HIV and AIDS

WHAT IS HIV?

HIV is an acronym for HUMAN IMMUNODEFICIENCY VIRUS. Human, of course means you and me. Immunodeficiency is a long word, which simply means the immune system is not working, as it should. Viruses are non-living pieces of genetic material that are so small they cannot be seen under regular microscopes and cannot reproduce themselves. In order to do so, they must have a HOST CELL, a white cell or T-cell. These white cells are very important to a healthy immune system and it is these cells, which HIV destroys. Without enough white cells our immune systems can’t help us fight off infections and diseases.

WHAT IS AIDS?

AIDS is an acronym for ACQUIRED IMMUNODEFICIENCY SYNDROME. AIDS is the word used to describe someone who is in the last stage of infection caused by HIV. In order to get an AIDS diagnosis, someone needs to be HIV positive, have a T-cell count below 200 and/or experience one of the HIV specific Opportunistic Infections (O.I.’s). Statistically speaking, it can take 10 years after infection before AIDS develops. In people who do not receive early treatment, or do not take proper care of themselves, AIDS may develop sooner.

HIV TRANSMISSION:

HIV infected blood, semen/pre-cum, vaginal fluids and breast milk are the only body fluids that can lead to infection for another person.

HOW DO YOU GET HIV?

  •  Unprotected oral, anal or vaginal intercourse with someone who is infected with HIV.
  •  Sharing needles, tainted blood products, tattooing/piercing, high risk professions (nurse, doctor, EMT, etc.)
  •  Passed from an HIV infected mother to child.

WAYS HIV IS NOT TRANSMITTED:

HIV is not transmitted through everyday casual contact. Perspiration/sweat, saliva/spit, urine, feces, vomit and tears, are body fluids that do not transmit HIV.

WHAT DOES RE-INFECTION MEAN?

A person can be re-infected with HIV by engaging in the risk behaviors that lead to infection in the first place. (i.e. unprotected anal, oral vaginal intercourse and sharing needles.)

TREATMENT FOR HIV INFECTION:

• There are twenty-four FDA approved drugs available to treat HIV.
• The medications do not work for everybody because there are different strands of the virus that may be more resistant to certain medications. Adherence plays a huge role.
• There are many reasons people do not take their medicine. The number pills one has to take on a daily basis, side effects, cost, schedule, etc.
• There are co-factors that may cause a person with HIV to get sicker quicker. Smoking, drug use/abuse, stress, diet, genetics, re-infection, non-adherence, surgery/trauma, etc.
• A non-detectable viral load means the HIV levels in the blood are below the detectable means of the special test used to measure HIV in the blood system. However, you still have the virus and can infect others.
• There is no cure or viable vaccine for HIV.

PREVENTION OF HIV INFECTION:

  •  How can people protect themselves from HIV? Abstinence, monogamy, using a latex or polyurethane (plastic) condom consistently and correctly every time, and not sharing needles.
  •  What if someone is allergic to latex? Use a polyurethane (plastic) condom.
  •  What is outercourse? Any form of sexual contact that doesn’t involve an exchange of blood, semen/pre-cum, vaginal fluids or breast milk (i.e. erotic massage, taking a shower together, kissing, hugging, etc.)
  •  What factors increase your risk of HIV infection? Alcohol and drug use can impair your judgment and increase susceptibility of HIV infection. Getting infected with other sexually transmitted infections.
  •  Are there symptoms to HIV, if so what are they? Chronic fatigue, flu-like symptoms, headache, muscle aches, night sweats, fever, diarrhea, swollen glands, unusual skin manifestations. Women may experience constant yeast infections, irregular menstrual period, invasive cervical cancer, or PID (pelvic inflammatory disease).

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION AND TESTING CENTERS

For further information contact your local health service organization, sexual health program, or health care provider. Additional information and support can be obtained from community based AIDS service organizations.

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