What Is A Retrovirus
rather than as DNA DNA Genes are segments of deoxyribonucleic acid that contain the code for a specific protein that functions in one or more types of cells in the body. Chromosomes are structures within cells… read more .
When HIV enters a human cell, it releases its RNA, and an enzyme called reverse transcriptase makes a DNA copy of the HIV RNA. The resulting HIV DNA is integrated into the infected cells DNA. This process is the reverse of that used by human cells, which make an RNA copy of DNA. Thus, HIV is called a retrovirus, referring to the reversed process.
Other RNA viruses , unlike retroviruses, do not make DNA copies after they invade cells. They simply make RNA copies of their original RNA.
Each time an HIV-infected cell divides, it makes a new copy of the integrated HIV DNA as well as its own genes. The HIV DNA copy is either
HIV-1 originated in Central Africa during the first half of the 20th century when a closely related chimpanzee virus first infected people. The global spread of HIV-1 began in the late 1970s, and AIDS was first recognized in 1981.
What Does Hiv Do To A Person
HIV infects white blood cells of your immune system called CD4 cells, or helper T cells. It destroys CD4 cells, causing your white blood cell count to drop. This leaves you with an immune system that cant fight off infections, even those that wouldnt normally make you sick.
HIV initially makes you feel sick with flu-like symptoms. Then it can hide in your body for a long time without causing noticeable symptoms. During that time, it slowly destroys your T-cells. When your T-cells get very low or you begin to get certain illnesses that people with healthy immune systems dont get, HIV has progressed to AIDS.
AIDS can cause rapid weight loss, extreme tiredness, mouth or genital ulcers, fevers, night sweats and skin discolorations. Other illnesses and cancers often happen in people living with AIDS and can cause additional symptoms.
Whats a retrovirus?
A retrovirus is a virus that works backward from the way human cells do. Human cells have instructions that send a message to make building blocks for your body .
Retroviruses have their instructions written on RNA. When a retrovirus invades your cells, it changes its RNA to look like your cells instructions . Then it cuts your cells DNA and inserts its instructions into them. Your cell then acts as though the virus instructions are its own.
How Is Hiv Treated
HIV is treated with a combination of medicines taken by mouth every day. This combination of pills is called antiretroviral therapy .
Taking a combination of types of pills, rather than just one, is the most effective way to keep HIV from multiplying and destroying your cells. There are also combination pills that have several medications in a single pill. Your healthcare provider will carefully select a combination specifically for you.
The goal of ART is to reduce HIV in the blood to an amount thats not detectable by an HIV test and to slow HIVs weakening of your immune system.
Medications used to treat HIV
Each type of pill used in ART has a different way of keeping HIV from making more copies of itself or from infecting your cells. There can be many different brand names of the same type of ART drug.
Types of ART medications include:
- Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors .
- Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors .
- Protease inhibitors .
- Combination of HIV medicines.
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Get Treatment For Sexually Transmitted Infections
Sexually transmitted infections increase the chance of both spreading and contracting HIV. If a person has HIV and another STI, that person has greater the chance of transmitting HIV, as opposed to a person who only has HIV but no other STI .
This works both waysâa person who does not have HIV but does have another STI has a greater chance of contracting HIV if they have unprotected sex with someone who has HIV . This is because STIs that cause open sores or irritation which breaks the skinâs barrier provide an entrance for HIV to enter the body during all types of unprotected sex .
Other STIs that donât cause openings in the skin can still increase the risk of contracting HIV. This is because STIs cause inflammation to the genital area, drawing in more immune cells to the area, which are the target for HIV .
How Can I Take Care Of Myself While Living With Hiv
It’s very important to take your medications as prescribed and to make sure you dont miss appointments. This is called treatment adherence.
If you miss medications, even by accident, HIV can change how it infects your cells , potentially causing your medications to stop working. If your schedule prevents you from taking medications on time or making it to appointments, talk to your healthcare provider.
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Can Hiv/aids Be Prevented
You can reduce the risk of spreading HIV by:
- Getting tested for HIV.
- Choosing less risky sexual behaviors. This includes limiting the number of sexual partners you have and using latex condoms every time you have sex. If your or your partner is allergic to latex, you can use polyurethane condoms.
- Getting tested and treated for sexually transmitted diseases .
- Not injecting drugs.
- Talking to your health care provider about medicines to prevent HIV:
- PrEP is for people who don’t already have HIV but are at very high risk of getting it. PrEP is daily medicine that can reduce this risk.
- PEP is for people who have possibly been exposed to HIV. It is only for emergency situations. PEP must be started within 72 hours after a possible exposure to HIV.
