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AIDS - Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome

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What is AIDS?

MVSAT 2024

The term AIDS refers to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome caused by the HIV virus. AIDS is a condition in which the person’s Immune system weakens to an extent where it is unable to fight any infection. AIDS is commonly considered to be the last stage of HIV infection; the body completely loses its defense system and this further causes illness. Loss of immunity causes organ failure and ultimately death. HIV is a type of retrovirus. Its genetic material is RNA and is called the human immuno deficiency virus.


HIV (Human immunoDeficiency virus) is the virus or germ that causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). Acquired refers to getting infected with it, Immune Deficiency refers to a weakness in the body's system that fights diseases, whereas Syndrome refers to a group of health problems that make up a disease.

It is vital to get AIDS diagnosed when one develops certain OIs, or his/her CD4 cell count drops below 200 cells per milliliter of blood. An official list of Ols from CDC includes Kaposi sarcoma (KS), a skin cancer, Cytomegalovirus (CMV), an infection that usually affects the eyes, Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP), a lung infection, and Candidiasis, a fungal infection that can cause thrush (a white film in the mouth) or infections in the vagina or throat.


How Does AIDS Affect the Eye?

AIDS causes a breakdown of the Immune system of the body, and therefore all parts of the body can get an infection including the eye. People who are in good health, when diagnosed with AIDS are less likely to have eye problems associated with a suppressed Immune system. It is estimated that 70% of patients with advanced AIDS undergo eye disorders.

The following are the AIDS-related eye problems because of a suppressed Immune system,

  • HIV retinopathy

  • Detached retina

  • CMV retinitis

  • Kaposi sarcoma

  • Squamous cell carcinoma of the conjunctiva

Causes of AIDS

HIV is held responsible for affecting the macrophages present in the blood of the human body. HIV was instigated in non-human primates and eventually spread to hominids over the eons. So, what accurately is the distinction between AIDS and HIV? Principally, HIV is the virus that sources AIDS. It causes destruction on the body’s immunity up until it is incompetent of fending off diseases on its own. It is a retrovirus and has RNA as the genetic material.

  • On infection, the RNA of the virus enters the host cell.

  • Through reverse transcription, DNA production is carried out.

  • This DNA is integrated into the genome of the host here it multiplies exponentially to form RNA copies

  • These RNA copies turn into virus copies and infect the bloodstream.

  • HIV also does the same in T lymphocytes thereby decreasing the immunity of the body

  • Even minor infections do not get treated because of an immunocompromised system.

  • Apart from this, significant weight loss, fever bouts and diarrhea are also observed.


Symptoms of AIDS 

The Symptoms of HIV typically fluctuate from individual to individual and in several cases, a patient festering with the HIV infection may not undergo any indications at all. The common signs and symptoms of HIV include:

  • Fever

  • Diarrhoea 

  • Red rashes on the body

  • Fatigue 

  • Chills

  • Headache

  • Joint pains

  • Sore throat

  • Nausea 

  • Shortness of breath

  • Blurred vision

  • Muscle aches

  • Sweating during the night

  • Enlarged Glands


How Do People Know if They Have AIDS?

AIDS generally is transmitted through contact with infected blood and also bodily fluids. Such contact can occur through sharing of needles or other drug-injection equipment, through unprotected sex, through receipt of infected blood transfusions, through mother-to-child transmission during pregnancy or breastfeeding, and also through plasma products during medical care in some cases. Currently, there is no cure for AIDS. Once an individual gets AIDS, he or she has it for life.


When an individual gets infected with HIV, the body will try to fight the infection by making antibodies (also called special Immune molecules the body makes to fight HIV). Individuals who have HIV antibodies are called "HIV-Positive." However, Being HIV-positive, or having HIV disease, is not the same as having AIDS. It has been observed that many people who are HIV-positive do not get sick for many years. HIV disease slows down the Immune system as it spreads in the body. On the other hand, parasites, fungi, viruses and bacteria that usually don't cause any problems can make an individual very sick if his/her Immune system is damaged. These are referred to as opportunistic infections.

Mode of Transmission of HIV-AIDS

The HIV infection spreads in the course of the following ways: 

  • Unprotected sexual interaction with a previously infected person.

  • Reusing needles used up by an infected individual.

  • From a deceased mother to the baby through the placenta.

