AIDS, which stands for “acquired immunodeficiency syndrome”, is a chronic condition that is considered a terminal illness. AIDS is the result of acquiring the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that damages the immune system and prevents the body from being able to fight off diseases that would not typically be dangerous. HIV is a sexually transmitted disease that is also transmitted through exposure to infected blood, or from mothers to their children. HIV may exist in the carrier for a long duration before it results in the significant weakening of the immune system that is characteristic of AIDS.
Currently, AIDS is an incurable disease. However, a variety of medications have been developed to slow the progression of the disease. In developed nations, these medications have been successful in greatly improving the quality of life of those with the condition. In less-developed and emerging nations, particularly in sub-Saharan African, HIV and AIDS continue to be a huge health risk, killing millions of people annually. Symptoms of AIDS vary, depending on the progression of the condition. After a person is initially infected with HIV, there is typically a primary infection that involves flu-like symptoms about a month or so after exposure. After a few weeks of illness, the symptoms typically resolve, and the person may believe that they are healthy. These symptoms include fever, soreness, rashes, headaches, ulcers, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, gastrointestinal issues, and so on. Carriers are particularly susceptible to spreading the disease during the primary infection.
Following the primary infection, there follows a period of latent infection. During this time, the person is still infected by the HIV pathogen, but does not show much in the way of symptoms, except perhaps swollen lymph glands. On average, this phase lasts 8 or 10 years, though it may be significantly shorter or longer.
Symptomatic infection then follows. During this time, some of the same symptoms of the primary infection begin to surface again, including fever, fatigue, weight loss, and shortness of breath.
The symptomatic infection is quickly followed by progression to AIDS. During the period of AIDS, the body is susceptible to infection by opportunistic pathogens-those diseases that would not typically be noticed by a healthy individual, but that can have devastating effects on a person with a diminished immune system. A host of symptoms is typical in this phase, and it is the opportunistic infections that are usually fatal to those with AIDS, often causing conditions such as pneumonia.