Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). This virus attacks the immune system and makes a person vulnerable to many different kinds of infections, diseases, and cancers.
How is HIV spread?
- HIV/AIDS is spread through the transmission of infected blood, sexual fluids, or breast milk entering the blood system.
- HIV can be spread through unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex with an infected partner, or by sharing sex toys
- HIV can be transmitted by blood to blood contact (sharing drug equipment; using unsterilized needles for tattoos, piercings or acupuncture; sharing sharp personal items such as razors, etc.)
- An infected mother can pass the virus to her baby during childbirth or breastfeeding
HIV is not spread through skin to skin contact, kissing, hugging, massaging, or any other casual contact.
How do I prevent HIV/AIDS?
- Use condoms to reduce the risk of HIV/AIDS during vaginal and anal sex. Condoms are incredibly effective in the reducing the risk of transmission of HIV.
- Use lubrication during vaginal and anal sex to reduce the risk of friction which can result in tiny little openings for the virus to move through. Lubrication also makes sex feel better!
- Use condoms and oral dams to prevent transmission during oral sex.
- Avoid sharing equipment for drugs, or other items that contact blood.
- Get tested regularly (It’s free and confidential)
- Talk about past sexual partners and drug history with your current partner(s).
What are symptoms of HIV?
- Many people have no symptoms at all for the first few years.
- When symptoms do appear, they can be different for each person and non-specific such as fatigue, weight loss, night sweats, swollen lymph nodes and constant “other” infections.
What are the risks of HIV/AIDS?
HIV/AIDS weakens the immune system, making a person vulnerable to other infections (pneumonia) and cancers. It is still not considered curable but can be well managed through daily medication use.
How does a person get tested for HIV?
HIV is tested through a blood test. The blood test is looking for antibodies which the body develops in response to the HIV infection.
After being infected with HIV, there is a window period before the antibody will show up in this blood test. Within 3 months of initial infection, the HIV antibody is detectable in 97% of infected people and in 99% after 6 months.
There is no cure for HIV/AIDS, but there are treatments that can delay the progression of the virus.