It stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. According to AIDS.Gov, HIV is a virus that attacks and compromises the human immune system. The immune system is crucial in fighting diseases and infections. HIV, specifically, invades the body’s important cells. It uses those cells to replicate and then destroys the cells.
What Is AIDS?
Without treatment, HIV can often lead to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). As per AIDS.Gov, AIDS is the HIV infection’s final stage.
Not everyone with HIV will see his or her disease advance to AIDS.
To determine if an HIV patient has progressed to the third stage of infection, a blood test will be required. The test is based on the result of the CD4 count. CD4 cells, or T cells, are white blood cells. The patient may be officially diagnosed if the count is below 200 cells/mm3.
AIDS patients have severely compromised immune systems, which increases the risk of serious medical complications.
AIDS patients typically survive for around 3 years when they do not seek treatment. Unfortunately, life expectancy drops to a year once an untreated patient contracts an opportunistic illness.
How Is HIV Contracted?
According to WebMD, HIV is transmitted through a variety of bodily fluids including:
• Pre-seminal fluid
• Rectal fluid
• Breast milk
• Rectal fluid
According to the World Health Organization, the most common ways that HIV is transmitted is by injected drugs, and unprotected vaginal and anal sex. You cannot contract HIV through hugging, kissing, or any other type of non-sexual contact.
Who Is At Risk?
It may be more common is certain communities than others; however, anyone can contract the virus if they engage in risky behaviors that transmit HIV. Your actions increase your risk, not who you are.
What Are The Common Symptoms?
The symptoms will be dependent on the stage of HIV infection they are in, so they will vary.
In the early stages of HIV, there are no unique symptoms. This is why it is vital to be tested often. This will ensure that it is detected as early as possible.
Where & How Often Should I Be Tested?
The CDC provides a search tool so you can find somewhere near you to go for testing.
The CDC recommends that routine check-ups should include HIV testing, for anyone between 13 and 64.
Pregnant women should be tested within their first three months of pregnancy.
Members of the LGBTQ community may want to be tested more often, as it is common within the community, every 6 months is advised.
You should be tested every 6 months if you engage in unprotected sex, or inject drugs using needles.
How Can I Stay Negative?
There are a number of steps you can follow to reduce your risk of contracting the infection.
• Always talk to your partners. Ask new partners about their status, and when their last test was. Ask to see test results and show them yours.
• Always use condoms, and ensure that you are using the correct size.
• Always use lubrication. Using lube will prevent tears, and will prevent condom breakages.
• Always be careful. Excessively indulging in alcohol and drug use can lead to risky behavior.
• Always change syringes. Whether you are injecting drugs, hormones, or steroids, ensure you are using a new clean syringe every time and never share needles with others.
• Always get tested. Regular testing is the only way you can be certain that you are HIV free.
• Make sure you are tested, and treated, for the full range of STDs. The tool above can assist you in finding the appropriate testing place. An active STD can increase your risk of contracting HIV.