptosporidiosis (parasites).
Presence of HIV in blood or other body fluid can be done with
- Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)
- Westernblot test
- Immunofluorescence assay (IFA)
HIV continuously evolves and develops resistance to the newer treatment. With no treatment, the expectancy of life after HIV infection is seen to be 9 to 11years. Estimates of survival time are likely to continue to change. After an individual has developed AIDS, without treatment life expectancy is estimated to be one year; however, there can be variations.
Most of the HIV positive patients die from other opportunistic infections or cancerous conditions because of immune-deficient state.
Vaccines for HIV:
There is no vaccine yet available to prevent HIV infection.
- Abstinence – Avoid indulging into sexual relationship with strangers.
- Monogamous relations – Have only one (safe) sex partner
- Protected sex – Use condoms during sexual relationship
- Sterile instruments – No use of used needles or any other instruments
Conventional treatment with Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) is recommended for every case if AIDS, when the CD4 count becomes less than 350. ART reduces deaths and also prevents fresh infections. Homeopathic treatment for HIV/AIDS: Homeopathy does offer cure for AIDS. However, several studies including one from CCRH (Central Council for Research in Homeopathy, Govt. of India), have shown some supportive role of homeopathic medicines for HIV patients, whereby, patients achieve not only symptomatic relief but also reduced frequency of opportunistic infections, improvement in appetite, increase in weight, improved sense of well being, etc.