What is HIV?
- HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system. If HIV is not treated, it can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).
- There is currently no effective cure. Once people get HIV, they have it for life.
- But with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled. People with HIV who get effective HIV treatment can live long, healthy lives and protect their partners.
How do I know if I have HIV?
The only way to know for sure whether you have HIV is to get tested. Knowing your HIV status helps you make healthy decisions to prevent getting or transmitting HIV. At your appointment our health care personnel will determine what type of HIV testing is appropriate for you. This may be an oral swab sample, a finger prick or a blood sample. If you think you may have been exposed to HIV call today to schedule an appointment for free STD testing.
Are there symptoms?
Some people have flu-like symptoms within 2 to 4 weeks after infection (called acute HIV infection). These symptoms may last for a few days or several weeks. Possible symptoms include
- Night sweats,
- Muscle aches,
- Sore throat,
- Swollen lymph nodes, and
- Mouth ulcers.
But some people may not feel sick during acute HIV infection. These symptoms don’t mean you have HIV. Other illnesses can cause these same symptoms.
See a health care provider if you have these symptoms and think you may have been exposed to HIV. Getting tested for HIV is the only way to know for sure you can schedule an appointment for a free confidential HIV test with us click here.
Are some STDs associated with HIV?
Yes. In the United States, people who get syphilis, gonorrhea, and herpes often also have HIV, or are more likely to get HIV in the future.
Why does having an STD put me more at risk for getting HIV?
If you get an STD, you are more likely to get HIV than someone who is STD-free. This is because the same behaviors and circumstances that may put you at risk for getting an STD also can put you at greater risk for getting HIV. In addition, having a sore or break in the skin from an STD may allow HIV to more easily enter your body. If you are sexually active, get tested for STDs and HIV regularly, even if you don’t have symptoms.
What activities can put me at risk for both STDs and HIV?
- Having anal, vaginal, or oral sex without a condom;
- Having multiple sex partners;
- Having anonymous sex partners;
- Having sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can lower inhibitions and result in greater sexual risk-taking.
What can I do to prevent getting STDs and HIV?
The only 100% effective way to avoid STDs is to not have vaginal, anal, or oral sex. If you are sexually active, you can do the following things to lower your chances of getting STDs and HIV:
- Choose less risky sex activities;
- Use a new condom for every act of vaginal, anal, and oral sex throughout the entire sex act (from start to finish);
- Reduce the number of people with whom you have sex;
- Limit or eliminate drug and alcohol use before and during sex;
- Have an honest and open talk with your healthcare provider and ask whether you should be tested for STDs and HIV;
- Talk to your healthcare provider and find out if either pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, or post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP, is a good option for you to prevent HIV infection.
If I already have HIV, and then I get an STD, does that put my sex partner(s) at an increased risk for getting HIV?
It can. If you already have HIV, and then get another STD, it can put your HIV-negative partners at greater risk of getting HIV from you.
Your sex partners are less likely to get HIV from you if you
- Get on and stay on treatment called antiretroviral therapy (ART). Taking HIV medicine as prescribed can make your viral load very low by reducing the amount of virus in your blood and body fluids. HIV medicine can make your viral load so low that a test can’t detect it (an undetectable viral load). If your viral load stays undetectable, you have effectively no risk of sexually transmitting HIV to HIV-negative partners.
- Choose less risky sex activities.
- Use a new condom for every act of vaginal, anal, and oral sex throughout the entire sex act (from start to finish).
The risk of getting HIV also may be reduced if your partner takes PrEP after discussing this option with his or her healthcare provider and determining whether it is appropriate. When taken daily, PrEP is highly effective for preventing HIV from sex. PrEP is much less effective if it is not taken consistently. Since PrEP does not protect against other STDs, use condoms the right way every time you have sex.
Will treating STDs prevent me from getting HIV?
No. It’s not enough.
If you get treated for an STD, this will help to prevent its complications, and prevent spreading STDs to your sex partners. Treatment for an STD other than HIV does not prevent the spread of HIV.
If you are diagnosed with an STD, talk to your doctor about ways to protect yourself and your partner(s) from getting reinfected with the same STD, or getting HIV.
What are the stages of HIV?
When people with HIV don’t get treatment, they typically progress through three stages. But HIV medicine can slow or prevent progression of the disease. With the advancements in treatment, progression to Stage 3 is less common today than in the early days of HIV.
Stage 1: Acute HIV Infection
- People have a large amount of HIV in their blood. They are very contagious.
- Some people have flu-like symptoms. This is the body’s natural response to infection.
- But some people may not feel sick right away or at all.
- If you have flu-like symptoms and think you may have been exposed to HIV, seek medical care and ask for a test to diagnose acute infection.
- Only antigen/antibody tests or nucleic acid tests (NATs) can diagnose acute infection.
Stage 2: Chronic HIV Infection
- This stage is also called asymptomatic HIV infection or clinical latency.
- HIV is still active but reproduces at very low levels.
- People may not have any symptoms or get sick during this phase.
- Without taking HIV medicine, this period may last a decade or longer, but some may progress faster.
- People can transmit HIV in this phase.
- At the end of this phase, the amount of HIV in the blood (called viral load) goes up and the CD4 cell count goes down. The person may have symptoms as the virus levels increase in the body, and the person moves into Stage 3.
- People who take HIV medicine as prescribed may never move into Stage 3.
Stage 3: Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
- The most severe phase of HIV infection.
- People with AIDS have such badly damaged immune systems that they get an increasing number of severe illnesses, called opportunistic infections.
- People receive an AIDS diagnosis when their CD4 cell count drops below 200 cells/mm, or if they develop certain opportunistic infections.
- People with AIDS can have a high viral load and be very infectious.
- Without treatment, people with AIDS typically survive about three years.