You Can Live Well With HIV
What is HIV?
Human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system. HIV specifically attacks white blood cells called CD4 cells. This weakens a person’s ability to fight off opportunistic infections such as tuberculosis, fungal infections and bacterial infections. Once people have HIV, they have it for life. With proper medical care, living with HIV can be manageable and people cannot transmit the virus. However, without the right care, HIV can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS.
HIV was first found in humans as early as the 17th century. It is believed the first infection was from a type of chimpanzee in Central Africa. The virus has only existed in the United States since 1970.
How do you get HIV?
HIV is passed from one person to another through sexual intercourse, sharing needles or syringes with an infected person or other drug injection equipment. Having sex with someone who is HIV positive with protection, like condoms, can reduce the risk of contracting the virus. In rare cases, medical professionals can get HIV through accidental needle sticks.
HIV cannot be transmitted by mosquito bites, hugging or kissing. This virus is spread through direct contact with infected bodily fluids which are blood, semen, vaginal fluids, rectal fluids and breast milk.
How do you know if you have HIV?
Some people who are infected with HIV have no symptoms at all, while others exhibit flu-like symptoms 2 to 4 weeks after infection. Night sweats, swollen lymph nodes, muscle aches, rashes, fatigue, fever, sore throat, chills and mouth ulcers are all common symptoms of someone who has been infected with HIV.
There are three stages of HIV infection. With proper treatment, these stages can be slowed and or stopped completely in its tracks. The first stage is acute HIV infection. At this stage, infected people are very contagious and exhibit flu-like symptoms. Stage 2 is the chronic infection stage. The virus is still active and continues to reproduce in the body. People may not feel sick during this stage but they are still able to transmit the infection. This is the stage that many people stop at and can live on very long lives. With advances in medication, HIV positive people are able to be sexually active and live normally. The final stage of HIV infection is AIDS. This is the most severe stage of HIV infection. The infected person’s immune system is badly damaged and can get an increasing number of opportunistic infections. Without treatment, people living with AIDS typically only live for three years.
The best way to know if you have HIV is to get tested.
How do you get tested for HIV?
Testing for HIV is extremely simple. People can either get a rapid oral swab or get their blood drawn for al ab sample. The rapid test will give results in a few minutes while the lab test will give results in a few days. The CDC recommends that everyone who is sexually active be tested at least once. For people oath certain risk factors, the CDC recommends getting tested once a year.
If someone tests positive, it is recommended that they immediately seek treatment. If someone tests negative, it is recommended that the person continue to practice safe sex and keep their risk level to a minimum.