Human immunodeficiency virus or HIV is a virus that attacks our immune system and makes us susceptible to many infections and diseases. Without proper treatment, HIV can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS. Understanding more about diagnosing and treating HIV/AIDS can help you avoid the infection or get the required help when needed.
Diagnosis of HIV/AIDS
HIV can be diagnosed via saliva or blood test. Some of the commonly available tests include:
These tests involve collecting blood and testing it for antigens. These are substances on the virus itself. These can be detected in the blood of the person after a few weeks of exposure to the virus. Antibodies are created by the immune system of the person when exposed to the virus. The combination of antigen/antibody test might take 2 to 6 weeks to become positive after exposure to the virus.
Saliva or blood of the persons is tested for antibodies to HIV. Most of the self-tests or rapid tests are antibody tests. These tests take 3 to 12 weeks after exposure to become positive.
There are also tests like Nucleic acid tests that look for HIV in your blood. This will be the first test to become positive after the infection. Now that we know about the tests for HIV, let us look into the details of HIV treatment.
Currently, there is no known cure for HIV/AIDS and if you have the infection, you will have it for your lifetime. However, medical professionals use many medications to control and prevent complications. These medications are commonly called antiretroviral therapy (ART). Regardless of the complications or stage of infection, everyone diagnosed with HIV/AIDS should start on ART.
ART uses a combination of three or more medicines that are from drug classes. This approach is followed as it offers the best chance of reducing the amount of the virus. Each class of the drug used in ART affects the virus in varying ways. Two drugs from the same class and another from a different class are usually used in treatment. The different classes of drugs aim at:
- Avoiding the creation of new strains of HIV that are resistant to drugs.
- Accounting for individual drug resistance.
- Maximizing the suppression of the virus in the blood.
These are some of the important things that you should keep in mind about HIV diagnosis and treatment.