HIV AIDS - Medical Malpractice Lawyers

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HIV AIDS - Medical Malpractice

HIV infection is the infection a person gets when they are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus. When the infection becomes symptomatic, it becomes AIDS or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. HIV is a retrovirus that infects immune cells and causes them to diminish and malfunction. AIDS is a condition that if left untreated can be deadly. One can get HIV and AIDS from having unprotected sex with someone who is infected with HIV, from exposure to body fluids due to a needle stick or other sexual encounter, or from sharing dirty needles in illicit drug use. Those that are at highest risk of getting HIV include those who have multiple sex partners, medical workers, and drug users of IV drugs.

HIV can have no symptoms whatsoever but AIDS has symptoms you can keep track of. After you become infected with HIV, you can get a mild flu-like illness that you recover from within a few days or weeks. You can have fever, headache, enlarged lymph glands and fatigue that generally resolve itself. If not recognized right away, you can get continued symptoms of AIDS. It can take as long as ten years from the time you get HIV to the time you get AIDS. The virus multiplies and causes infection of the immune cells so your ability to fight off viral, parasitic or bacterial infections becomes impaired. It is primarily the T4 cells and the CD4 cells that are most diminished by having an HIV infection.

Symptoms of AIDS include severe weight loss, lack of energy, fatigue, fevers and night sweats, memory loss (short term), yeast infections, skin rashes, genital sores, herpes and mouth sores. AIDS becomes the final stage of having an HIV infection. Once you have a CD4 cell count of less than 200, you have AIDS. There are about 25 conditions you can get if you get AIDS, including opportunistic infections, Kaposi sarcoma (a type of cancer) and other cancers. All body systems become infected by having been infected by the HIV infection, especially when it becomes AIDS.

Other symptoms of AIDS include cough, shortness of breath, loss of coordination, difficulty swallowing, painful swallowing, confusion, forgetfulness, diarrhea, which can be severe, weight loss, tiredness, nausea and vomiting, abdominal cramps, stiffness of the neck, loss of vision, headaches and even coma. Death soon follows, especially if there is an opportunistic infection. Once you get AIDS, your average survival rate is about 2-3 years.

Doctors can do a basic HIV test to see if you have the HIV virus. It is done after exposure and again six months after the initial exposure. It can take six months in order for an HIV infection to become positive. If the test is positive, you need to start right away on HIV antiviral medications indefinitely. AIDS can be prevented indefinitely in some cases but in other cases, the CD4 count drops and the person develops AIDS. Counseling is important so that you can learn to live with the disease and learn how not to pass the disease onto others. You can give HIV if you have treated HIV infection and overt AIDS. Many people have anxiety about HIV testing and you may need to be informed about what it means to have an HIV test. The test itself tests for antibodies to the HIV virus, which is followed by a test that evaluates the RNA in the virus itself. Both tests are necessary to screen for HIV if the first test is positive. The first test is an ELISA test to check for antibodies. If this is negative, you don't need to have any further testing. If positive, a Western Blot test is done that confirms the first test. It checks for the presence of HIV RNA. Another test, called an indirect immunofluorescence antibody test or IFA confirms the initial test. It is done in place of a Western Blot test.

Antiviral medication is used to treat HIV disease. These are called ARV medications. They act on the cycle of growth of the HIV virus, decreasing the viral numbers. Several different ARVs are used to treat the disease in order to prevent AIDS. There is no curative treatment for HIV or for AIDs.

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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here