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
What Are My Chances Of Contracting Hiv
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What is HIV?
Human immunodeficiency virus attacks and weakens the immune system, making an individual more vulnerable to serious illness. Untreated HIV can lead to AIDS, which occurs when the immune system is so weak it becomes susceptible to serious infections and some cancers.
Theres an epidemic of HIV in the United States and around the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , more than 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV, and 1 in 7 of them arent aware of it. An estimated 39,782 people in the country were diagnosed with HIV in 2016 alone.
HIV transmission occurs in many different ways, including through condomless sex and by sharing needles. Risk of transmission varies depending on several factors including:
- sexual practices and the HIV status of sexual partners
- sharing needles for drug use or tattoos
- use of PrEP, PEP, condoms, or having an undetectable viral load
Its important to understand the risk level based on actual factors in preventing the transmission of HIV.
People Unaware Of Having Hiv
Its estimated that about 1 in 7 people living with HIV in the United States dont know they have the virus.
People who are unaware that they have HIV are less likely to take precautions to avoid transmission to other people. They also likely dont take medications to suppress the virus.
If you dont currently have HIV, you can prevent your chances of infection by:
- discussing HIV and STIs with your partner before engaging in sexual activity
- using a barrier method every time you engage in sexual activity
- avoiding sharing needles
- talking with your doctor about postexposure prophylaxis if you may have been exposed to HIV in the past 72 hours
- getting tested for other STIs regularly or before engaging in sexual activity with a new partner
If you do have HIV, you can prevent transmitting it to others by:
- discussing HIV and STIs with your partner before engaging in sexual activity
- using a barrier method every time you engage in sexual activity
- taking your medications as prescribed
- avoiding sharing needles or drug injection equipment
- having your viral load tested regularly as recommended by your doctor
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Is There Any Hiv Risk From A Nude Body
If all you had was a massage, with no penetrative intercourse or other high-risk activity, there is absolutely no reason to be concerned about HIV.
So if the massage involved penetrative sex without a condom, an infectious body fluid might have contact with mucus membranes in the genital area. But if it was just massage, there’s no way for an infectious body fluid to enter the bloodstream.
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.
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How Hard Is It To Contract Hiv From
Many people have questions about scenarios they have heard could lead to HIV transmission. For example, a lot of people are told at some point that you can get HIV from using a toilet seat. In reality, the likelihood of that happening is so minuscule, it isnt worth considering. For HIV to be transmitted in that manner, two people who both had open wounds that made contact with the toilet seat would have to use the same seat seconds after each other. Even then, the chances of infection would still be small. A slightly more realistic way that people worry about contracting HIV is through kissing. However, its still only a tiny bit more realistic. A person would again have to have open sores in their mouth, and it would take a lot of saliva to transmit the virus.
Most people are unlikely to have to worry about how hard is it to contract HIV during their day-to-day lives. You wont accidentally contract it from sharing a glass with someone. You wont get it from touching someone in a non-sexual manner, unless you both have open wounds. Before believing anything you hear about how hard is it to contract HIV, its always best to research. You can quickly dispel some common myths by Googling them.
Can A Man Give Himself Hiv/aids Or Another Sexually Transmitted Infection By Masturbating
The best answer to this question came years ago from one of our longtime experts, the highly respected HIV physician Robert Frascino, M.D.:
“No, there is absolutely no chance you can contract a sexually transmitted illness from yourself!
“STIs involve germs that spread from an infected person to another person via sexual activity. Masturbation, choking the chicken, spanking the monkey, or whatever you want to call it, involves only you and your hand. Some folks may refer to their hand as Mrs. Palm and her five daughters, but really we are only talking about one person here. And that’s you, right?!
“A person cannot give himself a disease he doesn’t already have. Just as you can’t give yourself a million dollars , you can’t give yourself HIV, because you don’t have that either.
“The bottom line is that your jizz is perfectly safe, so no worries unless you spunk up your parents’ furniture. And even those kinds of stains, although they can lead to problems, they can not lead to STIs, OK?”
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Can You Get Hiv/aids From Someone’s Blood Touching Your Open Sore
HIV transmissions as a result of one person’s blood entering another person’s open sore or wound are theoretically possible, but in practice hardly ever happen. Only a handful of cases have ever been documented.
