As we commemorate Worlds AIDS Day, it is important to remind ourselves how vital education is in preventing the spread of this deadly disease. Education is power – take action now by informing yourself on the transmission and management of HIV/AIDS.
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. If untreated, HIV can lead to the disease AIDS, or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome.
In the early stages of HIV, symptoms can include fever, swollen glands, sore throat, rash, fatigue, muscle and joint aches and pains, and headaches. If you think you may have been exposed, get an HIV test.
HIV/AIDS is spread by the following:
- Pre-seminal fluid
- Rectal fluids
- Vaginal fluids
- Breast milk
These bodily fluids must come into contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue or be directly injected into your bloodstream (by needle or syringe) for transmission to occur.
AIDS is the stage of infection that occurs when your immune system is badly damaged, and you become vulnerable to other infections. If you have HIV and are not on ART (antiretroviral therapy), eventually the virus will weaken your immune system, and you will progress to AIDS, the last stage of HIV infection.
Symptoms of the late stage of HIV include:
- Rapid weight loss
- Recurring fever or profuse night sweats
- Extreme and unexplained tiredness
- Prolonged swelling of the lymph glands in the armpits, groin, or neck
- Diarrhea that lasts for more than a week
- Sores of the mouth, anus, or genitals
- Red, brown, pink, or purplish blotches on or under the skin or inside the mouth, nose or eyelids
- Memory loss, depression, and other neurological disorder
If you suspect you have obtained HIV/AIDS or have already been diagnosed, here are some important steps to consider before visiting your doctor:
- List your inquiries and concerns to make sure your physician answers all your questions. Include a list of symptoms or problems you’re experiencing.
- Consider your health and life goals so your physician can help you reach your full potential.
- Bring a list of HIV medications you’re currently taking (if applicable)
- Bring a copy of your medical records. This will help your medical provider better understand your health history.
- Be prepared to discuss life changes. This includes your living situation, relationships, insurance, or employment that may affect your ability to keep up with your HIV appointments and treatment.