What is HIV?
HIV stands for “Human Immunodeficiency Virus,” and it is a virus that attacks our body’s immune system, making us more likely to get infections and infection-related cancers.
Unlike the cold virus that many of us get in the wintertime, once a person gets this virus, he or she has it for life. There is no cure to completely eliminate the virus, but treatments are available to control and slow the damage. Therefore, the most important step is to catch the virus EARLY to start treatment. More than a decade ago, patients with HIV would die of infections or HIV-related causes. Now, medicines are so effective that more and more patients with HIV live a long life and pass away with the same health conditions as non-HIV individuals!
What is AIDS?
AIDS stands for “Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome” and is the final stage of the HIV infection. A patient transitions from HIV to AIDS when the virus has attacked a large amount of the immune system, making the patient at very high risk to infections (doctors track white blood cells called CD4 cells, and the cutoff for AIDS is 200 cells/cubic millimeter of blood. Normal levels are above 500 cells/mm3). Without treatment, people with AIDS survive about 3 years. Again, it is so important to get tested early.
Do I have HIV or AIDS? How is it transmitted?
HIV is spread through direct contact with body fluids of someone who is HIV+:
- Semen and pre-seminal fluid
- Vaginal fluid
- Breast milk
- Rectal fluid
How can I tell if I have HIV? Will I feel sick?
Some people can have flu-like symptoms within 2-4 weeks of HIV infection:
- Fever, chills, night sweats
- Muscle aches
- Sore throat
- Mouth ulcers
BUT, some people do not feel any different and do not know they got HIV until they become very sick…
LET’S GET STARTED. How do I get tested?
You can ask your healthcare provider for an HIV test. Many hospitals, health centers, clinics, and substance abuse programs also offer testing. These tests use a sample of blood, oral fluid, or urine.
To find a local testing site:
- Call 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636)
- Text your ZIP code to KNOWIT (566948)
- Buy a home testing kit at a pharmacy or online
- CDC announced that over 90% of NEW HIV infections can be PREVENTED by diagnosing people currently living with HIV and making sure they receive prompt treatment!
- Cuba is the 1st nation to eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission
Drexel University College of Medicine