Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system. HIV is spread through direct contact with certain bodily fluids and can be transmitted through blood contact or sexual intercourse.
HIV, if left untreated, can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), which is the last stage of HIV. Individuals with AIDS are vulnerable to opportunistic infections.
Upon initial infection of HIV patients may experience flu-like symptoms that may include fever, chills, muscle aches, and fatigue. These early symptoms may last a few days to several weeks. Presentation of symptoms does not always correlate with initial infection, as some individuals remain asymptomatic.
After the early phase the patient will move on to a latency stage or chronic infection. During this stage, symptoms are typically mild or nonexistent. Most individuals with chronic infection are on treatment to prevent progression of HIV to AIDS.
Individuals with progressive disease develop AIDS, which causes more severe symptoms. These symptoms may include weight loss, extreme fatigue, night sweats, rash, neurological disorders, and severe infections.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for HIV, yet. However there are treatment regimens available to prevent progression of HIV and extend the lives of HIV patients. HIV is treated with combinations of medications called antiretroviral therapy (ART). There are currently six classes of HIV medications used in combination to treat HIV.
ART regimens are determined by the physician and tailored to the patients based on resistance testing, drug interactions, disease history, and side effects.