How Does HIV Turn into AIDS?

HIV and AIDS are often used interchangeably. However, the two are very different. HIV is a virus. Without treatment, HIV can destroy the immune system and end with AIDS. AIDS is the last stage of the development of HIV. The three stages of HIV infection are acute HIV infection, clinical latency and AIDS. Though there is no cure for HIV, there are drugs available that can delay or even prevent the progression of HIV to AIDS. 

How Does HIV Turn into AIDS?

The HIV virus destroys CD4 cells that work to fight off infections in the body. Lower amount of CD4 cells in the body makes your body more susceptible to diseases. The normal CD4 cell count ranges from between 500 and 1000. A person is considered to have AIDS when the CD4 cell count is below 200 or when you are diagnosed with the opportunistic ailments that usually attack people with AIDS. The amount of time taken for HIV to develop to AIDS is not fixed. It depends on the behavior of the person, health status and other variable conditions. Normally, the progression of HIV into AIDS ranges from 8 to 11 years. 

How to Delay the Progression of HIV to AIDS

How does HIV turn into AIDS? Is it possible to delay the process? Yes. There is currently no cure for AIDS, but the condition can be delayed to give the person a longer period of good health. Each class of the medications works differently to control the virus. It is advisable to use a combination of three drugs from two classes.

  • Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs). This class includes drugs like efavirenz, etravirine and nevirapine. These drugs work by disabling a protein required by the HIV virus to reproduce.
  • Nucleoside or nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs). This class of drugs includes abacavir. The drugs work by producing faulty protein that resemble those used by the HIV virus to reproduce.
  • Protease inhibitors (PIs). This class includes atazanavir, darunavir, fosamprenavir and indinavir. These drugs inhibit protease, a protein required by the HIV virus to reproduce.
  • Entry or fusion inhibitors. Entry inhibitors include enfuvirtide and maraviroc. These drugs delay the development of AIDS by inhibiting the entry of the HIV virus into the CD4 cells.
  • Integrase inhibitors. Integrase inhibitors include raltegravir, elvitegravir and dolutegravir. Integrase is a protein used by the HIV virus to insert its DNA into the CD4 cells. These drugs function by inhibiting it.

When to Start Drugs

All people with HIV should be on antiretroviral drugs. However, drugs are particularly necessary in these situations:

  • If the patient has severe symptoms
  • If the patient has an opportunistic infection
  • If the patient has a CD4 count below 350
  • If the patient is pregnant
  • If the patient has a kidney disease linked to HIV
  • If the patient also has hepatitis B or C

Possible Side Effects

The side effects of taking HIV medications include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Heart disease
  • Loss of bones or weakening of bones
  • Loss of muscle tissues
  • Unhealthy cholesterol levels
  • High blood sugar levels

Tips for Taking Your Medications

Besides knowing "how does HIV turn into AIDS?" You may want to know how to take the medications correctly. Medications for HIV need to be taken consistently. Otherwise, the virus can become resistant to the drugs and reproduce itself faster. Here are a few tips to help you take your medications in the right way and prevent an early onset of AIDS:

  • Start taking your medication at the right time. When you start taking antiretroviral drugs, you will need to keep taking them for the entire life. So make sure you are ready to this serious commitment. Before starting taking ARVs, you can test yourself for consistency by taking a piece of candy at a specific time every day. Your performance with this will help you know whether you are ready to start taking the drugs.
  • Have a reminder. You can choose to set an alarm or a reminder on your phone or simply check off a to-do list. This will help you always remember to take your drugs.
  • Store the drugs correctly. Ideally, you should keep them at a spot where you can always see them, such as near to your bed. When travelling, you should have a container with the medications.
  • Have sufficient amounts of the medications at all times. It is important to keep more than your need of the drugs at all times in case anything happens. Whenever you almost run short of the drugs, you need to visit the pharmacist to avoid a last minute rush.

How to Live Healthily with HIV

Besides the answer to "how does HIV turn into AIDS?" here are also tips about how to live healthily with HIV.

1.   Eat a Healthy Diet

A healthy diet is the key to boosting your immune system. You need to eat a well-balanced diet that is rich in nutrients. Some good options are whole grains, lean meat, fresh vegetables and fruits.

2.   Avoid Wrong Types of Foods

Avoid foods which you are allergic to. In addition, you need to avoid raw sea food, half cooked meat, raw eggs and unpasteurized dairy products. They may cause foodborne illness and the level of severity of consequences is multiplied in HIV patients.

3.   Get Vaccinations

Since you are more susceptible to common infections, you should get immunized against them. At the same time, you should avoid vaccines that are made using live viruses which can cause diseases since your immune system is already weakened.

4.   Take Care with Pets and Other Animals

Pets and animals may carry parasites that will cause infections in people with HIV. For example, cats carry feces that can cause toxoplasmosis. Always wash your hands after handling animals.

5.   Avoid Getting Stressed

If you feel stressed, increase your sleep time, and try stress relieving practices such as breathing exercises. This is because stress lowers the level of immunity in your body, and this can increase your chances of developing AIDS faster.

6.   Don’t Engage in Risky Sexual Behavior

As a HIV patient, you should always practice safe sex, even with partners who are already infected. This will help prevent you from getting infected with sexually transmitted diseases, such as hepatitis. Safe sex also helps you not spread HIV to people who are not infected with this virus.

7.   Improve Your Lifestyle

Avoid smoking, drinking and recreational drugs. Also, you should try to improve your levels of physical activity. This will help you develop a stronger and healthier body that can combat the virus.

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