HIV, or Human Immunodeficiency Virus, is a viral infection which affects the body’s immune system, making it unable to function properly and fight off disease and infection. If you become infected with HIV you might develop AIDS.
AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. A diagnosis of AIDS is made by a physician using specific clinical or laboratory standards. This can include the development of certain infections and/or cancers. Before the development of certain medications, people with HIV could progress to AIDS in just a few years. With today’s treatment options people with HIV are living much longer - even decades without developing AIDS.
HIV can be transmitted through exposure to HIV infected bodily fluids, specifically:
The symptoms of HIV vary, depending on the phase of infection.
Primary or Acute infection. Many people who are infected with HIV do not experience any symptoms for many years. For those that do, they will most likely occur during the "primary or acute infection"-within six to 12 weeks after infection. Symptoms may only last a few days and include:
These symptoms are similar to many other viral infections, including the flu so it is impossible to diagnose HIV on symptoms alone.
Early symptomatic HIV infection. Many people who are infected with HIV do not experience any symptoms until the “early symptomatic HIV infection” which might not present for eight to 10 years after infection. Symptoms of early symptomatic HIV infection include:
The only way to determine if you have HIV is to get tested!
Testing positive for HIV can be scary but it is not a death sentence. Although there is no cure for HIV, seeking medical services and support is extremely beneficial in managing HIV. Current treatment options help to control HIV and prevent many opportunistic infections that make HIV-positive individuals sick.