If a person is living with HIV and they do not have an undetectable viral load, and their blood directly enters the bloodstream of another person, HIV may be passed on. For example, this is how HIV is usually transmitted when people share syringes or needles used to inject drugs.
However, HIV transmission following limited contactfor example, blood touching an open soreis much less likely.
If you are concerned about an incident in which you had contact with another person’s blood, it’s worth noting a few points:
- If the blood came into contact with undamaged, unbroken skin, there is no HIV risk whatsoever.
- HIV is not transmitted through surface scratches, such as paper cuts.
- A cut or wound that is in the process of healing and scabbing over is unlikely to allow entry of the other person’s blood.
- HIV does not survive long outside the body, so the risk from blood left behind on objects is minimal.
- The handful of documented cases of HIV transmission involving fights or accidents have involved serious injuries and profuse bleeding.
How To Prevent The Spread Of Hiv
People living with HIV can use the following to prevent transmitting it to others:
- Preexposure prophylaxis : This daily pill contains two antivirals: Tenofovir and emtricitabine. When a person takes it daily, PrEP can reduce the risk of acquiring HIV through sex by 99%. PrEP is for those who do not have HIV but are at a high risk of contracting it.
- Postexposure prophylaxis : ART drugs that can prevent HIV infection after potential exposure. The CDC recommend starting PEP within of a recent potential HIV exposure.
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How Common Is Hiv
The number of people living with HIV in the UK continues to rise. This is because more cases are being diagnosed and people are living longer due to more effective medication
The most recent statistics on the number of people in Northern Ireland living with HIV are available from the Public Health Agency website.
People Who Are At Increased Risk
HIV can affect anyone but people who are at a higher risk include:
- men who have had unprotected sex with men
- women who have had unprotected sex with men who have sex with men
- people who have had unprotected sex with a person who has lived in, or travelled in, Africa
- people who inject drugs
- people who have had unprotected sex with somebody who has injected drugs
- people who have another sexually transmitted infection
- people who have received a blood transfusion while in Africa, eastern Europe, the countries of the former Soviet Union, Asia or central and southern America
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Hiv Treatment As Prevention
People with HIV can take ART to lower their chance of transmitting HIV to others.
ART reduces the quantity of HIV in the body, or viral load, and keeps it at a low level.
The term viral load refers to the number of HIV copies per milliliter of blood.
Healthcare professionals define successful viral suppression as having a viral load of fewer than of HIV per milliliter of blood. Achieving and maintaining viral suppression significantly reduces the risk of HIV transmission.
Other ways to prevent HIV transmission include:
- using a condom or other barrier method during sex
- reducing the number of sexual partners
- getting vaccinated against other STIs, such as HPV and hepatitis B
- avoiding using injectable drugs, if possible
- if using injectable drugs, avoiding sharing needles and syringes
- following all workplace safety protocols
People can speak with a doctor to learn more about their individual risk of contracting HIV.
Anyone concerned about HIV exposure should contact a healthcare professional or a local emergency room to get testedand receive PEP.
Where Did Myths About Hiv Come From
The early 1980s were a scary time for people living with HIV. By the spring of 1983, scientists had identified the virus responsible for a mysterious illness called acquired immune deficiency syndrome , but they didnt understand how it passed from person to person.
Initially, some researchers speculated this new infection could be passed through casual contact or even through the air, like tuberculosis. Others theorized it might be hitching a ride with mosquitoes or other insects, like malaria.
But the damage had already been done. Myths about HIV transmission had already taken root, and these myths continue to make life difficult for the 1.1 million people living with HIV today in the United States.
Today we have a solid scientific understanding of HIV transmission. We know that HIV can only be transmitted in very limited circumstances, such as sexual contact or needle sharing. And we have a much better understanding of the way that viral loadthat is, the amount of HIV in a persons bloodstreaminfluences their chances of passing on the virus.
You can use this information to educate yourself, your friends, and your community about the real risk of HIV transmission.
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How Can I Avoid Getting Hiv
Safe sexUsing condoms and dental dams during sex is a good way to avoid HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Its also a good idea to use water-based lubricants as these can make sex safer by preventing condom breakage. Using lube also reduces friction- friction can cause tiny injuries through which the virus can enter the blood stream more easily. Just make sure you avoid oil-based lubes as they can weaken condom latex.
