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Retrovirus or HIV Infection: Transmission, Treatment, Clinical Manifestation, Prevention, Opportunistic Infections

Retrovirus causes infection in human as well as other vertebrates. Retrovirus is also known as ss-RNA RT virus. There are several subtypes, but most severe life threatening infection is caused by subtype recognized as lentivirus or HIV (C. disease). Retrovirus or HIV viral infection is aggressively treated with antiviral medications. The virus stays in human body as an inactive virus as long as individual is taking daily maintenance dose of antiviral medications. Retrovirus or HIV infection if ignored then continuous presence of active viruses in human body causes Acquire Immunodeficiency Syndrome Disease (AIDS). AIDS is debilitating disease. Patient with retrovirus of HIV infection may not show signs of AIDS if treated with antiviral medication. Patient with retrovirus or HIV infection can maintain normal life style for several years if regular antiviral medications are taken. Retrovirus or HIV infection causes progressive failure of immune system resulting in AIDS. If there is history of frequent fever, body ache and loss of weight then one should consider possible further investigations and tests to rule out HIV infection.

Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome Disease (AIDS)-

Retrovirus or HIV virus attacks T1 lymphocytes and weakens the performance as well as reduces its total number in blood circulation. The T1 lymphocytes are also known as CD4 cells. Patient when infected by HIV virus do not suffer with AIDS during the initial phase. Individual with HIV infection is diagnosed of suffering with AIDS disease when immune system become extremely weak as the concentration of CD4 cells falls below 200 cells per cubic millimeter of blood. The compromised immune system leads to opportunistic infection caused by bacteria, fungi, yeast, parasites and viruses. Patient suffering with AIDS may survive for 2 to 3 years without any treatment. AIDS with opportunistic infection often needs hospitalization and aggressive treatment. Life expectancy in patient suffering with advanced life threatening opportunist infection is in most cases 6 to 24 months.

Transmission or Retrovirus or HIV Infection

Retrovirus or HIV virus spreads in a few weeks in entire human body. Individual suffering with HIV infection after initial treatment with antiviral medications may not show any symptoms in later phase. During the silent asymptomatic phase patient suffering with retrovirus or HIV infection is able to transmit the viruses and spread the infection to healthy individual who is involved in intimate contacts. The virus is passed on to healthy individual through semen, vaginal fluids, breast milk, sweat, saliva and contact with urine. Major mode of transmission of retrovirus or HIV infection is sexual intercourse and kissing. In few cases virus is transmitted through contaminated needles used for sharing drugs. The contaminated tattoo needle as well hemodynamic equipment can transmit the retroviruses to healthy individual. The virus is also passed on to normal individual when blood from HIV patient is transfused to normal healthy individual.

Clinical Manifestation of Retrovirus or HIV Infection

Clinical Manifestation of Retrovirus or HIV Infection

  • Fever- The initial infection of retrovirus or HIV infection causes fever resulting in temperature of 99 to 102 0 F. Fever may last for 4 to 7 days. Patient in most cases become asymptomatic after symptomatic treatment. Individual now with HIV virus in the system may show on and often periodic signs of fever, loss of appetite, body ache, joint pain and loss of weight. Fever is also observed when individual with condition of AIDS suffers with opportunistic infection.
  • Sore Throat- Individual with retrovirus often complains of sore throat during the phase of active infection and associated with symptoms of fever.
  • Headache- Headache is associated with initial infection that is caused by retrovirus or HIV virus and also during the period of opportunistic infection. Headache should be evaluated for meningitis or early signs of encephalitis if individual is diagnosed of AIDS.
  • Muscle and Joint Pain- Muscle and joint pain is caused by spread of HIV viral infection and may last for 4 to 10 days. The symptoms intensity reduces as the initial viral infection subsides.
  • Swollen Lymph Node- The cervical and neck lymph nodes may get enlarged during the acute stage of viral disease. The lymph node become painful secondary to inflammatory changes within the lymph node.
  • Skin Rash- Skin rash is associated initial phase of retrovirus or HIV infection. The rash is generalized and observed for 2 to 3 days. Rash is often present during the period individual is suffering with fever and joint pain.
  • Weight Loss- Weight loss is not observed during initial infection period. The weight loss may be seen during silent period when patient is taking antiviral medications and HIV viruses are dormant in the body. Weight loss become significant when individual develops the signs of AIDS.
  • Night Sweating- Night sweating is seen during initial virulent phase and associated with fever as well as body ache. Night sweating is also seen when patient is suffering with opportunistic infection.

