WHAT IS HIV INFECTION?-Dr. Yeibake, Weriwoyingipre Silver


HIV infection, or human immunodeficiency virus infection, is a viral infection caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). It primarily affects the immune system, specifically targeting CD4 cells (a type of white blood cell), which are crucial for fighting off infections and diseases. Over time, HIV weakens the immune system and makes it difficult for the body to fight off infections and diseases.

HIV is commonly transmitted through specific bodily fluids, including blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. It can be transmitted through sexual contact, sharing needles or syringes, from mother to child during childbirth, or through breastfeeding.

When a person becomes infected with HIV, they may experience flu-like symptoms within a few weeks of acquiring the virus. However, some people may not experience any symptoms initially. This early stage of infection is known as *"Acute HIV Infection."* The signs and symptoms of later stages of the disease are similar to that of a lot of other diseases and so can not be used by laymen to diagnose it. 

If left untreated, the virus can progress to a more advanced stage called AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).

AIDS is the most severe stage of HIV infection, characterized by a severely weakened immune system. People with AIDS are more susceptible to opportunistic infections and certain types of cancers.

There is currently no cure for HIV, but with early diagnosis and appropriate medical care, people living with HIV can manage their condition and live long and healthy lives. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is the standard treatment for HIV infection, which involves taking a combination of medications to suppress the virus and prevent its progression.

Prevention is essential in reducing the spread of HIV. Practicing safe sex by using condoms, avoiding sharing needles, and opting for medically supervised childbirth and breastfeeding can all help to prevent HIV transmission. Education and awareness about HIV also play a significant role in preventing new infections and reducing stigma associated with the virus.

Author: Dr. Yeibake, Weriwoyingipre Silver

Senior Registrar, Pediatrics, Federal Medical Center, Yenagoa.

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