Your immune system is critical to defending your body against a variety of pathogens like viruses and bacteria. This system consists of a large network of organs, cells, and proteins that identifies foreign substances and mobilizes to eliminate them. Diseases and conditions that affect your immune system lower your defenses, allowing pathogens to wreak havoc on your body.
Conditions like human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) damage your immune system and lead to complications such as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), which can severely limit your ability to fight infection and disease. To better understand HIV’s signs and treatments, let’s explore what HIV is, its symptoms, and how to manage it.
Women in the Las Vegas, Nevada area looking for treatment options for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can find help with New Beginnings OB-GYN, the 2021 Gold Best Women's Clinic in Las Vegas, led by Dr. Staci McHale.
HIV was responsible for an epidemic that started in the early 1980s but may have started infecting humans as far back as the 1800s. HIV is an STD, but you can also get the condition through the blood of infected people. This can happen between people sharing needles or between a mother and child during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
When HIV enters your system it infects your CD4 cells, also referred to as helper T cells. This is a type of T cell (a subset of white blood cells) that triggers the body’s response to infections. HIV destroys these cells, leaving your immune system open to even the most common infections without an effective way to fight them off and properly heal.
There are three main stages to an HIV infection: acute/primary HIV infection, chronic/latent stage, and AIDS. During an initial HIV infection, people may be asymptomatic or have flu-like symptoms that last up to two months.
These symptoms can include:
At the chronic/latent stage, you may not realize you have HIV especially if your initial infection was asymptomatic or mild. This stage is potentially very dangerous as you can have HIV for years, not realize you have it, and still infect others.
AIDS is the final and most severe stage of infection. Once HIV severely weakens your immune system and white blood cell count, your immune system can’t fight even common infections. You become more likely to develop certain illnesses and cancers, which can lead to an AIDS diagnosis. Thankfully, with regular treatment, not all HIV cases develop into AIDs.
As of 2019, 1.2 million people are living with HIV in America. Fortunately, treatments such as antiretroviral therapy (ART) can prevent HIV from developing into AIDS. A combination of ART pills can reduce HIV to undetectable levels and slow its effect on your immune system.
Different ART pills treat HIV in different ways, such as nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs), non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs), protease inhibitors (PIs), fusion inhibitors, CCR5 antagonists, and pharmacokinetic enhancers.
It is very important to maintain treatment adherence (being sure to not miss medications and appointments), as any deviation can give the HIV cells a chance to mutate and weaken the effectiveness of the ART pills.
HIV is not yet curable, but it is manageable, and we can help you live with it. If you think you have the signs of HIV, make an appointment with Dr. McHale and New Beginnings OB-GYN today to get tested and treated.