What are the major causes of HIV?

Dr. Raveendran SR

Medical Microbiologist
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) constitute a spectrum of disorders caused in the body by the HIV virus. The virus directly affects our immunity potential, impacting the body’s ability to fend off germs, viruses, fungi, viruses, and other pathogens. Increasing impairment of the immune system, triggered by the HIV infection, can lead to AIDS, the most advanced stage of HIV. Meanwhile, diminishing immunity predisposes HIV-positive persons to various infections, cancers, and other conditions referred to as opportunistic infections (OIs). Pathogens take advantage of the host’s weakened immunity and may cause infections that are more acute if you have HIV infection. In fact, doctors consider several OIs to be AIDS-defining conditions that help diagnose AIDS. The HIV virus thrives in the sexual fluids (semen, anal fluids or vaginal secretions), blood and breast milk. Unprotected sexual contact, shared contaminated needles and blood transfusions are the main reasons of HIV transmission. The virus can also spread to the baby from an infected mother at the time of childbirth or breastfeeding. However, HIV is not found in tears, sweat, saliva or urine, meaning you cannot get the infection through casual touch. In fact, the virus dies soon after exiting the human body due to the drying up of the bodily fluid. So, it is not likely that contact with public surfaces, such as door handles or toilet seats, can afflict you. It is important that an infected person use protections like dental dams or latex condoms during oral, vaginal and anal intercourse. Also, be sure to avoid usage and sharing of unsterilized tools for injectable illicit drugs, steroids, hormones, body piercing, and tattooing. Pregnant women with HIV must seek proper medical treatment to avoid passing the infection to the baby. PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), a preventive medication for HIV-negative people can also be had to avert the risk of transmission. Screening methods at blood donation sites must be adopted to check the possibility of passing infections into the public domain through blood transfusions.
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