The Effects Of HIV On The Body

Once the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) enters your body, it launches a direct attack on your immune system. It gradually weakens your natural defenses against disease and infection and can affect every part of your body. Find out how here.

world-aids-day-300x300The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) seeks and destroys CD4+ cells, a type of T lymphocyte (T cell). T cells are critical to the immune system. They’re responsible for warding off diseases and most infections, including viral infections.
HIV targets the type of cells that would normally fight off an invader like HIV. As the virus replicates, it damages or destroys the infected CD4+ cell and produces more virus to infect more CD4+ cells. Without treatment, this cycle continues in most infected people until the immune system is badly compromised, leaving them open to many serious infections and illnesses. Many of the illnesses that people compromised immune systems get are rare in people with functioning immune systems.
How quickly the virus progresses varies from person to person. Factors like your age, overall health, and how quickly you’re diagnosed and treated can make a difference.
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is the final stage of HIV. At this stage, the immune system is severely weakened, and the risk of contracting opportunistic infections is much greater. Not everyone with HIV will go on to develop AIDS.
Importantly, many of the effects described here are related to the failure of the immune system in progressing HIV and AIDS. Many of these effects are preventable with early antiretroviral treatment, which can preserve the immune system. However, for anyone without access to effective antiretroviral treatment, these effects remain possible.
Immune System
Your immune system prevents your body from acquiring the diseases and infections that come your way. White blood cells defend you against viruses, bacteria, and other organisms that can make you sick.
When HIV enters the body, it goes straight for the CD4+ T cells that are a lynchpin for the operation of the entire immune system. As the virus infects and kills more of these T cells, your immune system grows weaker, and you become more susceptible to illness.
Early on, symptoms may be mild enough to be dismissed. Within a few months of becoming infected, most people experience a flu-like sickness that lasts a few weeks. Symptoms may include:
fever
chills
night sweats
diarrhea
headache
muscle aches
joint pain
sore throat
rash
swollen lymph glands
mouth or genital ulcers
The first stage of HIV is called the acute infection stage. The virus reproduces rapidly at this stage. You may not have much in the way of serious symptoms, but there are usually large quantities of virus in your blood. Many people are unaware of their HIV status at this point, but the risk of transmission during the acute infection stage is very high. Acute infection may cause flu-like symptoms, including decreased appetite, headache, night sweats, and others.
The next stage is called the clinical latent infection state. On average, it lasts 8 to 10 years. In some cases, it lasts much longer than that. You may or may not have symptoms during this stage.
As the virus advances, CD4 count decreases more drastically. This can lead to symptoms like:
fatigue
shortness of breath
cough
fever
swollen lymph nodes
weight loss
diarrhea
If HIV infection advances to AIDS, the body becomes prone to opportunistic infections. People with advanced HIV/AIDS are at increased risk of a number of infections, including a herpes virus called cytomegalovirus. It can cause problems with your eyes, lungs, and digestive tract.
Kaposi’s sarcoma, another possible infection, is a cancer of the blood vessel walls. It’s rare among the general population, but common in people who are HIV-positive. Symptoms include red or dark purple lesions on the mouth and skin. It can also cause problems in the lungs, digestive tract, and other internal organs.

HIV/AIDS also puts you at higher risk of developing lymphomas. An early sign of lymphoma is swollen lymph nodes.

Respiratory and Cardiovascular Systems
HIV increases the risk of colds, influenza, and pneumonias. According to the American Lung Association, HIV/AIDS can lead to opportunistic lung diseases. Without preventive treatment, people with advanced HIV are susceptible to tuberculosis, pneumonia, and a disease called pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP). PCP causes trouble breathing, cough, and fever.

