Human immunodeficiency virus…commonly shortened as HIV is a blood borne retrovirus in the Retroviridae family which causes HIV disease, which is characterized by the destruction of the body’s protection cells and progressive decrease in their number and function. if left unmanaged, the body’s defenses become increasingly weaker and more susceptible to opportunistic infections. This eventually results in Acquired immunodeficiency disease (AIDS); an advanced stage of the disease where the affected individual has cd4 cell count <200 cells/ml or overwhelming opportunistic infections.


It was first discovered in 1981, although it is thought to have been infecting humans much earlier than that undetected (As far back as 1800s). Scientists believe that HIV must have been a mutated form of the Simian immunodeficiency virus which jumped from apes to humans when their meat was used for food.


It is estimated that about 37.9 million people are living with HIV globally (as of June 2019). About 1.7 million people became infected newly while some 770000 died from it, as at 2018 ending.



There are two main types:

HIV-1; This is the most common type and accounts for up to 95% of infections is more aggressive, with a shorter natural progression to aids. There are 4 strains here, M, N, O, P. M is the most common worldwide and has about 9 subtypes; A, B, C, D, F, G, H, J, K.

HIV-2; This is more concentrated in west Africa. It is less infectious and progresses slowly



This is spread by contact with certain bodily fluids of an infected person: blood, semen, pre seminal fluid, rectal and vaginal fluids, and breast milk.

It cannot be gotten by casual contact like handshakes, closed mouth kiss, holding hands or from contact with fomites used by infected individuals.



HIV is initially asymptomatic initially till about 2 weeks from infection, when the newly infected person begins to experience flu like symptoms with severe sore throat, diarrhea, fever, generalized lymphadenopathy…etc.

These symptoms resolve in a few weeks to a dormancy period with little or no symptoms as the body controls the initial viral replication.

After some years, when the virus has decimated the body’s immune system (especially without treatment). The individual starts experiencing signs and symptoms of one or more opportunistic infections like tuberculosis. This is the aids stage.



There is a window period of about 10 days between infection with HIV and the ability of even the most sensitive tests to detect it. After this period however about 3 methods can be used for diagnosis.

  1. The antibody tests; detects antibodies produced by the body after seroconversion from 2 weeks.
  2. Antigen and antibody combination tests; detects both antibodies and p24 antigen,
  3. RNA tests; the most sensitive, detects the viral particles, from about 10 days, post infection. It can be used even before seroconversion to confirm diagnosis.


God bless you!!!

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