Diseases & Conditions


AIDSCausesMedicationsPreventionRisk FactorsStages of infectionSymptomsTreatment

What is AIDS?

Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome more often known by its popular acronym AIDS is a viral disease that destroys the White Blood Cells thereby weakening the immune system. This makes the person very vulnerable to various other infections that can lead to death left untreated or treated without the due seriousness.


The Human Immuno-Deficiency Virus is the causative agent of Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome. The virus is present human blood and bodily fluids. The infection is caused by exchange of blood through transfusions or through unprotected sex which can lead to the infection spreading from one person to another.


HIV is called a retrovirus meaning that it needs a host to survive and the medication to suppress this is called anti-retro viral medications. They are mostly used in combination with one another to create a cocktail that will be highly capable of suppressing the virus. This method of treatment is called HAART - Highly Active Anti-Retro Viral Therapy.

The following represents the major classes of anti retroviral medications for AIDS:

  • nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs),
  • non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs),
  • protease inhibitors (PIs),
  • entry inhibitors, and
  • Integrate inhibitors.


Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome is a highly preventable disease as the modes of transmission can be effectively negated through simple precautions. Sexual intercourse with proper barriers like condoms reduces the transmission of the HIV virus very effectively. Utilizing sterilized needles can prevent transmission through infected needles and people who work in high risk areas like medical personnel and social workers can reduce the risk of getting infected by using proper gloves, masks and protective gears for their eyes. Even a person who has contracted HIV can live a long and healthy life by taking a very effective HAART program.


For people involved in day to day activities that make them come into close contact with the HIV virus run the greatest risk of infection. The proximity to the virus may be due to professional requirements like people in the medical profession or due to choice of lifestyle. Use of infected needles during injection of drugs, blood transfusions with unclean needles and unprotected sexual intercourse all result in increasing the risk of infection with the HIV virus. Being infected with HIV does not mean that the person has contracted Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome. Only when the HIV infection causes extensive damage to the immune system and the condition worsens does the onset of AIDS is diagnosed. If the person is left untreated then a HIV positive person can develop the AIDS condition within 10 years.


There are multiple stages of infection for the HIV virus, with the first stage being some harmless flu like symptoms. After the initial stage the virus begins to attack the special cells called CD4 cells that are responsible for the immune system having the ability to withstand an attack. The HIV virus is a retrovirus and we will need other cells to survive. The CD4 cells are the hosts through which the HIV virus grows in numbers thereby making the immune system weak. When the number of CD4 cells falls below a critical level the body cannot withstand the onslaught of infections from other agents. The third stage is usually diagnosed as AIDS that will be confirmed with a positive test of HIV and severely depleted CD4 cells.


The symptoms of AIDS start appearing in the form of the disease that the person contracts. Initial infection with the HIV virus induces a fever, headache, tiredness, enlarged lymph glands, general loss of appetite and sweating during nights. The symptoms start appearing in a few days after the exposure. Even if left untreated these symptoms usually disappear similar to a mild infection.


HIV is a highly aggressive and resistant virus that will propagate through the human body at an accelerated rate if not treated properly. The progression of the disease to AIDS will be fairly quick if due treatment is not taken. As there are no direct medicines available on a regular basis for HIV infection people follow a healthy lifestyle in terms of their nutrient intake and precautions against infections. Activities like yoga and alternative therapies are used by various people to offset the side effects of the extremely powerful drugs taken to treat a HIV infection.