Name: AIDS / HIV
AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is a disease of the immune system that is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus known as HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). HIV enters the immune cells of an individual whose blood stream has become infection with the virus through exposure to the infected blood or body fluids of another individual. Risk factors associated with infection include unprotected sex (including anal or oral sex) and by sharing needles with an individual infected with the HIV virus. Certain individuals working in the healthcare field may also have an increased risk for infection if exposed to the blood of a patient who has the virus. Also, individuals who received blood transfusions prior to 1985 had an increased risk of contracting HIV. When an individual is exposed to HIV, the virus enters specific cells in the immune system and converts the cell’s normal DNA into that of the virus. If left untreated, HIV will continue to infect healthy immune cells until the body’s immune cells no longer function. Eventually, the number of functioning immune cells drop to a level where the infected individual begins to acquire other life threatening infections and they are diagnosed with AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome).
Symptoms of AIDS / HIV
The signs and symptoms of HIV infection are similar to those of influenza. Initially, the individual reports generalized nonspecific symptoms that include a low grade fever (typically < 100.5), body aches, swollen lymph nodes and fatigue. Some individuals infected with the virus may not recognize these symptoms as being a serious infection and may not initially seek treatment which may result in a delayed diagnosis and potential spread of the virus. Chronic infection and infections that worsen or do not resolve with treatment usually prompt the individual to seek help. Specific blood tests eventually lead to diagnosis of HIV. Additional testing identifies the number of immune cells that been damaged and the progression of the disease toward late HIV infection and AIDS.
Treating AIDS / HIV or Treatment of AIDS / HIV
There is currently no curative treatment for HIV. The goal of treatment for HIV is to limit or slow the progressive damage to healthy immune cells and prevent secondary infections. Patients with HIV take a regimen of several antiviral medications that work to slow the viral replication of the virus. Combining several of these antiviral medications in addition to lifestyle and diet modification has significantly increased the life expectancy of individuals who suffer from HIV and AIDS. Public education about the transmission of HIV has reduced the incidence of spread of the virus. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) has proven to be an effective treatment when combined with the traditional treatment regimen in reducing the fatigue associated with HIV and AIDS. The increased oxygen levels provided by HBOT increases the amount of oxygen immediately available to the body for consumption. The increased delivery of oxygen decreases fatigue and significantly improves cognitive functioning. In addition, studies have shown that HBOT has an antiviral effect on HIV by reducing an individual’s viral load.