December 2017: AIDS Awareness Month

AIDS Awareness Month

Happy December Albright! We have almost made it to the end of the semester! Even though we are almost done, we must not forget that December is AIDS awareness month. We will be sharing valuable information with you such as symptoms, how it can be spread, and cures, but first we will explain exactly what is HIV and AIDS.

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that destroys the body’s defense against illness by attacking the immune system, specifically by destroying the T-helper cells (Helper T-cells), which are white blood cells. HIV is spread by making copies of itself in other T-helper cells, making it harder for the person to fight off illnesses. Without the proper treatment, the immune system may eventually not be able to fight off any type of illness, but this depends on certain characteristics of the person such as age and health (Symptoms and stages of HIV infection). AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is the later stage of HIV and is defined by a point in time when the immune system becomes too weak to fight off illnesses. If a person does not receive treatment, AIDS could very likely lead to death (Symptoms and stages of HIV infection).

There are a variety of symptoms that should be kept in mind regarding HIV and AIDS. In the first stage of HIV, individuals are likely to experience symptoms that include fever, body rash, swollen glands, upset stomach, and muscle pain. In the second stage of HIV, individuals may begin to feel better, but the virus is still inside of them. The third stage provides symptoms that include weight loss, diarrhea, mouth and skin problems, night sweats, and serious illness (Symptoms and stages of HIV infection). Due to AIDS being different from HIV, a new series of symptoms occur. This include confusion and loss of memory, severe headaches, seizures, shortness of breath, or even a coma (HIV/AIDS).

Although there is no current cure for HIV or AIDS, antiretroviral treatments can help (HIV/AIDS). Perhaps understanding how the virus is spread can also help to lower the prevalence. HIV can be spread through bodily fluids such as semen, vaginal fluids, or blood. Another way HIV can be spread is sharing needles with someone who is infected with the virus (Dowshen, 2015). HIV and AIDS can be a scary thought. If you ever find yourself questioning your status, always get tested. It is possible to live a normal life with HIV as long as you receive the proper treatment, but be cautious and protect yourself so you never have to experience HIV or AIDS.

The Gable Health Center provides testing for HIV. Please call 610-921-7532 to schedule your appointment.

~Jessica Fink ‘18