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AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is the most severe phase of HIV infection. Individuals with AIDS have such badly damaged immune systems, that their immune systems are too weak to fight off infections, resulting in them developing certain symptoms and illnesses. AIDS is the last stage of HIV, when the infection is very advanced, and if left untreated will lead to death. Advancement in HIV treatment has led to more people are staying well and less people developing AIDS.
What are the stages of HIV?
Without the required treatment, HIV progresses in various different states. The infection overwhelms your immune system, leading to your health getting worse over time. There are three stages of the HIV infection;
- Acute HIV Infection
- Clinical Latency
- AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome)
When the infection develops into the last stage, AIDS, your immune system is badly damaged and you become more susceptible opportunistic infections. Without the necessary treatment, people who progress to AIDS typically only survive for a couple of years.
What is the difference between HIV and AIDS?
It can be easy to confuse HIV and AIDS, as they go hand-in-hand. HIV is an infection that if not treated will lead to AIDS, also known as the third stage of HIV. HIV is a virus that can lead to immune system deterioration, it attacks the immune system and as a result, your immune system is unable to work as it should. AIDS is a condition of HIV, contracting HIV can lead to the development of AIDS.
It is important to remember that HIV doesn’t always progress to AIDS, many people with HIV live for years without developing AIDS. This is due to advancement in treatment, a person infected with HIV can expect to live a near-normal life span.
What are the symptoms of the HIV infection?
Most people experience a short flu-like illness for 2-6 weeks after HIV infection, symptoms may include cramps, nausea, diarrhoea, fever, headaches and weight loss.
After the early symptoms go away, an infected person may not have symptoms again for many years. Following this, signs will reappear and worsen. Untreated HIV progresses in different stages, these stages are based upon the infection amount in your blood. Later symptoms will include diarrhoea, fatigue, fever, loss of appetite and weight, night sweats, and many more.
How do you get tested for HIV?
The only way to know for sure whether you have HIV is to get tested. Knowing your HIV status enables you to take the correct steps to keep yourself living a healthy life. You can get tested for HIV at your local GP surgery, sexual health clinic, or from the comfort of your home. Testing at home allows you to discreetly and confidentially determine your HIV status at a time that is convenient to you. You can purchase test kits online or use our Online Doctor service.
Anyone can get HIV, but you can take steps to protect yourself from HIV infection. The most important thing you can do it get tested on a regular basis, talk to your partner about HIV testing and get tested before you have sex. As always, you should practice safe sex by using condoms, and only use sterile drug infection equipment, never share needles.
There is no cure for HIV or AIDS yet, but treatment keeps the virus under control and means people can live a long and healthy life.