HIV Symptoms

HIV information

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a sexually transmitted infection that attacks your immune system, thus compromising your body’s ability to fight disease. It’s quite prevalent in African countries such as Ghana, where the national prevalence of HIV is at 2.4%.  Luckily, with medication, most of the effects of HIV are subdued, and patients can live a long and healthy life.

However, medication is only effective if HIV treatment begins early. To ensure that you can catch HIV early, you should always be on the lookout for any symptoms of the virus. There are different stages of the virus, with different symptoms at each stage. Though symptoms may vary from person to person, here are a few common ones to keep in mind.

Read More: HIV and AIDS Overview

Read More: Signs and Symptoms of HIV and AIDS

Acute HIV Infection

This is the first stage, beginning two to four weeks after the virus enters your body. Most symptoms at this stage are flu-like and can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Aching Muscles
  • Sore Throat
  • Swollen Lymph Nodes
  • Fatigue

Not everyone will experience symptoms at this stage. Roughly 70% of HIV infected people will feel experience symptoms in stage 1.

Clinical Latent Infection

At this stage, the virus begins to spread slowly. At this stage, patients are likely to experience:

  • Fever
  • Tiredness
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight Loss
  • Thrush
  • Shingles

However, eventually, the flu-like symptoms go away, and most HIV infected people do not show any signs of carrying the disease. Yet they can still transmit it to other people. If the virus remains untreated, this stage can last for up to 15 years. However, it can also progress onto the next stage quicker than this.

AIDS

This is the last stage of the virus. It’s the point where the virus completely weakens your body’s immune system and progress to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

Symptoms of this stage include:

  • Weight Loss
  • Extreme Tiredness
  • Prolonged Swelling Of Lymph Glands
  • Persistent Diarrhoea
  • Pneumonia
  • Memory Loss
  • Depression
  • Night Sweats
  • White Spots On Your Tongue

Importance of detecting symptoms

The latency period of HIV makes it extremely important to spot the symptoms in stage 1. During stage 2, more often than not, no symptoms appear, and if you wait till stage 3 to get treatment, you may be too late.

The safest option is to take precautionary measures. Make sure to take part in awareness campaigns that your local government or NGOs may be organizing. These are great ways to make yourself more aware of how you can protect yourself.

A recent report found that rates of HIV in pregnant women in Ghana declined after they attended an antenatal clinic. It’s important to keep yourself aware in order to protect yourself from any possible way of transmission and get tested for HIV regularly.

Read More: HIV Treatment

References:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hiv-aids/symptoms-causes/syc-20373524

https://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/overview/about-hiv-and-aids/symptoms-of-hiv

https://www.webmd.com/hiv-aids/understanding-aids-hiv-symptoms#1

https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/Greater-Accra-Ashanti-Regions-lead-in-HIV-prevalence-rate-651459#

HIV Treatment

HIV information

Though HIV cannot be cured completely, advances in modern medicine have made sure that patients of the disease can live long and healthy lives. Treatment for HIV can also bring the viral load of HIV down to undetectable levels, which means that those infected are not even at risk of transmitting the disease.

Antiretroviral Therapy (ART)

ART refers to using a combination of medicines to tackle HIV and manage the virus. ART includes taking different drugs from different classes, each tackling the virus in different ways. Currently, countries like Ghana use a triple combination of antiretrovirals.

What makes ART so effective is that it reduces the chances of the infection becoming drug-resistant. By combining different kinds of drugs, ART tackles the virus much more effectively. Currently, approximately 67% of adults with HIV in South Africa are using ART.

When Is the Right Time to Start Treatment?

ART was previously recommended to only those patients whose CD4 T cell count was below 350, depicting an alarming case of HIV. However, now medical practitioners recommend ART to anyone with detectable HIV, regardless of CD4 T cell count.

If your HIV test comes back positive, it’s essential that you begin treatment right away. Otherwise, the infection can spread to more cells, and It can become increasingly difficult to control it.

A report in Ghana showed that the later you chose to get treatment, the more expensive the initial cost was. In addition, while ART is slightly expensive at the beginning, the cost of the treatment steadily declines over time.

Read More: HIV Symptoms

Does Treatment Have Any Side Effects?

HIV treatment is no easy task. Patients of the infection become dependent on medication for the rest of their lives. They have to be particularly cautious of taking each medicine at the prescribed time because missing a dosage can be detrimental.

The treatment also comes with a few side effects. However, because ART entails a customized treatment plan for each patient, the side effects also differ from individual to individual.