Opportunistic Infection in Retrovirus or HIV Virus

Opportunistic infection occurs when the HIV patient develops autoimmune deficiency and become full blown AIDS condition. Opportunistic infection results in several secondary diseases and caused by bacterial, viral, fungal and parasite infection. Yeast infection has also been observed in patient suffering with AIDS and HIV infection. Following are the list of opportunistic infection observed in patient suffering with autoimmune deficiency syndrome.

Bacterial Infection- Clostridium Difficile, Mycobacterium avium complex (Non-Tuberculous Mycobacterium), Mycobacterium Tuberculosis, Pseudomonas, Salmonella, Staphylococcal Aureus, Streptococcal and Legionnaires Disease.

Viral Infection- Kaposi’s Sarcoma (Herpes Virus), Polymavirus and Cytomegalovirus (herpes virus causes glandular fever and pneumonia).

Fungal Infection- Aspergillus, Candida Albicans, Coccidioides, Histoplama Capsulatum and Pneumocystis Carini.

Yeast Infection- Cryptococcus Neoformans

Protozoal Infection- Microsporidia,

Parasite Infection – Cystoisospora Belli (intestinal parasite), Toxoplasma Gondii.

Diseases caused by AIDS and Opportunistic Infection-

Diagnostic Tests for Retrovirus or HIV Infection-

The lab test used for diagnosis of HIV infection are as follows-

  • Enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)
  • Immunofluorescent assay
  • HIV virus detection
  • Sensor detection of viral infection

Treatment for Retrovirus or HIV Infection

  • Antiviral Therapy- Retrovirus or HIV infection is a serious condition since the virus remains inactive in body and may cause autoimmune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), if not treated with daily oral antiviral medications. There is not yet any antiviral medication developed, which eliminates all the active viruses. Present antiviral therapy helps to keep virus in inactive stage. Antiviral medication used to treat HIV viral infection are Abacavir, Didanosine, Emtricitabine, Lamivudine, Stavudine, Tenofovir and Zidovudine, or AZT.
  • Tylenol and NSAIDs- Fever, bodyache and muscle pain are treated with Tylenol and NSAID.
  • Hydration or Intravenous Fluid- HIV viral infection may cause loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting resulting in dehydration. In such cases extra oral fluid or intravenous fluid may be necessary.
  • Anti-emetics: Symptoms of persistent nausea or vomiting caused by retrovirus or HIV virus is treated with anti-vomiting or nauseating medications also known as anti-emetics. Example are Compogine, Phenergan and Thorazine. These medications are prescribed by license physician.
  • Anti-diarrheal Treatment- Symptoms of Diarrhea caused by retrovirus or HIV infection is treated with over the counter medications like Kaopectate and Pepto-Bismol or prescribed medication like loperamide (Imodium)

Prevention or Retrovirus or HIV Infection-

The transmission of retrovirus or HIV infection is prevented by avoiding contact with body fluid of individual suffering with viral infection. Viruses are transmitted through semen, vaginal fluids, breast milk, sweat, saliva and contact with urine.

  • The best prevention is the disclosure of infection by individual suffering with HIV infection.
  • Use condom and prevent unprotected sex
  • Circumcision- The recent study suggests circumcision may not prevent all but some of the sexual transmission of virus may be avoided.
  • Vaginal ring
  • Possible in future HIV vaccine
  • Prophylactic antiviral therapy
  • Avoid needle sharing
  • Pregnancy- Pregnant female should be considered for cesarean section delivery and breast feeding should be avoided.


  1. Mayo Clinic – HIV/AIDS: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hiv-aids/symptoms-causes/syc-20373524
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – HIV Basics: https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/index.html
  3. World Health Organization (WHO) – HIV/AIDS: https://www.who.int/health-topics/hiv-aids#tab=tab_1

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 17, 2023

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