There may not be any symptoms during the initial phase of HIV infection. Some patients may suffer from very non-specific symptoms like lethargy, fever, rashes, or prodrome symptoms. Often times, many patients have no symptom at all and do not now that they are infected.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is transmitted through body fluids during unprotected sexual intercourse or through tainted blood products through blood transfusions, or through sharing of contaminated needles among IV drug abusers.
If left untreated, HIV goes on to wreak havoc on the host immune system, mainly targeting the CD4 white blood cells in charge of the body's defence against bacteria and other pathogens. Once the defence is breached, the body becomes vulnerable to pathogens that normally could not harm or kill the host (These are known as commensals). For example, the normal commensals that usually live in harmony in the infected person's large intestine may now cause intractable and severe infection, resulting in chronic diarrhoea, or the lungs may become afflicted with infection such as pneumocysti carinii, a common presentation of advanced HIV infection. Others are toxoplasmosis, candiasis, Kaposi sarcoma (a form of skin cancer), and other seemingly harmless infections may become insurmountable to the immunocompromised host. This is late stage disease and is known as Acquires Immune Deficiency Sydrome (AIDS).
It is thus important to have a high index of suspicion and upon exposure, the person should go for early testing once the 3-month window period is over. Early detection enables a person to prevent spread to others and also to institute early treatment with retroviral meidcations to retard the progression of HIV to the more adanced end-stage AIDS. Retroviral medications cannot cure the infection but can retard the depletion of the body's CD4 cells (white blood cells) and thereby hopefully prolong a person's lifespan.
As the HIV virus cells mutate and is extremely difficult to eradicte, there is at present no known cure or vaccine against it. On going research are being carried out. There are a small number of individuals who are naturally immune to HIV or develop immunity against the virus. The serum and antibodies of these rare individuals are now being studied in the hope of finding a cure against HIV.
|HIV SCREENING TEST
|WINDOW PERIOD||MEASURES TO TAKE||REMARKS||DURATION||METHOD
|72 hours||Start HIV PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) treatment.
||HIV PEP is shown to have good results in reducing the risk of HIV infection by as much as 49%
|28 days||test for P24 Antigen
||P24 Antigen appears in early infection, before the appearance of HIV antibodies. Its will later decline when the HIV antibodies level rises.
|3 months or more after exposure||HIV ANtibody Lab Test (Western Blot)
|Rapid Oral HIV-1/2 Antibody Test
Formal blood tests for HIV costs $30, while rapid anonymous HIV test costs $70.
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