Effects of HIV on the body

The virus affects the body of a person in several stages when he/she first contracts HIV. If the virus is left untreated, it is likely to lead to AIDS.

AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. It is generally caused by a virus known as the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). If you get diseased with HIV, your body will surely try to fight the contagion. It will produce “antibodies,” which are the special immune molecules the body makes to help fight HIV.

Due to medical progress over the last 30 years, the development of HIV can be considerably stalled or reduced. A person with HIV is generally able to lead a healthy life with lifelong medication. Also in many cases, will never develop AIDS itself.

How do you get AIDS?

You don’t really “get” AIDS. People might become infected with HIV, and after that, develop this disease. You can become infected with HIV from the person who’s infected, even if they don’t look sick and haven’t tested HIV-positive yet. The semen, blood, vaginal fluid, and breast milk of HIV infected person has an adequate virus to infect other people.

Most people get this virus by;

  • having sex with an infected person who has an obvious viral load and is not on treatment
  • sharing needle-like shooting drugs with someone who is infected
  • being born when the mother is diseased, or drinking the breast milk of a deceased woman

Receiving a transfusion of infected blood used to be a mode people got AIDS. But now the blood supply is screened carefully and the risk is really low. There are no known cases of HIV being transferred by saliva or tears.

image taken from ‘Medical News Today’

Early effects

Within the first 2-6 weeks of an HIV infection, Flu-like signs usually appear as the person’s immune system combats the infection. This state is seroconversion illness. Seroconversion is the condition when a person’s body is making antibodies to HIV. It means that their immune system is fighting the infection.

Flu-like symptoms that accompany seroconversion include;

  • fever
  • skin rash
  • a sore throat
  • swollen glands
  • joint or muscle pain

These symptoms commonly last for 1-2 weeks. After this seroconversion period, a person may not practice any symptoms of HIV for several years.

Though people incline to feel fine at this point, it is significant to remember that HIV is still active. When it continues to duplicate and infect new cells, HIV also harms a person’s immune system. It means that the immune system is unable to defend the body from disease.

Effects on the immune system

HIV infects a cell by first attaching and merging with the host T cells. T cells, also called CD4 cells, are a type of white blood cell which forms a vital part of the immune system.

Once inside the host cells, HIV multiplies. The virus destroys the cells before moving on to infect other cells. A CD4 count indicates the health of a person’s immune system. A normal, healthy CD4 count is between 500 and 1,500.

The CD4 count of a person having HIV who does not obtain HIV treatment will reduce over time. Once the CD4 levels fall below 200, the immune system of a person will probably be damaged. That person will experience absolute signs and symptoms of a disease.

People who are not receiving HIV treatment put themselves at risk of increasing symptoms, by a condition of symptomatic HIV. It is also more likely to pass on the virus to another individual. Without proper treatment, a person will develop AIDS because their immune system is not able to protect the body. At this point, even the minor infection becomes life-threatening.

image taken from ‘Medical News Today’

Opportunistic infections and AIDS-defining illnesses

Opportunistic infections can also cause illness in the person with HIV. They take advantage of the weak immune system of the person.

Opportunistic infections are generally caused by harmless, ordinary viruses, fungi, and bacteria, which only cause disease when the immune system is compromised. Many of these infections are not fatal to a healthy person. To somebody with HIV, however, they can be very severe and possibly lethal.

An opportunistic infection is an AIDS-defining stage. Because at this stage, it advances beyond the region where it is normally present.

Some of the more common opportunistic infections are;

  • pneumonia
  • tuberculosis
  • certain cancers, such as Kaposi’s sarcoma
  • thrush
  • cytomegalovirus
  • toxoplasmosis
  • cryptococcal meningitis


Coinfection is the infection with more than one disease at one time. Various people with HIV grow coinfections, ailments which can both have an influence on HIV and HIV also affect it. The most common HIV coinfections are tuberculosis and hepatitis.

Effects of medication

Side effects from antiretroviral drugs (ART) drugs may include headaches, nausea, and rashes. Though there is no cure for HIV, medical treatment is available. This treatment reduces the amount of the virus in the body to the point where it may become untraceable in the blood.

Viral load is the amount of virus present in a body of a person. An unnoticeable viral load means that the person with HIV is not infectious. That virus is unable to damage their immune system. HIV treatment is an antiretroviral therapy (ART). A person with HIV should take this treatment, no matter what their CD4 count may be.

Combination therapy is another name of HIV treatment. People with HIV take a combination of three different medicines at the same time in this therapy. Combination therapy is used as HIV can adapt rapidly and become resistant to one type of ART.

“Fixed-dose combination” contain different ART drugs in a single pill. It means that a person can have only 1 or 2 tablets a day. It is very essential that individuals take the drugs in the right way at the accurate time daily. People with HIV may also experience some side effects from the ART drugs. The most common of these side effects are;

  • headache
  • tiredness
  • diarrhea
  • nausea or vomiting
  • rash
  • high blood sugar levels
  • high cholesterol

While undergoing ART, a one needs to know that their medicine may interact with other prescription medications as well as recreational drugs and herbal remedies. Other probable side effects include;

  • anemia
  • hepatitis
  • poor kidney function
  • inflamed pancreas
  • glucose intolerance

A person using ART drugs may practice some metabolic effects. It includes insulin resistance, fat redistribution, and hyperlipidemia. They may also develop disorders, such as osteopenia and osteoporosis, which will affect their bones.

Despite these problems, there is proof now of the long-term protection of ART, which has considerably improved the life expectancy of several people with HIV.

Areeba Hussain

Areeba is an independent medical and healthcare writer. For the last three years, she is writing for Tophealthjournal. Her prime areas of interest are diseases, medicine, treatments, and alternative therapies. Twitter @Areeba94789300

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Adblock Detected

Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker