As HIV advances, victims start to show more symptoms and may feel a loss of energy. This often goes hand-in-hand with systemic infections, such as tuberculosis.
Some of symptoms shown by HIV victims include (Cohen, pp. 38-39):
Unusual weight loss.
Extended periods of diarrhea.
A white coating on the tongue.
A persisting cough and/or fever.
In the beginning stages of HIV, many people do not realize that they have it, as it does not affect them right away. It can take up to ten years to experience symptoms in many cases. Still, while an infected person may feel no different, the HIV virus is silently reproducing itself and destroying T cells
However, from the start of infection, HIV victims become contagious, meaning that they can pass the disease along to others if there is direct contact with blood or body fluids.
When the HIV virus starts to spread in the body of its victim, he will eventually start to feel ill, experiencing some or all of the symptoms above. Eventually, the virus will infect all of the body's organs, including the brain, leading to dementia and memory loss.
When a person's T cell count diminishes, the immune system becomes so weak that a variety of diseases and infections can develop, many of which are life-threatening. As HIV develops into AIDS, victims may People with AIDS may develop serious infections, such as pneumonia, which leads to harsh coughing and breathing problems.
The Link Between HIV and AIDS
When a person with an HIV develops one of the opportunistic infections, or has a T cell count below 200 or 14%, that person is diagnosed with AIDS. AIDS is classified as a syndrome, as it is not a single disease but rather a collection of diseases. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has identified 26 "AIDS-defining illnesses" in adults.
AIDS is believed to be the most sever form of the HIV virus. Most medical experts agree that HIV is the primary agent that leads to the development of AIDS. However, not all people with HIV have AIDS. In fact, less than half of HIV-infected people actually have AIDS. Medical experts have not yet determined whether or not everyone living with HIV will eventually develop AIDS, or if HIV is the only factor that causes it.
The cost of treating AIDS patients in 1993 in the United States was $7.8 billion, and approximately 20,000 new cases of AIDS are reported every three months. Due to this obvious medical emergency, research on HIV is of critical importance. Research reveals that if HIV can survive through mutations, it is possible to invent a drug to retard these mutations allowing the immune system time to get rid of it before AIDS kicks in.
Nearly one million people in the United States are HIV-positive, yet half of them are either not aware they are infected with HIV or are not seeking care for the disease, according to recent research (National Journal Group, 2001).
In addition, one-third of people who know they are HIV-positive do not seek treatment. Research reveals that there are many reasons that many HIV-positive people are not seeking treatment. For instance, many younger people did not witness "the AIDS epidemic in full force" in the 1980's and incorrectly believe that current treatments can cure HIV (National Journal Group).
In addition, some younger people at risk for HIV infection have gotten so used to HIV warnings that they turn a deaf ear to them. Also, researchers criticize advertisements for antiretroviral drugs for "creating misleading impressions" by depicting "supposedly infected" individuals who appear "perfectly healthy" (National Journal Group).
The fact remains that HIV is still one of the most dangerous viruses in the world. While medical breakthroughs have lengthened the lives of its victims and found medications to ease the process, there is still no known cure for the disease. Therefore, it is extremely important to continue preventative measures against the disease and spread education on the subject.
Aronstein, D.M. & Thompson, B.J. (eds.) HIV and Social Work: A Practitioner's Guide. New York: The Harrington Park Press, 1998.
Cohen, P.T., Sande, M.A., & Volberding, P.A. (eds.). The AIDS Knowledge Base: A Textbook on HIV Disease from the University of California, San Francisco, and the San Francisco General Hospital (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, 1999.
Folks, Thomas. Transmission of AIDS. California: University of California, 1998.
National Journal Group Inc. Kaiser Daily HIV / AIDS Report,…