Pediatric Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
Pediatric HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks the immune system and cannot be cured.
HIV is a virus that attacks the CD4 cells (T cells), which are responsible for several immune responses in your body, such as fighting off bacteria, viruses or parasites. This causes your immune system to become weakened, which can lead to infections or infection-related cancers. HIV can also lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), but a person is not guaranteed to develop AIDS if they have HIV.
Causes of HIV include the following:
- Contact with infected blood
- Passed from mother to child during development in the womb, childbirth or breastfeeding
- Sharing needles
- Unprotected sex
There are three main stages of HIV. The stages progress in order from the first stage until the last.
- Acute HIV infection – This is the first stage, and typically occurs two to four weeks after the infectious encounter. At this stage, the virus is actively replicating and destroying the T cells, and there is an extremely high risk of the infection being transmitted from person to person.
- Clinical latency – This is the second stage, and typically has no or mild symptoms. During this stage, the virus slowly replicates and can’t be diagnosed with standard tests. While the risk is lower, it is still possible to infect another person at this stage.
- AIDS – This is the third and final stage of HIV. The primary diagnosis of HIV occurs when T cells are below 200 cells/mm3 (someone with a healthy immune system typically has between 500 and 1,600 cells/mm3). You can also be diagnosed if you have a T cell count above 200 cells/mm3, but develop a deadly illness (often called opportunistic diseases, like pneumonia).
HIV may not cause symptoms at first, or the symptoms may disappear after a few weeks. Symptoms can also can reappear years after the infection. Symptoms can include:
- Extreme fatigue (tiredness)
- Lesions (wounds)
- Muscle or joint pain
- Night sweats
- Sore throat
- Swollen glands, specifically lymph nodes
- Weight loss