An Overview Of HIV
HIV is a virus (human immunodeficiency virus) that can be transmitted through sexual contact. HIV causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). HIV can be transmitted through the seminal or vaginal fluid, blood or breast milk of an HIV positive person. Approximately 40,000 people contract HIV in the United States each year. Once someone is infected with HIV, their immune system can weaken and they may have trouble fighting infections that would not normally make them sick. Once AIDS develops (the third and final stage of HIV), these infections can be life-threatening. HIV cannot be cured but treatment is available.
An untreated HIV infection will lead to death.
Find What You Need
- HIV Symptoms (What HIV Infections Look And Feel Like)
- HIV Treatment
- HIV Testing (How To Get Tested For HIV)
HIV In The US Population
Currently over 1.2 million individuals in the United States are living with HIV. Almost 1 in 7 of these individuals doesn’t know that they have the disease. Between 2005 and 2014 the number of new HIV infections decreased by 20%, primarily due to advances in awareness, testing and treatment, however that number increased for certain affected groups.
How HIV Spreads
HIV is transmitted through sexual contact or sharing contaminated needles and syringes. Bodily fluids such as breast milk, vaginal fluids, rectal fluids, seminal fluids and blood are all transmission pathways that carry infected cells through mucous membranes from one individual to the next. If you think you might have been exposed recently to the HIV virus, contact your healthcare professional immediately as early diagnosis and treatment is paramount.
Am I At Risk For HIV?
Between 2005 and 2014 over 80% of all HIV infections in males occured in gay and bisexual men and nearly 70% of all infections including females. African American homosexual men are at the highest risk for contracting the disease shortly followed by caucasian homosexual men. Heterosexual transmission of HIV accounted for a quarter of all infections over the same time period, many times through drug users sharing needles.
What Does HIV Do To The Body?
HIV attacks the body’s immune system and suppressing it’s ability to protect the body from other infections. In its final stage (AIDS), the HIV infection leaves a sufferer completely vulnerable to infections that healthy individuals wouldn’t be susceptible to.
HIV And Pregnancy
Pregnant women with HIV can pass the HIV infection to their newborn infant but with proper management and treatment a baby may be born completely HIV free. It should be recommended by your doctor but if not, request a full blood panel STD test at your first prenatal appointment. This way your doctor will be able to identify any infections that may pose a risk to your unborn child. Women who are pregnant with HIV should be taking antiretroviral treatment through the term of the pregnancy. For those with low levels of HIV in the blood a natural vaginal birth can occur, although your doctor may choose to do perform a C-section instead. Breast feeding should be avoided and synthetic replacement may be used instead.
Can HIV Be Cured?
There is no known cure for HIV or AIDS however this infection which was once almost certain to be fatal, can now be managed with treatment and medication. With early diagnosis and treatment of the infection, HIV can be prevented from entering its third and most deadly stage, AIDS. HIV research and science has been advancing for decades and HIV patients can now live completely normal lives under the care of a physician’s medication.
How Is HIV Diagnosed?
HIV, like other infections, produces antibodies that can be tested for in both the blood and saliva. There are three primary tests performed to detect the presence of HIV: antibody tests, combination tests, and nucleic acid tests (NATS). Early HIV detection is possible up to 7 days after infection with the new FDA approved HIV early detection test. All positive HIV results will be retested and you will be called in for further screening.
HIV prevention measures should be taken if you are a member of a highly affected group such as gay and bisexual men. Proper usage of latex condoms during oral, anal and sexual intercourse is necessary to prevent the spread of the virus. Individuals who are at a high risk of coming in contact with the virus may take a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) regiment which helps the body fight off the infection.
The History Of HIV
HIV was widely undocumented before the 1980’s but it is believed to have originated in the Congo (Africa) where it spread from chimpanzee to human sometime earlier in the century. Beginning in the early 1980’s rare infections started to kill younger homosexual men in the US. In September of 1982 the CDC coined the term ‘AIDS’ for the first time and from that point on cases of the disease started to occur all over the globe.