AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is the final stage of HIV disease, which causes severe damage to the immune system. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) causes AIDS. The virus attacks the immune system and leaves the body vulnerable to a variety of life-threatening infections and cancers.
HIV has been found in saliva, tears, nervous system tissue and spinal fluid, blood, semen (including pre-seminal fluid, which is the liquid that comes out before ejaculation), vaginal fluid, and breast milk. However, only blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and breast milk generally transmits infection to others.
Other methods of spreading the virus are rare and include accidental needle injury, artificial insemination with infected donated semen, and organ transplantation with infected organs.
HIV infection is NOT spread by casual contact such as hugging, mosquitoes, participation in sports or touching items previously touched by a person infected with the virus.
AIDS begins with HIV infection. People infected with HIV may have no symptoms for 10 years or longer, but they can still transmit the infection to others during this symptom-free period. If the infection is not detected and treated, the immune system gradually weakens and AIDS develops. (Advanced HIV infection with CD4 T-cell count below 200 cells/mm3).
There is a small group of patients who develop AIDS very slowly, or never at all. These patients are called non-progressors, and many seem to have a genetic difference that prevents the virus from damaging their immune system.
People with AIDS have had their immune system damaged by HIV and are very susceptible to these opportunistic infections. Common symptoms are chills, fevers, sweats (particularly at night), swollen lymph glands, weakness and weight loss.
There is no cure for AIDS at this time. However, a variety of treatments are available that can help keep symptoms at bay and improve the quality of life for those who have already developed symptoms. Antiretroviral therapy suppresses the replication of the HIV virus in the body. A combination of several antiretroviral drugs, called highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), has been very effective in reducing the number of HIV particles in the bloodstream.
Importance Of Good Nutrition In HIV
- Good nutrition in HIV cases helps keep the immune system strong, enabling the person to better fight disease. A healthy diet improves quality of life.
- Weight loss, wasting, and malnutrition continue to be common problems in HIV, despite more effective antiretroviral medications, and can contribute to HIV disease progression.
- Good nutrition helps the body process the many medications taken by people with HIV.
- Diet (and exercise) may help with symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, and fatigue, and with fat redistribution and metabolic abnormalities such as high blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglycerides.
- A high quality diet is a diet high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes, with lean, low-fat protein sources. These foods are nutrient-dense, and will contribute much more to your health and well-being than empty calories from sugar and fat.
Tips For Building A High Quality Diet
- Eat 5–6 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, or approximately 3 cups. Eat a variety of colors for a full range of nutrients.
- Aim to have 50% of your carbohydrates come from whole grains.
- Choose lean protein sources such as skinless chicken breast, fish, extra-lean cuts of pork and beef, and low-fat dairy products.
- Limit added sugar, sweets, and soft drinks; they are low in nutrient density and cause spikes in glucose levels.
- Have a serving or more of nuts, seeds, or legumes per day.
- Whether eating a full meal or snacking, include all 3 macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and a little fat.
- While supplements do not replace a well-balanced diet, they can help you get the additional micronutrients you need. Most nutritionists treating HIV+ people recommend at a minimum:
- Regular use of a multivitamin (with trace elements)
- B Complex
- Additional supplementation as needed in individuals (such as calcium pills for women who don’t get enough dairy)
- It’s very important to protect yourself against infections that can be carried by food or water:
- Wash your hands before preparing or eating food
- Wash all fruits and vegetables carefully
- Don’t eat raw or undercooked eggs or meat
- Use bottled water if the public water supply isn’t totally pure