How Is Hiv Recognized
Doctors use laboratory tests to confirm HIV infection. The Elisa and Western Blot analyses identify people who have been exposed to HIV. These tests determine if the blood contains particular antibodies that result from contact with the virus. They do not identify who among a group of infected individuals will develop the disease. The presence of antibodies or HIV markers means the person has been infected with HIV but no one can predict when and if they will get AIDS related symptoms.
Doctors diagnose AIDS by blood tests and the presence of specific illnesses such as pneumocystis carinii pneumonia or Kaposi’s sarcoma. These diseases overcome the weakened immune system and are responsible for the high death rate among AIDS patients.
How Is Hiv Spread From Person To Person
HIV can only be spread through specific activities. In the United States, the most common ways are:
- Having vaginal or anal sex with someone who has HIV without using a condom or taking medicines to prevent or treat HIV. Anal sex is riskier than vaginal sex.
- Sharing injection drug equipment , such as needles, with someone who has HIV.
Less common ways are:
- From mother to child during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding. However, the use of HIV medicines and other strategies have helped lower the risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV to 1% or less in the United States.
- Getting stuck with an HIV-contaminated needle or other sharp object. This is a risk mainly for health care workers. The risk is very low.
HIV is spread only in extremely rare cases by:
- Having oral sex. But in general, the chance that an HIV-negative person will get HIV from oral sex with an HIV-positive partner is extremely low.
What Is Art And How Does It Help Prevent Hiv
Antiretroviral therapy is a combination of medicines that slows down the effects of HIV in your body and can help you stay healthy for many years. It can also lower or even stop your chances of giving HIV to anyone else.
ART lowers the amount of HIV in your body sometimes to the point where HIV wont show up on standard blood tests. If your HIV viral load is so low that certain tests cant see it, its called undetectable. When someone has an undetectable viral load, they cant spread HIV to others during sex.
Its important to remember that even with an undetectable viral load, HIV is still present in your body. If you stop treatment your viral load can go up, making it possible to pass HIV to others you have sex with. Your doctor or nurse can help you find the treatment thats best for you to help keep your viral load low, so you can stay healthy.
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What You Need To Know About The Links Between Hiv And Stds
Many people think that STDs are a harmless “fact of life.” Since most STDs can be cured, people think, “Doctors give you medicine and that’s the end of it, right?” Well, not quite! Having an STD can increase your chances of getting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Tips To Avoid Hiv Transmission
To prevent the spread of HIV, follow these guidelines:
- Use condoms during sexual intercourse
- Never share needles and syringes
- Avoid multiple sexual partners
- Use lubricant during sexual intercourse to reduce friction and dryness which can cause vaginal tears and broken condoms.
- Speak to your doctor about PrEP , if you believe you are at high risk of exposure. PrEP is a daily medication used to help prevent HIV.
- Speak to your doctor about taking post-exposure prophylaxis if you think you’ve just been exposed to the virus. PEP is a type of antiretroviral medication that help prevent HIV if started within 72 hours after you might have been exposed to the virus.
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Hiv: How Its Transmitted
HIV is spread through certain body fluids, such as blood, semen , rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services AIDS.gov website. The virus can be transmitted when these fluids in an infected person come into contact with mucous membranes in the rectum, vagina, penis, or mouth of another person.
While HIV can be spread during anal or vaginal sex, anal sex is riskier because there is more trauma and irritation to the mucous membranes, says Beverly Sha, MD, professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
Although the risk is low, HIV can also be spread through oral sex. HIV transmission can happen during ejaculation into the mouth, or if there are mouth ulcers, bleeding gums, genital sores, or other sexually transmitted diseases present, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Using condoms during sex lowers the risk of HIV transmission. When they are used properly, its clear they offer significant protection, Dr. Sha says. However, condoms can fail when they break, if theyre too old, or if they are not used correctly.
The virus can also spread if infected fluids come into contact with damaged tissue, such as a cut in the skin, or if infected blood is transferred from a needle or syringe. Doing injection drugs with someone who is infected and sharing equipment is high risk. HIV can be found in a used needle for as long as 42 days.
What If There Is An Actual Or Suspected Exposure To Hiv
The decision to begin a post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV infection is based on the judgment of a health care professional and should be a joint decision with the exposed worker. PEP often involves taking a combination of 2 or 3 antiretroviral drugs for about 4 weeks. PEP can help reduce, but not eliminate, a personâs risk of infection. The PEP should begin as soon as possible, as it may be less effective if started more than 72 hours after exposure.