HIV raises the risk of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). PAH s a type of high blood pressure in the arteries that supply the lungs. It puts added strain on the heart.
If you have HIV and have become immunocompromised (have a low T cell count), you’re susceptible to tuberculosis (TB), a leading cause of death in people who have AIDS. TB is an airborne bacterium that affects the lungs. Symptoms include chest pain and a bad cough that may contain blood or phlegm. Symptoms can linger for months.
Digestive System
A common HIV-related infection is called candidiasis. Symptoms include inflammation of and a white film on the tongue. It can also cause inflammation of the esophagus, which can make it difficult to eat. Another viral infection that affects the mouth is oral hairy leukoplakia, which causes white lesions on the tongue.
Salmonella infection is spread through contaminated food or water and causes diarrhea, abdominal pain, and vomiting. Anyone can get it, but if you have HIV, you’re at higher risk of serious complications from this infection.
Consuming contaminated food or water can also result in a parasitic intestinal infection called cryptosporidiosis. It affects the bile ducts and intestines. It can be particularly severe and cause chronic diarrhea in people who have AIDS. Cryptosporidiosis infection can occur in people with effective immune systems, but it can become a chronic problem in people with CD4 levels under 200.
HIV-associated nephropathy (HIVAN) is when the filters in your kidneys become inflamed, making it harder to remove waste products from your bloodstream.
Problems with your digestive tract can decrease your appetite and make it difficult to eat properly. Weight loss is a common side effect of HIV.

Central Nervous System
There are significant neurological complications of AIDS. Even though HIV doesn’t generally directly infect nerve cells, it does infect the cells that support and surround nerves in the brain and throughout the body.
All of the mechanisms of HIV-associated neurologic damage aren’t completely understood, but it’s likely that infection of these support cells contribute to nerve injury. Advanced HIV infection can damage nerves (neuropathy). Small holes in the conducting sheaths of peripheral nerve fibers (vacuolar myelopathy) can cause pain, weakness, and difficulty walking.
HIV/AIDS can cause HIV-associated dementia or AIDS dementia complex, two conditions that seriously affect cognitive function.
Toxoplasma encephalitis is another possible complication of advanced HIV. People with AIDS are at increased risk of inflammation of the brain and spinal cord due to this parasite found commonly in cat feces. Symptoms include confusion, headaches, and seizures.
Some common complications of AIDS include memory impairment, anxiety, and depression. In very advanced cases, hallucinations and frank psychosis can occur. Some people experience headaches, balance issues, and vision problems.

Skin
One of the more obvious signs of HIV/AIDS can be seen on the skin. A weakened immune response leaves you more vulnerable to viruses like herpes. Herpes can cause you to develop sores around your mouth or genitals.
People with HIV are at increased risk of shingles, which is caused by herpes zoster, the virus that gives you chickenpox. Symptoms of shingles include a painful rash, often with blisters.
A viral skin infection called molluscum contagiosum involves an outbreak of bumps on the skin. Another condition is called prurigo nodularis. It causes crusted lumps on the skin, as well as severe itching.

- See more at: http://www.healthline.com/health/hiv-aids/effects-on-body#sthash.IOtHxYfO.dpuf

LGBTIQA In Montana- What’s It Like?

The Human Rights Campaign wants to know- and I want Montana to be clearly and substantially represented. It took me 10 minutes. And you don’t have to be from Montana to take it- it’s nationwide.

Take the survey HERE.

Or here:

http://lgbtexperiences.cloudssi.com/cgi-bin/ciwweb.pl?studyname=HRC_MEMBERSHIP_LGBT_POLL&ID&hid_pagenum=1&hid_link=1&hid_javascript=1

HRC

MT World AIDS Day Award Acceptance Speech

Once upon a time, there was a boy who grew up in a small town- in a time when things were said to be simple- but they were not.

For him.

He was unlike the other kids in ways that weren’t always noticeable to the people around him. He felt things a bit more keenly. He noticed things that other kids didn’t. He wasn’t great at sports, he wasn’t big and strong.

But he was smart.

And sometimes that meant he got picked on even more than other kids.

So he used that.

It made him tough. His parents were good, loving people. His church provided comfort. His books helped him escape.

Maybe it was God, maybe it was chance- it doesn’t really matter what made him different. He just was.

The fact remained that this boy- indistinguishable from a million other little boys- just wanted to be loved, even though he was different.

And when he grew up, he still wanted to be loved – sometimes desperately. Sometimes he trusted people who weren’t trustworthy- simply because the promise of love is often enough to make us overlook danger and potential tragedy.

The promise of love.

That’s what brings us here today.

That’s why I got infected. That’s how I got infected.

The promise of love. Not what you think about when you think of AIDS.

But I want you to think about it.

