HIV/AIDS

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) that wreak havoc on the body’s immune system. This means the sufferer is more likely to develop illnesses and have difficulty fighting off infections. Effects include cachexia (wasting syndrome, or sudden weight loss), nausea, peripheral neuropathy and joint and muscle pain. In 2016, 36.7 million people worldwide were living with HIV. Approximately 1.2 million people were living with HIV in the US in 2013.

HIV is most commonly spread via unprotected sex, contaminated blood transfusions, needle sharing, and from mother to child during pregnancy, delivery or breastfeeding. “AIDS” is a term usually applied to late-stage HIV infection symptoms. Initially, only flu-like symptoms display themselves for a brief period. This is followed by a period with no symptoms, during which the virus spreads and wreaks havoc on the immune system.

There is no known cure for HIV/AIDS, but highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) slows the progression of the disease. Current medications include non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs) and nucleoside analog reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) such as zidovudine, tenofovir, lamivudine and emtricitabine. Protease inhibitors (PIs), integrase inhibitors (IAs) and entry inhibitors are used if other treatments aren’t effective.

Antiretroviral treatment is recommended for anyone who contracts HIV/AIDS, including pregnant women. Avoiding overly high intakes of zinc, iron vitamin A is also recommended for those with HIV/AIDS. For pregnant women diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, multivitamin supplements improve outcomes.

Thanks to the development of antiretroviral drugs, many people with HIV/AIDS may now live long, fruitful, normal lives. However, the medications may have significant side-effects, some of which aren’t so different from the effects of HIV/AIDS itself, including nausea, cachexia, muscle aches, insomnia and fatigue.

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