NIH: National Institutes of Health
Blood Transfusions And Organ Donation
The risk of contracting HIV from a blood transfusion, other blood products, or organ donation is now extremely rare in the United States. All donated blood or blood products in the United States are for several types of bloodborne pathogens, including HIV.
Organ donations are also screened for HIV. Although very rare, its possible for HIV transmission to occur following an organ transplant.
However, testing of organ recipients after surgery can quickly detect transmission so that antiretroviral medications can be started promptly.
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How Do I Take Care Of Myself With Hiv
The best way to take care of yourself while living with HIV is to follow your treatment plan.
- Make sure to take your medications as prescribed and on time.
- Show up to all appointments so your healthcare team can monitor how youre feeling and know if theres a need to adjust your treatment.
- Follow your healthcare providers recommendations on how to avoid additional illnesses.
Can I Get Hiv From A Piercing Or Tattoo
Getting HIV from a piercing or tattoo is rare. But it is possible to get HIV from tattoo and piercing tools that are not sterilized correctly between clients. Tools that cut the skin should be used once, then thrown away or sterilized between uses.
Before you get a tattoo or have your body pierced, ask the right questions. Find out what steps the staff takes to prevent HIV and other infections, like hepatitis B and hepatitis C. A new, sterilized needle should be used for each person.
Learn more about HIV risk and tattoos and body piercing.
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What Can I Expect If I Have Hiv
If youre diagnosed with HIV, its important to know that those living with HIV who follow treatment guidelines can live full lives for nearly as long as those without HIV.
If you have a high CD4 count and an undetectable viral load within a year of starting treatment, research suggests youll have the best outcomes, as long as you continue your treatment plan.
You can improve your outlook by:
- Getting tested as part of routine healthcare or if you think youve been exposed.
- Starting ART soon after being diagnosed.
- Taking your medicine every day.
- Keeping your appointments with your healthcare team.
ART can keep blood levels undetectable but cant entirely rid your body of the virus . If you dont take your medication every day, the virus can start multiplying again and mutate, which may cause your medications to stop working.
Left untreated, it can take about 10 years for HIV to advance to AIDS. If you progress to AIDS and it goes untreated, you can expect to live about three years more.
For those on treatment, if you have a high CD4 count and undetectable viral load within a year of starting treatment, you can expect to live about as long as someone without HIV. If you have a low CD4 count or a detectable viral load within a year of starting treatment, you may live 10 to 20 years less than someone without HIV.
Bites That Break The Skin
A bite that opens the skin and causes bleeding can lead to the transmission of HIV. However, according to the
goes up with increasing viral load.
Viral load is highest both during the early phase of HIV and without treatment with antiretroviral medications. Taking antiretroviral medications every day can reduce a persons viral load to very low levels that cannot be detected through testing.
In this way, antiretroviral medications are not only a treatment, but an important tool for prevention. When HIV cannot be detected in the blood, a person living with HIV cannot sexually transmit the virus to a partner without HIV.
This principle is called Undetectable = Untransmittable .
It can take up to 6 months of taking antiretroviral medications each day to achieve an undetectable viral load.
A persons viral load is said to be durably undetectable when all test results are undetectable for at least 6 months after the first undetectable result.
There are a couple reasons that STIs can raise HIV risk. First, the symptoms of many STIs include genital inflammation, sores, or ulcers. These can all increase the chance of transmitting the virus from one person to another.
Second, like HIV, transmission of STIs is associated with some of the same types of behaviors, such as engaging in sex without a condom or other barrier method.
Some research has also indicated that certain STIs may be more with HIV transmission than others. These STIs include:
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How Hiv Cannot Be Spread
HIV cannot and has never been shown to be passed from one person to the next by the following means:
- Touching, hugging, kissing, or shaking hands
- Touching an object an HIV-positive person has touched
- Sharing utensils or cups
- Eating food prepared by an HIV-positive person
- Sharing grooming items, even toothbrushes or razors
- Getting spit on by an HIV-positive person
- Getting bitten by an HIV-positive person
- Getting blood from an HIV-positive person on you
- Using public fountains, toilet seats, or showers
- Mosquitoes or bug bites
Oral sex, tattooing, piercing, and dental procedure are also unlikely sources of transmission. Although transmission is possible in theory, there have been no documented cases in the United States of transmission by any of these means.
Similarly, the risk of HIV from organ transplants and blood transfusion is low due to the routine screening of donor organs and the U.S. blood supply.
Can You Get Hiv From Kissing
Since HIV is not spread through spit, kissing is not a common way to get infected. In certain situations where other body fluids are shared, such as if both people have open sores in their mouths or bleeding gums, there is a chance you could get HIV from deep, open-mouthed kissing.
