What are HIV & AIDS?

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) damages the body’s immune system, making it unable to function properly and fight off disease and infection. Left untreated, HIV infection can lead to AIDS, an advanced stage of the disease.

AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. A diagnosis of AIDS is made if you have severe damage to the immune system, measured by blood tests, or if you develop certain infections or cancers. Before the development of effective medications, people with HIV could progress to AIDS in just a few years. With today’s highly effective treatment options people should never develop AIDS, and can live a normal lifespan with a high quality of life.

How is HIV Transmitted?

HIV can be transmitted through exposure to HIV-infected:

  • Blood
  • Semen
  • Vaginal Secretions
  • Breast Milk

What activities can transmit HIV?

  • Having unprotected sex (oral, vaginal, or anal) with someone who is infected with HIV. The highest risk activities are receptive anal or vaginal sex.
  • Sharing needles, syringes, or “works” with someone who is infected with HIV. This includes sharing needles to:
    • Inject drugs or vitamins
    • Pierce body parts
    • Tattoo
  • A woman with HIV can pass the virus to her child at birth and through breast feeding, although this is rare in the United States.
  • Having received HIV-infected blood products or a blood transfusion between 1978 and 1985

What are the symptoms of HIV?

Many people who are infected with HIV do not experience any symptoms. Symptoms often occur during the acute or primary infection, which occurs a few weeks after infection. Symptoms typically only last a few days and include fever, chills, night sweats, lack of energy, swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, and rashes. Since the symptoms are similar to those of many other viral infections, they are often overlooked, but specific blood tests can be used to diagnose acute infection.

What if I test positive for HIV?

Testing positive for HIV can be scary but it is not a death sentence. Although there is no cure for HIV, the treatment available today is highly effective, easy, and well tolerated, which is why it's so important to seek medical care as soon as possible.

How to Prevent HIV and AIDS >>


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