STI testsIf youre sexually active, you should get tested for HIV and other STIs fairly regularly. The Terrence Higgins Trust recommends getting tested every six months if youre having casual sex, and every three months if you have lots of sexual partners.
You should also get an STI test whenever you notice any new symptoms, or when you start a new relationship.
PrEPIf youre particularly at-risk for HIV for example, your partner has HIV you could consider taking PrEP . This is a treatment that you can take to prevent infection.
You can learn more about PrEP and where to get it at the Terrence Higgins Trust website.
PEPIf you find yourself in a situation where youve had unprotected sex and you think you might have been exposed to HIV, its important to get medical advice as soon as possible. You might be offered PEP , an emergency medication that can prevent infection when taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.
You can learn more about PEP and where to get it at the Terrence Higgins Trust website.
If I Get Infected Fluid From An Hiv
No, HIV is not always passed on from someone with HIV. There are lots of reasons why this is the case. For example, if the HIV-positive person is on effectiveâ¯treatmentâ¯it will reduce the amount of HIV in their body. If a doctor confirms that the virus has reached undetectable levels it means there is no risk of passing it on.
If you take PrEP correctly you will also be protected from HIV infection in the case infected fluid enters your body.
If youâre concerned that youâve been exposed to HIV you may be able to takeâ¯post-exposure prophylaxis , which stops the virus from becoming an infection. However, itâs not available everywhere and has to be taken within 72 hours of possible exposure to be effective.
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How Can To Help Stop The Spread Of Hiv
To lower the risk of getting HIV and other STIs:
- Those who are HIV-negative should consider PrEP. If a possible HIV exposure occurs, PEP may provide emergency protection.
- Get tested and treated for STIs and follow healthcare providers recommended screening schedule.
- Before having sex with someone, ask them to get tested for HIV and STIs.
- Those who inject drugs should get clean needles from a needle exchange.
- Avoid sharing needles for drugs and tattoos.
Talk to a healthcare provider about PrEP if a sexual partner has HIV with a detectable viral load or theres another known risk of contracting the virus. Heres a search tool for finding healthcare providers who prescribe PrEP.
Anyone who thinks they might have contracted HIV needs to get tested immediately. Early treatment can help manage the symptoms, lower the risk of complications, lower the risk of transmitting HIV to a sexual partner, and help people to live a long and healthy life.
Effective Barriers Against Hiv
There are many effective barriers that prevent infection.
Skin: Skin is an excellent barrier against HIV, unless there is an open cut or open wound. Infectious fluid on skin is NOT a route for infection.
Mucous membranes in the mouth, throat and stomach: These membranes are good barriers against HIV infection, so long as there are not cuts, ulcers or sores.
Saliva: Saliva contains proteins and a low salt content that actively reduce its infectiousness. Even when HIV is detected there is too little to cause infection. HIV is not transmitted by kissing including deep kissing. Spit cannot transmit HIV.
Air: HIV is not transmitted by air.
Latex and rubber: Condoms prevent infection from HIV and many other sexually transmitted infections.
Many sexual situations have no risk of transmitting HIV.
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Does Hiv Viral Load Affect Getting Or Transmitting Hiv
Yes. Viral load is the amount of HIV in the blood of someone who has HIV. If taken as prescribed, HIV medicine can reduce a persons HIV viral load very low level, which keeps the immune system working and prevents illness. This is called viral suppression, defined as having less than 200 copies of HIV per milliliter of blood.
HIV medicine can also make the viral load so low that a standard lab test cant detect it. This is called having an undetectable level viral load. Almost everyone who takes HIV medicine as prescribed can achieve an undetectable viral load, usually within 6 months after starting treatment.
As noted above, people with HIV who take HIV medicine as prescribed and get and keep an undetectable viral load can live long and healthy lives and will not transmit HIVto their HIV-negative partnersthrough sex.
HIV medicine is a powerful tool for preventing sexual transmission of HIV. But it works only if the HIV-positive partner gets and keeps an undetectable viral load. Not everyone taking HIV medicine has an undetectable viral load. To stay undetectable, people with HIV must take HIV medicine as prescribed and visit their health care provider regularly to get a viral load test. Learn more.