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HIV and AIDS
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is the virus that causes AIDS, which stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. A HIV infected person may take as much as 8 to 10 years to develop AIDS. A person with AIDS does not have the ability to fight infections. The immunity system is extremely weakened and the person becomes susceptible to several other deadly diseases including certain cancers as well.
An HIV positive person can transfer the virus to other people through exchange of his/her blood, and other bodily fluids such as breast milk, vaginal fluid or semen. Hence, it can also be passed from an infected mother to her baby during pregnancy as well as birth.
Pregnancy and AIDS
If a mother is HIV positive, she might infect her baby as well. Sadly, thousands of women across the world are estimated to be infected by this pandemic. It is estimated that there is about a 14% percent chance of the baby getting infected.
The transmission of HIV during pregnancy, labour or delivery and breastfeeding is known as perinatal transmission. It is the most common way of transmission of virus to the babies. It has been seen that women who get infected shortly before getting pregnant or during early pregnancy have a greater chance of transmitting the virus to the baby. Also, if the woman already has AIDS, the baby is at a considerably higher risk of being born infected with HIV.
All babies of infected mothers are born with antibodies against the HIV. If the baby is not infected, these antibodies automatically vanish over time.
Symptoms of HIV
Symptoms of HIV could bear resemblance to other infections and illnesses like common cold, flu, STDs and even stress and hepatitis. Some symptoms include fatigue, fever, sore throat, rash and swollen lymph nodes. These are the initial symptoms which may or may not appear during the initial days of getting the virus. There are certain other symptoms that point to an advanced stage of HIV:
A person may or may not show any of these symptoms. Also, these signs could point to other medical conditions as well, so to be sure about the infection a HIV test has to be carried out. A person may not show any symptoms for as much as nine years, and during this period the virus continues to multiply inside the body and attack the white blood cells. A person usually develops AIDS when the immune system has degraded greatly, making the person prone to many deadly diseases.
The HIV test
Deciding whether or not to take the HIV test is a major decision that requires a lot of thought. It is recommended that you get yourself and your partner tested before you conceive. However, if you are already pregnant and you think you have been exposed to the virus, think about the consequences of the test results and your future course of action.
For the HIV test, a small quantity of blood is taken from the vein and tested in the lab. If the antibodies are not found infected, the test comes negative. You are offered another test after 3 months just to be sure. The test results are private and not told to anyone, not even your husband without your permission. Also, it does not tell you that when is the body going to develop AIDS. So decide upon how to take care of yourself and take preventive measures so as to not spread the disease to anyone else.
Treatment of pregnant women
HIV-infected women are treated using a combination of drugs. Zidovudine is the first drug that is used to treat HIV.
A pregnant woman is advised to take good care of herself if she is infected. The diet must be balanced and the woman must not indulge in smoking, drinking, or drugs and unsafe sex practices. All these increase the risk of developing AIDS and deteriorate the body’s defense mechanism.