HIV – Human Immunodeficiency Virus
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This virus specifically targets and destroys the important immune cells (CD-4 cells) that fight disease and infection. This weakening of the immune system leaves the body vulnerable to a variety of opportunistic infections and cancers if not treated. Though there is no cure for HIV, it can be managed well with proper medical care. People living with HIV who take their medication as prescribed can expect to live an average lifespan.
There are 3 main stages of HIV infection.
- Acute Infection: Typically occurs 2 to 4 weeks after infection where many people experience intense flu-like symptoms.
- Clinical Latency: A period where many people often don’t experience any symptoms and feel relatively healthy.
- AIDS: Where the immune system is badly damaged and opportunistic infections and cancer are common.
Some groups of people in Ohio are at higher risk for HIV than others because of many factors. This page will give you basic information about HIV, such as what HIV is, how you can prevent it, and how to get tested.
AIDS, Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, is the most advanced stages of HIV infection. It occurs when a person’s immune system is no longer is able to defend itself against even minor infections. When the immune system is so badly damaged and the important immune cells (CD-4 cells) the virus targets falls below a certain point (200 cells/mm3) in the body, a doctor can diagnose a person with AIDS. If the person continues with no medical attention, AIDS can be fatal.
When Does HIV become AIDS?
A person can live with HIV for many years with no health problems. But they must receive medical treatment or HIV will weaken the immune system and a person will develop AIDS.
HIV can be transmitted when a person without HIV has unprotected oral, anal or vaginal sex with a person who is living with HIV. HIV can also be spread by sharing needles, or from a mother to a child during labor or breastfeeding.
This means that HIV can only be spread by four bodily fluids:
- Vaginal + rectal fluid
- Breast milk
HIV is never spread by saliva, sweat, or tears, and you can’t get HIV by hugging, kissing, dancing, sharing food/drinks, sharing exercise equipment, bug bites, or using a shower, bath, or bed of a person living with HIV.
You can reduce the risk of HIV infection by:
- Always practicing safer sex by using condoms.
- Take PrEP.
- Get tested regularly for HIV and STIs.
- Abstain from sexual activity.
What are symptoms
The only way to truly know if you have HIV is to take an HIV test. It is common for many people to experience intense, flu-like symptoms during Acute Infection (two to four weeks after infection). No one can know if someone has HIV or AIDS just by looking at them, and HIV cannot be diagnosed through symptoms. HIV and AIDS symptoms are not specific, and may be indicative of many other illnesses, which is why an HIV test is the only way to receive a definitive diagnosis.
Can it be cured?
There is no cure or vaccine for HIV or AIDS. HIV medication has been substantially improved over the last decade, but there are still possible side effects and increasing expenses. However, with proper medical attention and a healthy lifestyle, people living with HIV can live an average lifespan.