What Happens if HIV is Left Untreated?
HIV/AIDs is an infection that is commonly transferred through sexual intercourse or any contact with an infected person’s blood or bodily fluids. It begins by attacking the immune system and targeting the agents designed to protect the body from other infections and bodily harm. If left untreated, it will progressively attack the immune system until it is too weak to prevent other infections or cancers from entering the body. Even though the infection on its own doesn’t have the capacity to kill you, the damage that it does to your immune system will prevent you from defending yourself against any other infection that may, and eventually will, kill you. People that live with untreated HIV will usually see AIDS develop within 2-15 years and will then have a life expectancy of around 3 years.
With recent technological and medical advances, doctors are able to prescribe regimens that can keep you alive and relatively healthy after an HIV diagnosis. However, it’s extremely important to catch the disease early and recognize any of the three stages that the infection goes through:
- Acute HIV Infection: Known as the early stage of HIV, acute infection begins anywhere between 2-4 weeks of initial contraction. During this period, people may exhibit symptoms similar to the flu. These symptoms include nausea, headache, fever, and rash. These symptoms are usually ignored as the virus spreads quickly throughout the body and targets the receptors designed to protect the body. At this point of infection, the level of HIV is extremely high making it very contagious to sexual partners and others that may come in contact with your blood.
- Chronic HIV Infection: As the infection moves into its second phase, symptoms vanish and the disease becomes asymptomatic and enters a latency phase. At this point, HIV multiplies but at a much slower rate than before. However, you are still contagious and still at risk of spreading the disease to others. Your HIV levels will be lower than before, but its latency puts you at much higher risk of eventually acquiring AIDS.
- Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS): Once HIV has damaged the immune system to such a degree that it can no longer fight infection, it moves into its final, most life-threatening stage. Once AIDS is developed, the body can no longer defend itself from opportunistic agents designed at infecting the body. This means that infections as common as the flu or bronchitis can end in death. A person living with AIDS has a life expectancy equal to about 3 years.
At this point in time, living with HIV is no longer a death sentence. However, leaving it untreated for months, or even years, will result in AIDS and eventually death. Leaving HIV untreated puts those around you at risk in a time when that risk is unnecessary. If you are curious or even want to test just in case, contact us myLAB Box™ and we’ll send you a discreet kit for you to be absolutely sure.