You also dont get HIV from:
- Touching or hugging someone who has HIV/AIDS.
- Public bathrooms or swimming pools.
- Sharing cups, utensils or telephones with someone who has HIV/AIDS.
- Donating blood.
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Hiv Is An Infection That Can Lead To Aids
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. Its a virus that breaks down certain cells in your immune system . When HIV damages your immune system, its easier to get really sick and even die from infections that your body could normally fight off.
About 1.1 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV, and more than 38,000 new infections happen every year. Most people with HIV dont have any symptoms for many years and feel totally fine, so they might not even know they have it.
Once you have HIV, the virus stays in your body for life. Theres no cure for HIV, but medicines can help you stay healthy. HIV medicine lowers or even stops your chances of spreading the virus to other people. Studies show that using HIV treatment as directed can lower the amount of HIV in your blood so much that it might not even show up on a test when this happens, you cant transmit HIV through sex.Treatment is really important . Without treatment, HIV can lead to AIDS. But with medicine, people with HIV can live long, healthy lives and stop the spread of HIV to others.
Whats The Difference Between Hiv And Aids
HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. HIV and AIDS are not the same thing. And people with HIV do not always have AIDS.
HIV is the virus thats passed from person to person. Over time, HIV destroys an important kind of the cell in your immune system that helps protect you from infections. When you dont have enough of these CD4 cells, your body cant fight off infections the way it normally can.
AIDS is the disease caused by the damage that HIV does to your immune system. You have AIDS when you get dangerous infections or have a super low number of CD4 cells. AIDS is the most serious stage of HIV, and it leads to death over time.
Without treatment, it usually takes about 10 years for someone with HIV to develop AIDS. Treatment slows down the damage the virus causes and can help people stay healthy for several decades.
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Hiv And Maternal Transmission
HIV can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy, delivery, or through breastfeeding. If left untreated throughout these stages, there is a 15-45% chance of an HIV positive mother transmitting the virus to their child . However there are treatment options to prevent this from happening.
If pregnancy occurs and there has been potential HIV exposure, ask a healthcare provider about getting tested for HIV as early as possible. Taking medications called antiretroviral therapy as prescribed can reduce the viral load so that the baby has a very low chance of contracting HIV .
A person with HIV should not breastfeed their child, as breast milk can transmit HIV. Even if a person is taking ART and their viral loads are undetectable, they should still not breastfeed.
Does Hiv Go Away
HIV doesnt go away on its own. It inserts itself into your DNA so your cells think that its a part of you. There can be many years without symptoms after initial infection, but HIV can still be damaging your immune system even if you dont feel sick.
There may be periods while on medication where the virus is not detectable by an HIV test. In these cases, HIV can be hiding in your body, undetected. It can wake up and start destroying your cells again in the future.
This is why continuing to take HIV medication, even if you dont feel sick or the virus is undetectable, is extremely important. Without treatment, HIV will weaken your immune system until you cant fight off other serious illnesses.
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How Hiv Infects The Body
HIV infects the immune system, causing progressive damage and eventually making it unable to fight off infections.
The virus attaches itself to immune system cells called CD4 lymphocyte cells, which protect the body against various bacteria, viruses and other germs.
Once attached, it enters the CD4 cells and uses it to make thousands of copies of itself. These copies then leave the CD4 cells, killing them in the process.
This process continues until eventually the number of CD4 cells, also called your CD4 count, drops so low that your immune system stops working.
This process may take up to 10 years, during which time you’ll feel and appear well.
Page last reviewed: 22 April 2021 Next review due: 22 April 2024
Prevention Of Hiv Infection
At present, there is no effective HIV vaccine to prevent HIV infection or slow the progression of AIDS in people who are already infected. However, treating people who have HIV infection reduces the risk of their transmitting the infection to other people.
Transmission of HIV through its most common routessexual contact or sharing of needlesis almost completely preventable. However, the measures required for preventionsexual abstinence or consistent condom use Prevention Sexually transmitted diseases are infections that are typically, but not exclusively, passed from person to person through sexual contact. Sexually transmitted infections may be caused… read more and access to clean needlesare sometimes personally or socially unpopular. Many people have difficulty changing their addictive or sexual behaviors, so they continue to put themselves at risk of HIV infection. Also, safe sex practices are not foolproof. For example, condoms can leak or break.
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Why Does Being Undetectable Mean You Cant Pass On Hiv
When you take your treatment correctly and itâs working well, there may come a point where the amount of virus in your body is so little that normal tests will not detect it. This is what is called an âundetectable viral loadâ. Because the levels of the virus in your body are so low you can no longer pass it on through sex.