Progression of HIV infection

progression of hiv infection

The progression of HIV in the human blood after someone have been infected involves three different phases before it eventually results into a full blown AIDS. The third and last phase is the one in which the negative effects of the virus have become obvious, in the form of visible symptoms. Like we all know, HIV/AIDS is a pandemic in the world today, that is the reason why so much efforts have been placed by various health organisations to ensure that new infections are reduced to the barest minimum. In this page, i shall be showing you the various phases involved in the progression of HIV.
Note the following acronyms in case you are not familiar with them before.

HIV: Human immunodeficiency virus
AIDS: Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome

How HIV progresses in the human body

Every healthy person has a strong body defence to protect the body against diseases. This defence system is called the immune system. White blood cells are an important part of the immune system and play a key role in defending the body against all kinds of diseases. In this review, we shall be looking at how HIV attacks the immune system. In addition, the progression of HIV to AIDS is also discussed. This is to enable us appreciate the need to know our HIV sero-status which is the first step towards prevention and management.

The human's immune system

Every healthy person has a strong body defence system to protect the body against diseases. This defence system is called the immune system. The White blood cells (WBCs) are an important part of the immune system and play a key role in defending the body against all kinds of diseases. Now, note the following because i will be moving gradually for proper understanding to be achieved.

Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell.
CD4 cell is a special type of lymphocyte.

HIV attacks mostly these CD4 cells. This is why counting the number of CD4 cells is a good way of checking how much of your defence is still working. The lower the CD4 count means the higher the viral load in the system.

The phases and stages of HIV

There are three phases in the progression of HIV infection, and each phase has two stages.

Phase 1:
During this phase, HIV is present in the blood, but laboratory tests cannot detect it for up to six months.

i. Entry stage: This is when the virus enters the body.
ii. Window period stage: This is when HIV is multiplying in the body, but cannot be detected by an Antibody Test. However, other specialized Antigen tests can be used to detect the virus. This stage, which is very infectious, lasts approximately three months. Therefore, one initial test is usually not enough to confirm if one is HIV-negative, especially if the person has been exposed to the virus through sexual intercourse or other methods of infection. One is advised to repeat the test after three months and to avoid risky behaviours during this period.

Phase 2
During this phase, HIV is in the blood and laboratory tests can detect its presence. It has no signs or symptoms for two months to several years. The time varies from person to person. This HIV-positive (HIV+) stage includes:

i. Sero-conversion stage: This means that the virus is present in large enough quantities to produce an immune response (Antibodies) that laboratory tests can detect in the blood. This is the period when a person goes from being HIV-negative to HIV-positive. Young children and the elderly go through sero-conversion faster because they have less robust immune systems.

ii. Asymptomatic sero-positive stage: This means that the virus is in the body in large quantities, but the person infected shows no signs and is not aware of the infection unless tested. HIV can live almost silently in the system for many years without causing obvious signs of damage. During this time, the person looks and feels healthy and will not know that she or he is living with HIV unless given an HIV test. Even though the person may look healthy, he or she can spread HIV during this healthy stage.

Phase 3
During this phase the HIV is in the blood, laboratory tests can detect the virus, and the person shows signs and symptoms of acquired immune-deficiency syndrome. This is a condition in which the person infected with HIV develops signs of repeated and often prolonged illnesses resulting from the immune system’s reduced ability to defend itself against disease. This phase includes:

i. The AIDS-related illness stage: Infected people show signs and symptoms such as diarrhoea, weight loss, weakness and fatigue, loss of appetite, fever, night sweats, etc., but are still capable of taking care of themselves.

ii. The full-blown AIDS stage: People show more pronounced and more frequent signs and symptoms of AIDS and often become too weak to care for themselves. This is the advanced stage of AIDS. Advanced AIDS-related diseases sometimes occur when the CD4 cell count is below 200 cells per microliter, while others have signs of two minor and two major opportunistic diseases. Some people with a CD4 cell count of less than 200 cells per microliter may not have signs of AIDS.

The most common serious illnesses are pneumonia, tuberculosis, diarrhoea, Kaposi’s sarcoma, and Lymphoma (swollen lymph gland.

A person infected with HIV can remain healthy for many years with no physical signs or symptoms. In summary, since we know how the knowledge of the various phases involved in HIV progression, we need to be cautious and avoid any means of been infected by the virus, so that we can have a HIV-free generation.

Progression of HIV infection Reviewed by Chibuzor Aguwa on 4/10/2016 02:23:00 pm Rating: 5

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