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What is HIV? — HIV is the name of a virus that can affect the body's "immune system," which is responsible for fighting infections. When a person has untreated HIV infection, they can become sick easily. That's because their immune system cannot work as well to fight off infections or cancer. But people with HIV can take medicines to control the virus, keep their immune system strong, and stay healthy for many years.
People can get infected with HIV if blood or body fluid from a person with HIV enters their body. Body fluids include semen and vaginal fluids. For example, a person can get HIV if they:
●Have sex without using a condom with someone who has HIV – This includes vaginal, anal, and oral sex.
●Share needles or syringes with someone who has HIV
What is AIDS? — AIDS is the term doctors use to describe the stage of HIV infection when the immune system is at its weakest.
What are the symptoms of HIV? — When a person first gets infected with HIV, they can have a fever, sore throat, headache, muscle pain, and joint pain. These symptoms usually last about 2 weeks. In some cases, these symptoms are very mild. Many people with HIV infection do not even remember having them.
In the first few years after infection, most people with HIV have no symptoms or only mild symptoms. Some people have swelling of the lymph nodes, which are small bean-shaped organs under the skin. When this happens it is usually in the neck, armpit, or groin. Lymph node swelling can also happen in people who have HIV for a long time.
People who have had untreated HIV for many years might have other problems, such as:
●Fever, diarrhea, and weight loss
●Other infections, including:
•Eye infections that cause trouble seeing
•Yeast infections in the mouth that can cause soreness and raised, white patches
Is there a test for HIV? — Yes. You can have HIV testing done in your doctor's office or clinic using a sample of blood or sometimes saliva (spit). Results from some tests take a few days to come back. But results from rapid HIV tests can be ready within minutes.
Most pharmacies also sell test kits that you can use at home. For 1 type, you use a special strip to collect a tiny bit of your blood, and mail the strip to a lab for testing. Another type of kit comes with a test strip that you wipe along your gums. If you take a home test that says you are HIV positive, see your doctor and ask for a follow-up test to make sure.
How is HIV treated? — Doctors can prescribe different combinations of medicines to treat HIV. These are called "antiretroviral medicines." They work very well to keep HIV infection controlled in most people. You and your doctor should work together to decide which medicines are right for you.
It is important to follow all of your doctor's instructions about treatment and take your HIV medicines every day. This is because your HIV can get worse if you skip or stop taking your medicines. Let your doctor know if you have any side effects or problems with your medicines.
Some people with HIV also take medicines to prevent HIV-related infections. For example, most doctors recommend that people with a low "T cell count" take an antibiotic to keep from getting a lung infection called PCP. (T cells are a special type of white blood cell.)
What if I am pregnant or want to get pregnant? — If you have untreated HIV, your baby can become infected with HIV during pregnancy, birth, or through breastfeeding. If you are pregnant or want to get pregnant, talk with your doctor about ways to reduce the chance of passing HIV on to your baby.
What can I do to prevent spreading HIV to other people? — The best way to reduce the chance of spreading HIV to other people is to get tested and start treatment as soon as possible.
Other things you can do are:
●Use a condom every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex
●Do not share razors or toothbrushes with others
●Do not share drug needles or syringes with others
Patient education: Starting treatment for HIV (The Basics)
Patient education: Vaccines for adults with HIV (The Basics)
Patient education: Preventing HIV after unprotected sex or needle-sharing (The Basics)
Patient education: Screening for sexually transmitted infections (The Basics)
Patient education: Chlamydia and gonorrhea (The Basics)
Patient education: Genital herpes (The Basics)
Patient education: Anogenital warts (The Basics)
Patient education: Trichomoniasis (The Basics)
Patient education: Pneumocystis pneumonia (The Basics)
Patient education: Kaposi sarcoma (The Basics)
Patient education: Taking medicines to prevent HIV before exposure (The Basics)
Patient education: Symptoms of HIV (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Testing for HIV (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Initial treatment of HIV (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Tips for taking HIV medications by mouth (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: HIV and pregnancy (Beyond the Basics)
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