Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or AIDS is a syndrome that, as the name suggests, weakens the body’s immune system. The infection is caused by a virus known as Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV and is transmitted through unprotected sex, use of needles already exposed to the virus, transfusion of unscreened blood and through gestation from an infected mother to her child. Below you will find essays on AIDS, its causes, symptoms, treatments and prevention. These essays are of different lengths and should prove useful in your exams.
Essay On HIV/AIDS: Causes, Transmission, Signs, Symptoms And Treatment – AIDS Essay I (800 Words)
Causes of AIDS/HIV
AIDS is caused by HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is a retrovirus, which means that it replicates by inserting a DNA copy of its genome into host cells. In this case, the host cells are white blood cells known as T-helper cells or CD4 cells, which are part of the immune system. HIV destroys these cells and makes copies of itself, thereby, weakening the human immune system. In practical terms, it lowers our ability to fight off diseases over time. This doesn’t mean that every person who is HIV positive has AIDS. However, if treatment is not made available in time, someone who is HIV positive can develop AIDS.
Transmission of AIDS/HIV
HIV can be transferred in one of three ways:
- Blood – HIV can be passed on through blood transfusion, although this is fairly uncommon these days. Most developed countries have strict screening processes in place to ensure that the blood being transfused is not infected. However, there is another way for blood to pass from one person to another and that is through sharing needles as many drug users often do. If these needles are shared by someone who is HIV positive, the virus will be transferred to the person they’re sharing with.
- Perinatal – If an expectant mother or new mother is HIV positive, she can pass on the virus to her child. This can happen during the pregnancy, during childbirth or, later, during breast feeding.
- Sexual transmission – HIV can be transferred through the sharing of bodily fluids during sex. These fluids include genital, rectal and oral fluids. This means that without the protection of a condom, the virus can be transmitted through oral, anal or vaginal sex. It can also happen if sex toys are shared with someone who is HIV positive.
Symptoms of AIDS/HIV
HIV doesn’t always have readily identifiable symptoms. However, certain symptoms can show up depending upon how far it has progressed in the body.
- Early symptoms – Not everyone shows signs of being HIV positive at this stage. Nevertheless, approximately 80 percent of people who are HIV positive do show symptoms not unlike those of the flu. These symptoms generally include chills, fever, muscle aches, joint pain, night sweats, sore throat, red rash, enlarged glands, weakness, fatigue, thrush and weight loss. However, these symptoms also show up when the body is fighting of other viral infections. Therefore, people who have recently been at risk of contracting HIV should get tested immediately.
- Asymptomatic HIV – After the symptoms of the early stage run their course, HIV positive people may not see other symptoms for months or even years. This doesn’t mean that the virus is dormant. This is the time when the virus is busy attacking the CD4 cells and weakening the immune system. Without proper medication, this process goes on even though the person will not show any symptoms.
- Late-stage symptoms – At this stage, the virus has already significantly weakened the immune system, leaving the person vulnerable to several infections ranging from mild to serious. This is the stage that is referred to as AIDS. Symptoms at this stage may include chronic diarrhoea, blurred vision, fever that lasts for weeks, dry cough, constant fatigue, night sweats, glands that are swollen for weeks, dyspnea or shortness of breath, white spots on mouth and tongue and weight loss.
Once the disease has progressed to the stage where it is more or less full blown AIDS, a patient becomes much more vulnerable to various other diseases such as tuberculosis.
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Treatment of AIDS or HIV
There is no cure for AIDS or HIV at the moment. Since HIV is a retrovirus that replicates by replacing the host cell’s DNA with copies of its own DNA, the best way to contain its spread is ART or antiretroviral therapy. This is a drug therapy that prevents the virus from replicating, thereby slowing or stopping its progress. It is best to start the treatment in the early stages of infection so that the immune system isn’t significantly affected. At later stages, this treatment can be combined with drugs that treat secondary diseases the patient may have contracted due to lowered immunity.
Being diagnosed as HIV positive isn’t an easy thing to handle. However, with the treatments now available to rein in the spread of the disease, patients suffering from HIV can still lead long, healthy and productive lives.