What is HIV/AIDS?

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that causes an HIV infection. The most advanced stage of HIV infection is known as AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). The virus works by attacking the cells of the immune system (CD4 cells) making it difficult for the body to fight infections and certain cancers. There is treatment available to control the infection, but no cure.

How is HIV spread?

The HIV virus is present in the following body fluids:

  • Blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, vaginal fluids, rectal fluids, breast milk

Contact with these fluids can lead to infection. In the US, the two most common modes of transmission are sexual contact and sharing of infected needles while using intravenous drugs. You CANNOT acquire HIV by casual contact (shaking hands, hugging), toilet seats, doorknobs, or other shared surfaces with an infected individual. Risk for infection is reduced by abstinence, proper and consistent condom use, and/or no sharing of drug injection equipment.

Signs and Symptoms

Soon after HIV infection

  • Flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, or rash.
  • Symptoms may come and go for a month

Many years after infection

  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Opportunistic infections, infection related cancers
  • Without treatment, HIV can advance to AIDS. The time varies, but can take up to 10 years.
  • HIV can be transmitted to another at ANY stage of the infection!

How is HIV/AIDS diagnosed?

A blood test can diagnose an HIV infection.

What is the treatment?

HIV treatment usually involves taking a combination of medications on a daily basis. It is called antiretroviral therapy (ART). ART slows HIV from multiplying and reduces the level of HIV in the body, slowing the advance to AIDS. Diagnosis is imperative not only to reduce practice of risky behavior, but also to get ART in place and optimize a longer, healthier life.

If concerned about HIV exposure, please give us a call to arrange a meeting with one of our practitioners to discuss your options for testing.