When I moved back to Montana almost seven years ago, I made a promise: that no gay kid would ever be so starved for love and support- would not be so handicapped by shame- that they couldn’t stay here and have a happy, successful, healthy and safe life if they wanted to. I would do everything in my power to make it happen.

So I came out as gay- and HIV positive- just to show that there is no shame in having a disease. It’s a virus, it’s not a judgment.

A microscopic being that happens to live in my body. And I want to keep it from living in any one else’s.

And so do you, I hope.

This disease  has been around for over three decades. And yet the state of Montana has never allocated state funds for its prevention. Not a penny.

Which begs the question- why?

Is it because of the shame at how the disease is transmitted?

Is it because we might have to talk about sex, needles, addiction and shame and fear?

Isn’t thirty two years long enough to avoid having this hard conversation?

In the Montana that little boy grew up in- that I grew up in- we prided ourselves on helping out where it was needed. We filled sandbags, we stopped when it looked like people were in trouble on the road, we ran to the fire house when the siren rang.

But not for HIV. Not for AIDS. Well, let me correct that.

A few very brave people did stand up. They braved ridicule and stigma to hold candlelight vigils and to hold the hands of people whose parents were too afraid to touch them. I know. I was there. I held some of those hands. And so did Laurie Kops and probably a few others in this room.

I’m not trying to toot my own horn here, but it’s important that we get back to something very basic here in the state of Montana.

Caring for our people.

ALL people.

It’s time to recognize that all people deserve the promise of love in their lives. Deserve the dignity and respect that I believe God gives everyone simply by being born. Deserves the respect of having information and materials at their disposal provided by the state that is charged with enabling public health and well-being.  It’s what I want out of my taxes- I hope it’s what you want from yours.

There are a few legislators here you can tackle on the way out….

My life is good. I have family that love me, a partner who is always there for me and more friends than any man ever deserves.

But it could be better.

Somewhere in the state of Montana there is a kid who doesn’t believe that he’s worthy of love.

And he’s part of our responsibility. Because he does deserve love. And he deserves help to be healthy about it.

Shame is keeping us from health.

Kinda crazy, isn’t it?

It’s time to have those hard conversations.

It’s time to stop shame in its tracks.

It’s time to return the promise of love to all Montanans.

Thank you for listening- and for this awesome award.

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2013 World AIDS Day honorees Stephanie Cole, Chris Gehring, Chantz Thilmony, Greg Smith Lisa Fairman with Gov Bullock and DPHHS Director Opper

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Me and a really cool Governor

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3rd Annual Red Ribbon Ball

Yep- it’s that time again! Every entry gets 1 free raffle and drink ticket!

Raffle items include a 2 night stay and ski package from Big Sky Resort; VIP tickets to Spruce Moose, Avalaunch and Interchange; an opal pendant from the Gem Gallery; a $50 gift card to Se7en Sushi; two beautiful works of art by Jonathan Raney- and the opportunity to see and buy tickets for the quilt made by the Gallatin Quilt Guild.

Live Jazz, food and fun for the whole family!

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“Pints With Purpose” to Benefit AIDS Outreach

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This Monday November 11, proceeds benefit AIDS Outreach!

Where: Bridger Brewing, 1609 S. 11th Ave in the Town and Country Center

Dedicated to empowering people and communities affected by HIV through testing, prevention, support and education. AIDS Outreach serves Gallatin, Park and Madison Counties, Montana. 

BZN Gay/Bi Men’s Discussion Group Begins October 3

 

 

 

support-group-by-KLatham

The Bozeman-area Gay/Bi Men’s Group begins its Fall Session on October 3rd.

D Gregory Smith, MA, LCPC, LMHC, &
Erin Adams-Griffin, MSW, LAC,
Facilitators

This 8 week group will explore Dating, Relationships, Being Out, Mental Health, Communication, Community, Substance Use, Friendship, Sex, Being Healthy,- whatever you need to talk about!

FREE. Safe. Confidential.

Space is limited.
If you would like to participate or want more information, please call Greg at 596-2013

 

 

This group is funded by a grant from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services
to promote health and well-being in our local communities- administered by AIDS Outreach.

 

Montana HIV Men’s Retreat Scheduled For September

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