Human Immunodeficiency Virus. If left untreated, HIV can lead to the disease AIDS which is acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.  HIV attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the CD4 cells (T cells), these cells help the immune system fight off infections. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off simple infections and diseases.


For someone to get HIV, an infectious fluid like blood or semen has to get inside their body – usually during sex. This can happen if the person with HIV has a detectable viral load and no form of protection is being used.

If someone with HIV is taking HIV medication and has an undetectable viral load , the chances of them passing on the HIV virus is extremely low.

If someone with HIV is infectious they can pass on HIV through the following body fluids:

  • Blood
  • Semen
  • Vaginal fluid
  • Anal mucus
  • Breast milk
  • Pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum)
  • Sharing of needles and syringes: HIV can live up to 42 days in shared equipment.



Early Stage of HIV (Known as the acute phase)

Some people have flu-like symptoms within 2-4 weeks after HIV infection. Other people do not feel sick at all during this stage, which is also known as acute HIV infection.

Flu-like symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Rash
  • Night sweats
  • Muscle aches
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Mouth ulcers

These symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks. During this time, HIV infection may not show up on some types of HIV tests. 


The second stage of HIV infection is chronic HIV infection (also called asymptomatic HIV infection or clinical latency). During this stage of the disease, HIV continues to multiply in the body but at very low levels. People with chronic HIV infection may not have any HIV-related symptoms, but they can still spread HIV to others. Without treatment such as Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART). Chronic HIV infection usually advances to AIDS in 10 years or longer, though it may take less time for some people.

AIDS - ( The final stage)

This is the stage of HIV infection that occurs when your immune system is badly damaged and you become vulnerable to opportunistic infections. AIDS is when the number of your CD4 cells falls the normal reference range which is 200 per µL or the occurrence of specific diseases in association with an HIV infection. Symptoms of AIDS include:


  • Rapid weight loss
  • Severe, long-lasting diarrhoea 
  • Yeast infections in your mouth, throat, or vagina
  • Unexplained bruising or bleeding
  • Pneumonia
  • Recurring fever or profuse night sweats 

  • Extreme and unexplained tiredness 
  • Red, brown, pink, or purplish blotches on or under the skin or inside the mouth, nose, or eyelids 

  • Memory loss, depression, and other neurologic disorders. 

  • Fever that lasts for more than 10 days 
  • Shortness of breath 

  • Prolonged swelling of the lymph glands in the armpits, groin, or neck 

  • Diarrhoea that lasts for more than a week 

  • Sores of the mouth, anus, or genitals 

People with AIDS have an increased risk of developing various viral-induced cancers, including Kaposi's sarcoma, Burkett’s lymphoma, primary central nervous system lymphoma, and cervical cancer. Kaposi's sarcoma is the most common cancer occurring in 10 to 20% of people with HIV.

 PrEP and PEP?

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP) is when people at very high risk of contracting HIV, take HIV medicines daily to lower their chances of getting infected. PrEP can stop HIV from taking hold and spreading throughout your body. It is highly effective for preventing HIV if used as prescribed, but it is much less effective when not taken consistently. Daily PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90%. Among people who inject drugs, it reduces the risk by more than 70%. Your risk of getting HIV from sex can be even lower if you combine PrEP with condoms and other prevention methods. People who may have been infected - for example, had unprotected sex with someone who is HIV-positive, can take anti-HIV drugs to protect themselves. This is called PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis). However, you must start the process within 72 hours of when you were exposed common side effects e.g. nausea.


ELISA Test — ELISA, which stands for enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, is used to detect HIV infection. If an ELISA test is positive, the Western blot test is usually administered to confirm the diagnosis. If an ELISA test is negative, but you think you may have HIV, you should be tested again in one to three months.

ELISA is quite sensitive in chronic HIV infection, but because antibodies aren't produced immediately upon infection, you may test negative during a window of a few weeks to a few months after being infected. Even though your test result may be negative during this window, you may have a high level of the virus and be at risk of transmitting infection.

Home Tests — such as HIV rapid test kits.

Saliva Tests — a cotton pad is used to obtain saliva from the inside of your cheek. The pad is placed in a vial and submitted to a laboratory for testing.

Viral Load Test — this test measures the amount of HIV in your blood. Generally, it's used to monitor treatment progress or detect early HIV infection.

Western Blot — this is a very sensitive blood test used to confirm a positive ELISA test result.

Is There a Cure for HIV?

No effective cure currently exists for HIV. But with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled and an infected person can live a normal life. Treatment for HIV is called antiretroviral therapy or ART. If taken the right way, every day, ART can dramatically prolong the lives of many people infected with HIV, keep them healthy, and greatly lower their chance of infecting others.