HIV? The one question on everybody’s mind after the internet blew up with private tape of a particular cross dresser is “Isn’t he HIV positive?”
HIV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It can also be spread by contact with infected blood and from illicit injection drug use or sharing needles. It can also be spread from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. Without medication, it may take years before HIV weakens your immune system to the point that you have AIDS.
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a chronic, potentially life-threatening condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). By damaging your immune system, HIV interferes with your body’s ability to fight infection and disease.
There’s no cure for HIV/AIDS, but medications can control the infection and prevent progression of the disease. Antiviral treatments for HIV have reduced AIDS deaths around the world, and international organizations are working to increase the availability of prevention measures and treatment in resource-poor countries.
Primary infection (Acute HIV)
Some people infected by HIV develop a flu-like illness within 2 to 4 weeks after the virus enters the body. This illness, known as primary (acute) HIV infection, may last for a few weeks.
Possible signs and symptoms include:
- Muscle aches and joint pain
- Sore throat and painful mouth sores
- Swollen lymph glands, mainly on the neck
- Weight loss
- Night sweats
Clinical latent infection (Chronic HIV)
In this stage of infection, HIV is still present in the body and in white blood cells. However, many people may not have any symptoms or infections during this time.
This stage can last for many years if you’re receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART). Some people develop more severe disease much sooner.
Symptomatic HIV infection
As the virus continues to multiply and destroy your immune cells — the cells in your body that help fight off germs — you may develop mild infections or chronic signs and symptoms such as:
- Swollen lymph nodes — often one of the first signs of HIV
- Weight loss
- Oral yeast infection (thrush)
- Shingles (herpes zoster)
Progression to AIDS
When AIDS occurs, your immune system has been severely damaged. You’ll be more likely to develop diseases that wouldn’t usually cause illness in a person with a healthy immune system. These are called opportunistic infections or opportunistic cancers.
The signs and symptoms of some of these infections may include:
- Recurring fever
- Chronic diarrhea
- Swollen lymph glands
- Persistent white spots or unusual lesions on your tongue or in your mouth
- Persistent, unexplained fatigue
- Weight loss
- Skin rashes or bumps
Testing positive for HIV often leaves a person overwhelmed with questions and concerns. It is important to remember that HIV can be treated effectively with HIV medicines. Treatment with HIV medicines (called antiretroviral therapy or ART) is recommended for everyone with HIV. HIV medicines help people with HIV live longer, healthier lives and reduce the risk of HIV transmission.
The first step after testing positive for HIV is to see a health care provider, even if you do not feel sick. Prompt medical care and treatment with HIV medicines as soon as possible is the best way to stay healthy.
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Here Are Some HIV Transmission Facts
Anyone can contract HIV. The virus is transmitted in bodily fluids that include:
- vaginal and rectal fluids
- breast milk
Some of the ways HIV is transferred from person to person include:
- through vaginal or anal sex — the most common route of transmission
- by sharing needles, syringes, and other items for injection drug use
- by sharing tattoo equipment without sterilizing it between uses
- during pregnancy, labor, or delivery from a pregnant person to their baby
- during breastfeeding
- through “premastication,” or chewing a baby’s food before feeding it to them
- through exposure to the blood, semen, vaginal and rectal fluids, and breast milk of someone living with HIV, such as through a needle stick
It’s theoretically possible, but considered extremely rare, for HIV to be transmitted through:
- oral sex (only if there are bleeding gums or open sores in the person’s mouth)
- being bitten by a person with HIV (only if the saliva is bloody or there are open sores in the person’s mouth)
- contact between broken skin, wounds, or mucous membranes and the blood of someone living with HIV
HIV does NOT transfer through:
- skin-to-skin contact
- hugging, shaking hands, or kissing
- air or water
- sharing food or drinks, including drinking fountains
- saliva, tears, or sweat (unless mixed with the blood of a person with HIV)
- sharing a toilet, towels, or bedding
- mosquitoes or other insects
It’s important to note that if a person living with HIV is being treated and has a persistently undetectable viral load, it’s virtually impossible to transmit the virus to another person.