Occupational Groups Risking Exposure to the AIDS Virus
The occupational groups listed below risk exposure to HIV in the workplace. The table that follows suggests preventive measures for these groups. For many situations, using all protective barriers listed in the table is not necessary, but workplaces should always make them available in case of emergency response scenarios.
Surgeons, Nurses and Nurses Aides
Surgeons, nurses and nurses’ aides should take precautions to avoid needlestick injuries, cuts with sharp instruments and exposure through skin lesions to potentially infectious blood and body fluids.
Physicians and Laboratory Workers
These people continuously handle infectious samples. Doctors, in diagnosing HIV patients, carry out physical examinations and collect blood samples. Laboratory technicians analyze potentially infected samples.
Embalming the bodies of persons with a HIV infection presents a risk because HIV can live for hours in a deceased body.
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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
Hiv And Stds Are Spread In The Same Ways
You can get HIV or an STD by having sex without a condom with a person who is already infected. HIV and some STDs can be passed from a mother to her baby while she is pregnant, during birth or through breast feeding. HIV and some STDs can also be spread by sharing drug “works” with someone who has HIV or an STD.
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How Can A Person Reduce The Risk Of Getting Hiv
Anyone can get HIV, but you can take steps to protect yourself from HIV.
- Get tested for HIV. Talk to your partner about HIV testing and get tested before you have sex. Use the GetTested locator from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to find an HIV testing location near you.
- Choose less risky sexual behaviors. HIV is mainly spread by having anal or vaginal sex without a condom or without taking medicines to prevent or treat HIV.
- Use condoms every time you have sex. Read this fact sheet from CDC on how to use condoms correctly.
- Limit your number of sexual partners. The more partners you have, the more likely you are to have a partner with poorly controlled HIV or to have a partner with a sexually transmitted disease . Both of these factors can increase the risk of HIV.
- Get tested and treated for STDs. Insist that your partners get tested and treated, too. Having an STD can increase your risk of getting HIV or spreading it to others.
- Talk to your health care provider about pre-exposure prophylaxis . PrEP is an HIV prevention option for people who do not have HIV but who are at risk of getting HIV. PrEP involves taking a specific HIV medicine every day to reduce the risk of getting HIV through sex or injection drug use. For more information, read the HIVinfo fact sheet on Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis .
- Do not inject drugs. But if you do, use only sterile drug injection equipment and water, and never share your equipment with others.
Ways Hiv Is Not Spread
Get the true facts about HIV transmission.
The human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, has existed in the United States since at least the 1970s, but myths and misconceptions about how it’s transmitted still persist.
Most people know that the virus is commonly spread through sexual contact and intravenous drug use. But what other behaviors are and are not risk factors?
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How To Prevent Transmission
Between 2% and 6% of adults infected with hepatitis B virus will develop chronic hepatitis B. Chronic hepatitis B can lead to liver failure and liver cancer, so protecting yourself is important.
The hepatitis B vaccine is safe for almost everyone and about 95% effective for providing long-term protection against hepatitis B infection.
While anyone can benefit from the vaccine, people who are at a greater risk of being exposed to the virus because of their work, lifestyle or medical history are strongly encouraged to be immunized. In many countries, babies born to infected mothers get vaccinated at birth. All babies born in the United States are routinely vaccinated.
Hepatitis B immune globulin , is another way to prevent hepatitis B infection in babies born to infected mothers or after exposure to the virus. This uses concentrated antibodies to provide immediate protection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is given as a shot and can provide short-term protection against hepatitis B.
Because the hepatitis B vaccine does not protect against HIV, hepatitis C or other diseases spread through sex and contact with blood, it’s still important to keep using basic protective strategies. Practicing safer sex and not sharing needles are recommended even if you’re immune to hepatitis B.
Hiv: How Its Not Transmitted
The following are nine ways the virus is not spread:
Kissing and touching. Social kissing and hugging pose no risk of transmission, Sha says. Also, being sexual with someone without exchanging infected body fluids does not spread the virus. The only time deep kissing is a risk is when the person infected with HIV has open sores or oral bleeding, Sha notes.
Sharing a living space. Any casual contact with someone who has HIV, including sharing a bathroom, is safe. However, Sha tells patients not to share razor blades or toothbrushes. If someone who is infected nicks himself while shaving or has bleeding gums, it could increase risk of transmission.