Some common side effects that you’re likely to experience are:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Feelings of Weakness
  • Abnormal Levels of Cholesterol
  • High Blood Sugar

How Do You Know If the Treatment Is Working?

Your level of the viral load will effectively depict if the medication is working. Your doctor will monitor both your viral load and CD4 T cell count once you begin treatment. Your viral load should be tested every 3-4 months, and your CD4 T cell count should be checked every 3-6 months.

Once your viral load reached undetectable levels, you can rest assured that the treatment has worked. However, it’s important to remember than an undetectable level of the virus does not mean you are cured. You still have the virus, and if you stop taking the medication, the virus will soon become detectable again.

Read More: HIV and AIDS Overview

References:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hiv-aids/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20373531

https://aidsinfo.nih.gov/understanding-hiv-aids/fact-sheets/21/51/hiv-treatment–the-basics#:~:targetText=Antiretroviral%20therapy%20(ART)%20is%20the%20use%20of%20HIV%20medicines%20to,HIV%20live%20longer%2C%20healthier%20lives.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5642329/

https://aidsfree.usaid.gov/sites/default/files/gh_guidelines_arv_therapy.pdf

Why Is It Important to Get Tested for STDs?

Online STI Test Kits For Home Use

STDs stand for sexually transmitted diseases, among which the most common are Gonorrhea, Syphilis, genital herpes, Chlamydia, AIDS, and many others. As the term suggests, STDs are diseases caused by viruses or bacteria that are transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse, including oral, vaginal, and anal sexual intercourse.

Sex is still a taboo in many countries, including Ghana, which only contributes to the widespread of the many possible STDs. Back in 2017, it has been revealed that Gonorrhea has affected approximately 6.6% of the women and 3.5% of the men in Ghana.  The prevalence of the HSV-1 and HSV-2 (Herpes Simplex Virus) was also high in the female population in Ghana. And syphilis has been found to be present within 2.7% of the women in Ghana as well. The prevalence of HIV in the adult population in Ghana was reported to be around 2.4%, being especially high in the Volta Region.

Read More: Gonorrhea in Ghana

Read More: Chlamydia in Ghana

Read More: Syphilis in Ghana

Read More: Genital Herpes in Ghana

5 Reasons why it is important to get tested for STDs

Here you get 5 reasons to get tested for STDS

It is an easy and quick procedure

For most STDs, the diagnosis includes taking a blood sample, a urine sample, or a simple swap. This is a process that can take anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours. It is simple, easy, and quick, and not to mention that in most countries, testing for any STD is free of charge.

Early diagnosis is the key

Early diagnosis is the key to most health problems, including STDs. By detecting an existing STD in its early stages, you are increasing the success of treating and even curing it. Although learning that you are struggling with an STD can be scary, it should not hold you back from doing what is best for your health.

There is the proper treatment for most STDs available

Science has offered us proper treatment methods for most STDs, making it even possible for them to be cured. Even the hardest STDs can be properly treated and maintained so that the patient enjoys a good lifestyle and health quality as much as possible. The first step is getting diagnosed.

Read More: All you need to know about STD’s in Africa

Often STD symptoms are not visible

Unfortunately, many STDs are not causing any symptoms or are causing only mild symptoms until they enter a late stage. Once they enter a late stage, the damage is greater, and the treatment is harder and longer. If you suspect that you might have an STD, you should definitely get tested. For most STDs, their symptoms are not visible by the human eye, and testing is the only way to find out if they are present or not.

Testing helps protect your health

STDs threaten to reduce the quality of your health, introducing various health risks into your life. Infertility, cervical cancer, pelvic inflammatory disease, damage to the internal organs, are only some of the potential health risks due to undiagnosed and untreated STD.

Product: STD Test Kit Bundle (One Step)

Product: STD Test Kit Bundle (Right Sign)

Any STD should be reported to a health professional as soon as its first symptoms occur. However, that is often not the case. While feeling ashamed is probably the most common reason to not report a present STD, people, especially in Ghana and Africa in general, often fail to find a proper health professional that can diagnose and properly treat their health issue. It is of high importance to consult a doctor about any present health issue, including a present STD. And here are five reasons why you would consider talking to a doctor about it.

References

https://www.iamat.org/country/ghana/risk/sexually-transmitted-infections

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0205863

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6081947/

https://tradingeconomics.com/ghana/prevalence-of-syphilis-percent-of-women-attending-antenatal-care-wb-data.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5998162/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sexually-transmitted-diseases-stds/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20351246

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8261726

https://www.parkview.com/community/dashboard/the-risks-of-untreated-stds