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Explore the profound impact of HIV and AIDS on fertility and learn how to manage HIV in Pregnancy in this comprehensive article.

World AIDS Vaccine Day is observed every year on the 18th of May to create awareness about HIV and AIDS illness. We say ‘Prevention is better than cure’ but the truth is, there IS NO CURE! Read this comprehensive article to know about HIV and AIDS symptoms and what you can do to manage them. 

Meaning of HIV

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus which is a sexually transmitted infection. HIV is a virus that impacts the CD4 or T-helper class of white blood cells in the body. White blood cells are important to keep the body immune from severe infections or diseases like cancer. A person affected by HIV will slowly become more prone to extreme bacterial-attack and viruses, and their health will suffer eventually. When HIV is not managed at its early stages, it can multiply inside the body and affect the DNA of more and more CD4 or T-helper cells. 

Meaning of AIDS

If CD4 cells in the body are less than 200 per cubic millilitre of blood, then, the person is diagnosed with AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). Untreated HIV can lead to AIDS. Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome is a stage where HIV has progressed to extreme conditions and the patient’s immunity (disease-fighting capacity) has significantly deteriorated. When HIV progresses to its last stages, it can turn fatal. 

What is the difference between HIV and AIDS?

To put it in simple words, untreated HIV leads to AIDS. HIV is a sexually transmitted infection – a type of virus that enters the body to create multiple copies of itself and kills the white blood cells. And the result is a weakened immune system.

AIDS can be understood as a condition of the body when it has contracted several illnesses, diseases, and infections due to its poor immunity. AIDS is a syndrome of extreme HIV progression. Not everyone with HIV will develop AIDS, provided there is timely medical intervention. 

Symptoms of HIV

In the above paragraph, we understood the importance of preventing and treating HIV at its early stages. Though there is no cure for HIV, stopping it from spreading can save us from passing it to our children, other reproductive health problems, and AIDS. 

Here are some HIV symptoms that you must be aware of –

  • Inflammation of the lymph nodes
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Pain in body muscles
  • Sore throat, chills, fever, and night sweats
  • Ulcers or soreness in the throat
  • Others.

If you notice these symptoms in a short while after engaging in unprotected sexual intercourse, or if you think you are at a higher risk and exposure to HIV, then contact your doctor immediately. HIV pregnancy can also lead to many risks. 

Symptoms of AIDS

The following are the symptoms of AIDS  - 

Based on your age, health conditions, and the kind of treatment you get, it is possible to slow down or prevent developing AIDS. It is not advised to further delay your treatment after noticing these symptoms – 

  • Nerve-related disorders
  • Swelling near your anus, genitals, or mouth
  • Severe tiredness and dizziness
  • Swollen glands near the near, armpit, or groin region
  • Sudden night sweats, repeated episodes of fever, diarrhoea (for over a week)
  • Pneumonia 
  • Spots or rashes of pink, red, brown or purple colour seen around eyelids, mouth, nose, etc. 
  • Positive results in HIV tests

Impact of HIV and AIDS on fertility

The early symptoms of HIV are very similar to the common flu or virus. Hence, many a time the early symptoms of HIV go unnoticed and untreated. This can make it adverse with time. Apart from attacking your immune system, did you know that HIV can also impact your fertility?

Here is the effect of HIV on pregnancy - 

  • It can lead to an increased possibility of miscarriage or abortion.
  • HIV can be the cause of higher fetal motility.
  • The virus in the male body can decrease sperm production.
  • As HIV can be transmitted through semen or vaginal fluid, it can become a reason to avoid sexual intercourse, in which case, there are no chances of pregnancy. 

HIV during Pregnancy

HIV and pregnancy together can turn very serious. Hence, it is vital to detect the virus in your body at its initial stage and through medications lower your chances of transmitting it to your child. Along with the blood, semen, and vaginal liquid of an infected person, breastmilk is also a carrier of HIV.

Causes of HIV in pregnancy can be having sexual intercourse with an infected person, sharing needles, transferring blood from an HIV-infected donor, etc. 

To-be mothers who are HIV carriers need to take additional precautions because the infant can be affected by this condition before birth (during pregnancy as the infection can pass from the placenta to the fetus), at birth (during delivery or labour), or at the time of breastfeeding. 

If you have contracted HIV due to an infected partner and have conceived eventually, then it may take about 2 to 4 weeks for your symptoms to surface. The symptoms of HIV in pregnancy can be very similar to the ones discussed above. But, you must not confuse them as indicators of pregnancy. Even at the slightest suspicion of contracting the virus, one must visit their healthcare provider to undergo the necessary tests. 

Symptoms of HIV in Infants

If your infant has contracted HIV, they may start showing symptoms like –

  • Swelling in the lymph or salivary glands
  • Yeast infections 
  • Being underweight and experiencing slower growth
  • Sinus, infections in the ear and respiratory tract (upper)
  • Diarrhea, etc.

Management of HIV in Pregnancy

Women must undergo compulsory prenatal testing to check for HIV AIDS in pregnancy. Some of the common tests for HIV include Antigen tests, Antibody tests, Nucleic Acid tests, etc. Preventive drugs and constant monitoring of your health are also needed to track the spread of infection.

1st Screening – The first screening for HIV should be done along with other regular tests. If the tests come out positive, the treatment should be started immediately. 
(Antiretroviral Therapy – ART is an effective medication for HIV and does not affect pregnancy negatively in most people.)

2nd Screening – Another screening may be required in the second trimester for women who are at a higher risk of contracting HIV. If you are tested positive at this stage, you will be prescribed medicines to reduce the chances of virus transmission.

Rapid HIV test – A rapid HIV test is for women who have skipped checking for HIV during their pregnancy term. This test is done when the pregnant woman goes into labour.

Tests for Children

Infants born to HIV-positive mothers should be immediately checked for the presence of the virus in their bodies. If it is detected, immediate treatment can increase their chances of being healthy and having a normal life expectancy.

Generally, newborns are prescribed virological testing for diagnosis. After around 18 months, a blood test for HIV can also be performed. 

Infants are generally tested right at birth (in case of high HIV exposure risk), between 14 days to 21 days, at 1 to 2 months, and 4 to 6 months. 

Treatment Options

The sad truth is that there is no vaccine or cure for HIV or AIDS yet. Once you are detected with this critical condition, you will be put on ART (Antiretroviral Therapy) to manage your symptoms and live your life as normal as possible. But, if you are an HIV patient, you can act responsibly by letting your partner know about your condition beforehand. Prevention of HIV in pregnancy or in general is possible by using protection during sexual intercourse. Nevertheless, there is an urgent need to find a cure and solution to this critical health problem which is why we observe World AIDS Vaccine Day.

As India’s largest fertility chain expert, Indira IVF tries its best to help infertile couples to start their parenthood journey easily. If you too are struggling to conceive due to any fertility issues due to HIV or other problems, book a free consultation with our doctors today and know your best treatment options. Call 18003092323 to get started.




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