Sharing food or utensils. The virus cannot survive on surfaces, so sharing utensils and other household items will not spread HIV. You can even share a meal with someone who is infected without worry. Transmission has been associated with mothers pre-chewing food for their babies, when infected blood from the mouth mixes with the food. Known as pre-mastication, it is a common practice in Africa, but not typically done in the United States, Sha says.
Saliva, sweat, or tears. An infected persons saliva, sweat, and tears do not put you at risk.
Water fountains. Sipping from a water fountain after someone who has HIV used it is considered casual contact and will not lead to transmission.
Mosquitoes and other insects. The virus is not viable in insects or ticks, Sha says.
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How Can I Prevent Passing Hiv To My Unborn Baby
Today, new medicines mean you can lower your chance of passing HIV to your unborn baby during pregnancy, labor, and childbirth to less than 1%.2 Taking medicine to treat HIV is recommended for everyone who is HIV-positive to lower their viral load and help protect their immune system. Having a viral load that cannot be detected can keep you healthy and also prevent you from passing the virus to your unborn baby. Because HIV can spread in breastmilk, in the United States, you should not breastfeed if you have HIV, even if your viral load cannot be detected.
Learn more about how to prevent passing HIV to your baby.
Are Women At Greater Risk Of Hiv During Menstruation
The menstrual bleeding during a period itself does not increase the risk of acquiring HIV. However, hormonal changes during menstrual cycles are believed to place women at greater risk than at other times. The biology of the vagina and cervix mean that women, especially adolescents and older women, are in general more vulnerable to HIV and sexually transmitted infections than men.
A 2015 study in monkeys concluded that immune protection is at its lowest mid-cycle, providing a window of opportunity for infections to enter. In addition, researchers following a group of 37 HIV-negative female sex workers in Nairobi, Kenya found an association between the first stage of the menstrual cycle and factors that could mean increased susceptibility to HIV infection. The authors concluded that a better understanding of the natural hormonal cycle on the vaginal immune environment is required to identify exactly how it influences HIV sexual transmission in women.
Since more research is needed to establish clarity on when women are most at risk, women should always consider using barrier methods such as male and female condoms to provide the best protection from STIs including HIV, regardless of the stage of their menstrual cycle.
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Information About Other Stds
STDs are very common. In addition to HIV, there are dozens of other types of sexually transmitted diseases. Often there are no symptoms, at least not at first. Left untreated, STDs can cause serious health issues, including infertility, pain, and even death, in some cases. Also, having one STD can increase the risk of getting another.
The good news is all STDs, including HIV, are treatable, and many are curable.
While routine testing for many STDs is recommended, that does not mean it always happens as part of a regular checkup or gynecologist exam. To know for sure, ask to be tested.
How To Be Safe When Coming Into Contact With Infected Blood
A condom will act as a barrier against any contact with blood during sex.
As well as sex, sharing equipment for injecting drugs is a way blood can get into someones body. This can be avoided by using fresh needles and not sharing needles, syringes and other equipment.
If a woman has HIV, her menstrual blood also carries a risk of transmission if she has a detectable viral load.
If youre HIV negative and taking pre-exposure prophylaxis youll be protected against getting HIV if you come into contact with infectious blood.
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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.
Impossible Routes Of Hiv Transmission
HIV transmission through the following activities is biologically implausible and there have been no documented cases.
There is no risk of HIV being passed on through: coughing, sneezing or spitting kissing, hugging or shaking hands sharing cutlery, plates or cups breathing the same air using the same lavatory mosquito or animal bites.
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Viral Load & Medications
If someone has HIV, this does not mean that they are restricted to celibacy. Many people with HIV still continue to have safe, enjoyable sex lives without spreading the virus. Always using a condom or barrier method is an important first step to prevent the sharing of HIV containing fluids.
Antiretroviral therapy : Another way to help decrease the risk of spreading HIV is to lower a personâs viral loadâthe amount of HIV in a personâs blood. Viral loads can be lowered using medications called antiretroviral therapy . These medications can lower the HIV viral load so much that HIV may not even be detectable on a blood testâthis is called an undetectable viral load . When a person’s viral load in undetectable, they have effectively no risk of transmitting the HIV virus to a non-infected partner . Taking these medication will help keep a person with HIV healthy while also helping prevent the spread of HIV to another person. This is not a cure, however. If medication is taken incorrectly or stopped, HIV viral loads will increase again and transmission can occur. Condoms and other barrier methods should still always be used during sex .