How is HIV transmitted?
HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a lentivirus that attacks and destroys the immune system of a human body. The characteristic of the lentivirus is the incubation period which stays for a long time in the body. If left untested and untreated, the HIV virus will eventually lead to AIDS or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome which quickly devastates the immune system leaving it open to a host of infections including harmless ones.
The mode of transmission of an HIV virus from an infected person to a non-infected one is through body fluids which include vaginal fluids and semen during sexual intercourse. It could also be transmitted through breast milk from an infected mother, blood transfusions, and shared needles or razors. There are rare cases where the transmission was through body piercings and tattoos.
There are two strains of HIV, which are HIV-1 and HIV-2. The first to be discovered was HIV-1 and is considered to be the most virulent and infectious between the two strains. Most cases stem from HIV-1. HIV-2 has a lesser degree of infection and virulence and endemic to the population of West Africa. Yet, whether the strain is from HIV-1 or HIV-2, the final outcome would still be AIDS.
The rapid replication of HIV virus takes over the cells of the immune system of a human body. Since it is a virus, it could easily assume the characteristics of a normal cell which tricks our antibodies to allow it entry instead of fighting it off. The moment the virus enters the body, it replicates quickly by attaching to normal cells and destroying them in the process. This would eventually weaken the immune system, making it susceptible to all infectious agents even the most harmless ones.
The infection process of an HIV virus consists of four stages: the incubation period where the replication process begins; the acute stage where flu-like symptoms would be manifested such as fever, swelling of the lymph nodes in the armpit and groin area, fever, muscle and joint pain, headache, and general fatigue; the latency stage where an infected individual would be tricked into thinking that it was a just a one-off sickness. This is also the stage when the HIV virus cells begin to rapidly take over the immune system; the end stage which is full-blown AIDS. This is the stage where the immune system is almost gone leaving it wide open for entry to opportunistic infections and diseases such as certain kinds of cancers, cirrhosis, ESRD or end- stage kidney disease, among others.
Currently, there is no known cure for HIV/AIDS which makes it doubly important for all of us to be on guard all the time. An unprotected sexual activity involving multiple partners would be like playing Russian roulette where everything is left to chance. Protective barriers such as a condom would be the best way to protect a non-infected individual from an infected person. The best ways to prevent this deadly infection to invade our bodies would either be by abstinence or involvement with a monogamous relationship where both partners are infection-free.