Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV, is a virus that is spread through certain bodily fluids, attacking the body’s immune system and more specifically T cells - which are critical for fighting infections. HIV reduces the number of T cells, making the patient more likely to get other infections or infection-related cancers.
Even with proper treatment, HIV stays with those that are afflicted with it for life. The human body cannot get rid of HIV completely. If left untreated, HIV can lead to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
There is currently no cure for HIV.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
HIV can only be caused by specific activities. Needle/syringe use and sexual behaviors are the most common HIV causing activities.
Specific bodily fluids from a person carrying HIV will transmit the virus, including blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids and breast milk. These very specific fluids must come in contact with a mucous membrane, damaged tissue or must be injected directly into the bloodstream.
In less common occurrences, it is possible to pass HIV from mother to child during pregnancy, child birth or breastfeeding.
HIV is not spread through saliva.
HIV can affect anyone regardless of race, gender, age, ethnicity or sexual orientation. Certain demographical groups are at higher risk for contracting HIV. Gay and bisexual men have the highest diagnosis frequency, followed by the African American and Latino communities. Drug users remain at significant risk for HIV contraction.
It is extremely important to note that you cannot rely on the presence of symptoms to determine if you have contracted HIV. THE ONLY WAY TO KNOW IF YOU HAVE CONTRACTED HIV IS TO GET TESTED.
Early Stage Symptoms
- Flu-like symptoms 2-4 weeks after infection
- Night sweats
- Sore throat
- Muscle pain
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Mouth ulcers
Clinical Latency Stage
- Can last for up to a decade without treatment. With proper treatment, patients can live full lives spanning many decades
- Patients are still able to transmit the disease during this stage, although the virus reproduces at a much slower pace
Progression to AIDS - After prolonged exposure to HIV without proper treatment, the virus will progress to AIDS, the late stage of the HIV infection. These symptoms include:
- Rapid weight loss
- Recurring fever and night sweats
- Mouth, anus or genital sores
- Lingering swelling of the lymph glands in the armpits, groin or neck
- Extreme tiredness
- Diarrhea lasting longer than a week
- Memory loss and other neurological disorders
Learn more about the medications used for treatments:
Emtriva®, Aptivus®, Epivir®, Crixivan®, Retrovir®, Invirase®, Videx EC®, Kaletra®, Lexiva®, Viread®, Norvir®, Zerit®, Prezista®, Reyataz®, Ziagen®, Viracept®, Edurant™, Intelence®, Fuzeon®, Sustiva®, Selzentry®, Viramune XR®, Bactrim®, Atripla®, Diflucan®, Biktarvy®, Procrit®, Cimduo™, Combivir®, Isentress®, Complera®, Epzicom®, Odefsey®, Stribild™, Symfi Lo™, Tivicay®, Trizivir®, Truvada®