  • Blood transfusion from an infected individual.


The incubation period of this virus is relatively large and it takes ample time to attack the system, sometimes even 10 years. HIV makes it hard for the patient to ward off any illness. 


  • AIDS is transmitted through contaminated needles, sexual contact, homosexuality, drugs, organ transplantation, artificial insemination, blood transfusion, etc.

Symptoms of disease

  • Swollen lymph nodes

  • Fever

  • Loss of weight

  • Brain tumours

  • The person loses immunity against the infection

  • The number of helper T-cells is reduced.


No suitable drugs are available so far against this disease. Only antiviral cells may be increased in number by the Immune stimulation method.


The following measures are advised to prevent the spreading of disease:

(1) Providing health education and explaining the hazardous effects of AIDS.

(2) Do not reutilize the used syringe.

(3) The blood of the donor person and organs of transplantation like kidney, liver, the cornea of eyes, growth hormones should be carefully examined before use.


Prevention of AIDS

HIV infection can be uncovered with the help of an assessment termed ELISA which is the full form of ‘Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay’. AIDS is fatal; thus, HIV prevention is the most reliable option. For example – Using one-use needles, practising protected sex, i.e., use of safety like condoms, regular health check-ups and regulating blood transfusion and pregnancy can help in the prevention of AIDS. One more imperative influence is the awareness of AIDS. As it does not spread by simple physical contact, the infected individuals ought to not be distinguished and must be preserved in an approachable way.

Side-Effects of AIDS

As discussed AIDS is an advanced HIV infection or late-stage HIV. Someone with AIDS may acquire a wide range of health disorders like – pneumonia, thrush, fungal infections, TB, toxoplasmosis and cytomegalovirus. There is also an amplified danger of obtaining a medical illness like cancer and brain illnesses. 


Cure for AIDS

There is no precise or absolute cure for AIDS, but with appropriate diagnosis, management and facility, one can combat it and live a comparatively hale and hearty and happy life. One must take treatment appropriately and deal with any conceivable side effects. Medications are used to discontinue the virus from reproducing. One major treatment for HIV/AIDS is called antiretroviral therapy (ART).


Remaining on effective ART with an undetectable HIV viral load in the blood is the best way for you to stay healthy. For ART to be operative, it's significant that you take the drugs as prescribed, without missing or avoiding any doses. 

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FAQs on AIDS - Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome

1. What is AIDS?

The term AIDS refers to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome caused by the HIV virus. It is a condition in which the person’s Immune system weakens to an extent where it is unable to fight any infection. AIDS affects a person’s Immune system i.e. the part of the body that fights off germs such as bacteria and viruses. Moreover, the Immune system does not work properly and becomes deficient. An individual diagnosed with AIDS may have other diseases and infections because of a weak Immune system.

2. How Transmission of the AIDS Infection is Possible in the Body?

The HIV infection spreads in the course of the following ways

  • Unprotected sex

  • Reusing needles 

  • Blood transfusion from an infected individual.

If a person receives an HIV diagnosis, it means that he/she has HIV. The human body cannot get rid of HIV completely like other viruses and diseases. Once a person has HIV, he/she has it for life. However, with appropriate care and precautions, HIV can be controlled. With the help of effective HIV treatment, individuals with HIV can live healthy lives and protect their partners.

3. What is the Incubation Period of AIDS Infection?

The incubation period of this virus is relatively large and it takes ample time to attack the system, sometimes even 10 years. HIV makes it hard for the patient to ward off any illness. The duration from initial infection with HIV to the development of symptoms of the disease is defined as the incubation period of AIDS infection. The timing of diagnosis varies based on the criteria used and their interpretation in different studies. The length of the early incubation period is shorter in parentally infected infants (1 year) and it does not differ in groups of transfusion cases and homosexuals.  

4. How HIV-AIDS Can be Prevented?

With the help of an assessment termed ELISA which is the full form of ‘Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay’. Practicing sexual abstinence and avoiding high-risk behavior are the only effective ways to prevent contracting HIV or to reduce risk to a maximum extent. If someone is at a very high risk of contracting HIV, he or she must ask his/her doctor about medications that may significantly reduce the risk of getting the virus. The medications do not guarantee that he/she will not become infected with HIV, but they certainly reduce the risk.

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