1_techName

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) and AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome)


2_alsoCalled
The Package, The Bug, Burned

4_whatAreSymptoms
When first infected with HIV, you may have no signs or symptoms at all, although you're still able to transmit the virus to others. Many people develop a brief, flu-like illness two to four weeks after becoming infected. Signs and symptoms may include:
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Rash
You may remain symptom-free for years. As the virus continues to multiply and destroy your cells that fight off sicknesses like the common cold, you may develop mild infections or chronic symptoms such as:
  • Swollen lymph nodes - often one of the first signs of HIV infection
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Cough and shortness of breath


howCommon
CDC estimates that more than one million people are living with HIV in the United States. One in five (21%) of those people living with HIV is unaware of their infection.

3_whatIsIt
HIV is the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is the virus that can lead to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, or AIDS. HIV damages a person's body by destroying specific blood cells, called CD4+ T cells, which are crucial to helping the body fight diseases. AIDS results when the number of T-cells drops so low that the body cannot fight off even minor illnesses.

Within a few weeks of being infected with HIV, some people develop flu-like symptoms that last for a week or two, but others have no symptoms at all. People living with HIV may appear and feel healthy for several years. However, even if they feel healthy, HIV is still affecting their bodies.

All people with HIV should be seen on a regular basis by a health care provider experienced with treating HIV infection. Many people with HIV, including those who feel healthy, can benefit greatly from current medications used to treat HIV infection. These medications can limit or slow down the destruction of the immune system, improve the health of people living with HIV, and may reduce their ability to transmit HIV.

Untreated early HIV infection is also associated with many diseases including cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, liver disease, and cancer.

Support services are also available to many people with HIV. These services can help people cope with their diagnosis, reduce risk behavior, and find needed services.

AIDS is the late stage of HIV infection, when a person's immune system is severely damaged and has difficulty fighting diseases and certain cancers. Before the development of certain medications, people with HIV could progress to AIDS in just a few years. Currently, people can live much longer - even decades - with HIV before they develop AIDS. This is because of combinations of medications that were introduced in the mid 1990s.

risk
Anyone who has unprotected sex. Men who have sex with men are at high-risk for HIV infection. HIV is spread primarily by:
  • Not using a condom when having sex with a person who has HIV. All unprotected sex with someone who has HIV contains some risk. However:
    • Unprotected anal sex is riskier than unprotected vaginal sex.
    • Among men who have sex with other men, unprotected receptive anal sex is riskier than unprotected insertive anal sex.
  • Having multiple sex partners or the presence of other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can increase the risk of infection during sex. Unprotected oral sex can also be a risk for HIV transmission, but it is a much lower risk than anal or vaginal sex.
  • Sharing needles, syringes, rinse water, or other equipment used to prepare illicit drugs for injection.
  • Being born to an infected mother. HIV can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy, birth, or breast-feeding.
  • Tattooing or body piercing present a potential risk of HIV transmission, but no cases of HIV transmission from these activities have been documented. Only sterile equipment should be used for tattooing or body piercing.


prevention
Because the most common ways HIV is transmitted are through anal or vaginal sex or sharing drug injection equipment with a person infected with HIV, it is important to take steps to reduce the risks associated with these. They include:
  • Know your HIV status. Everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 should be tested for HIV at least once. If you are at increased risk for HIV, you should be tested for HIV at least once a year.
    • If you have HIV, you can get medical care, treatment, and supportive services to help you stay healthy and reduce your ability to transmit the virus to others.
    • If you are pregnant and find that you have HIV, treatments are available to reduce the chance that your baby will have HIV.
  • Abstain from sexual activity or be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner.
  • Limit your number of sex partners. The fewer partners you have, the less likely you are to encounter someone who is infected with HIV or another STD.
  • Correct and consistent condom use. Latex condoms are highly effective at preventing transmission of HIV and some other sexually transmitted diseases. "Natural" or lambskin condoms do not provide sufficient protection against HIV infection.
  • Avoiding alcohol and drug use may also help prevent transmission of HIV because these activities may lead to risky sexual behavior. It is important that sex partners talk to each other about their HIV status and history of other STDs so that preventive action can be taken.
  • Get tested and treated for STDs and insist that your partners do too.
  • Do not inject drugs. If you inject drugs, you should get counseling and treatment to stop or reduce your drug use. If you cannot stop injecting drugs, use clean needles and works when injecting.
  • Obtain medical treatment immediately if you think you were exposed to HIV. Sometimes, HIV medications can prevent infection if they are started quickly. This is called post-exposure prophylaxis.
  • Participate in risk reduction programs. Programs exist to help people make healthy decisions, such as negotiating condom use or discussing HIV status. Your health department can refer you to programs in your area.


treatment
Although there is no cure for HIV infection, there are treatment options that can help people living with HIV experience long and productive lives. Researchers continue to work on a variety of treatment-related activities, including:
  • HIV/AIDS clinical research and drug trials;
  • vaccine research;
  • development of treatment guidelines and best practices; and
  • creating and implementing treatment-related prevention strategies that can help stop new infections.
For more information on the guidelines for treatment of HIV infection:
Adults and Adolescent Treatment Guidelines
A Guide to Primary Care for People with HIV/AIDS
A Guide to the Clinical Care of Women With HIV

Last Updated On October, 29, 2012