What Are the Four Stages of HIV?

Reviewed on 8/7/2020

What is HIV?

The four stages of HIV are categorized by a blood count test of a certain type of immune cells called CD4+. The lower these levels fall, the worse your infection. Ultimately, the count may drop so low it's classified as AIDS, stage 4 of HIV.
The four stages of HIV are categorized by a blood count test of a certain type of immune cells called CD4+. The lower these levels fall, the worse your infection. Ultimately, the count may drop so low it's classified as AIDS, stage 4 of HIV.

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) attacks the cells of the immune system. The CD4+ cells help the body to resist any infections. With a lack of these cells, the body is less resistant, which makes it vulnerable to other infections and diseases. HIV spreads mainly via body fluids (blood and semen) from the infected person.

If untreated, HIV can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Hence, treating HIV with antiretroviral therapy (ART, HIV medicine) is necessary to reduce the viral load and prevent transmission of HIV to the patient’s sexual partners.

What are the four stages of HIV?

The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) into four stages

  • Stage 1 (HIV infection): The CD4+ cell count is at least 500 cells per microliter.
  • Stage 2 (HIV infection): The CD4+ cell count is 350 to 499.
  • Stage 3 (advanced HIV disease or AHD): The CD4+ cell count is 200 to 349.
  • Stage 4 (Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome [AIDS]): The CD4+ cell count is less than 200.

The normal CD4+ cell count should be between 500 and 1600 cells per microliter. The higher the CD4+ cell count, the lower the chances of opportunistic diseases. 

How is HIV transmitted?

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is transmitted by coming in direct contact with certain body fluids of the person infected with HIV. These fluids are as follows

Transmission only occurs when the fluid gets into the bloodstream of an HIV-negative person through open sores or cuts, by direct injection or a mucus membrane.

The most common ways of spreading HIV are as follows

  • Having anal or vaginal sex with an HIV-positive person
  • Sharing needles with a person who has HIV
  • Less common ways are as follows
  • During pregnancy or breastfeeding
  • Having oral sex
  • Receiving blood products that are contaminated with HIV
  • Getting stuck with an HIV-contaminated needle

Hence, taking precautions either while having sex or sharing a needle is the best way to prevent HIV.

What are the symptoms of HIV?

Not everyone will have identical symptoms because it depends on the person and what stage of the disease they are in.

There are three stages of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Each stage has a unique set of symptoms. These include the following

Stage 1: Acute HIV infection

This stage starts around two to four weeks after getting HIV. The symptoms are similar to those of the flu, which last for a week or two. Symptoms include the following

Stage 2: Chronic HIV infection

In this stage, the virus multiplies at a low level and people may not experience any symptoms at all. Without HIV treatment, the person can remain in this stage for 10 to 15 years. However, the virus remains active during this stage.

Stage 3: Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)

If left untreated, HIV leads to AIDS. AIDS can weaken the immune system causing several opportunistic diseases. Symptoms include the following

SLIDESHOW

A Timeline of the HIV/AIDS Pandemic See Slideshow

What are the types of HIV tests?

There are three types of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) tests used to diagnose HIV infections, which are

  • Antibody tests: These tests check for HIV antibodies in the blood or oral fluid.
  • Antigen/antibody tests: These help to detect both HIV antibodies and antigens in the blood.
  • Nucleic acid tests: These look for HIV in the blood.

What is the treatment for HIV?

The treatment for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) involves a combination of medications known as antiretroviral therapy (ART). ART cannot cure HIV; however, it can increase the survival rate of patients.

ART halts the multiplication of the virus and reduces the amount of virus in the body to help the patient stay healthier.

Once the treatment has been started, the patient must remain compliant with the dosage for the medicines to be effective. Noncompliance can result in developing resistance to the medicines.

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References
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