Vaccines Are Safe For People Living With Hiv
According to the CDC, COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective for HIV-positive people as long as theyre not allergic to them. Is there any other reason not to get vaccinated?
Not that I can think of, DeMass said, unless their viral load is very, very high or their T-cell count is very, very low. Then maybe I would have them wait a little bit and then reevaluate.
One of the common misconceptions hes run into is patients who believe that a COVID-19 vaccine might give them COVID-19.
Theres no chance of that, according to DeMass, Im not injecting them with live vaccine.
Patients whose HIV is not under control are at greater risk of catching COVID-19, but they are at no greater risk of suffering any side effects from being immunized as far as we know with the data that we have in the last 18 months, DeMass said.
He urges reluctant patients to roll of their sleeves and get the shot. The Utah AIDS Foundation is also recommending its clients heed CDC advice and get vaccinated.
I sing this song all day long. What have you got to lose? DeMass said. And he has an answer for patients who are worried about possible long term side effects for a vaccine thats less than a year old.
Im like, Well, I dont have the scientific data right now for 10 years, 15 years, 30 years from now, he said. But I can tell you that if youre admitted to the ICU and put on a ventilator and youre not responding, youll expire in seven to 10 days. Thats what you have to lose.
What We Know About Vaginal Sex
When a woman has vaginal sex with a partner who has HIV, HIV can enter her body through the mucous membranes that line the vagina and cervix. Most women who get HIV get it from vaginal sex. Even if a womans male partner withdraws or pulls out before ejaculating, she can still get infected because pre-seminal fluid can carry HIV.
On average, an HIV-negative woman has about a 1 in 1,250 chance of getting HIV every time she has vaginal sex with a man who has HIV.
On average, a woman with HIV has about a 1 in 2,500 chance of transmitting HIV every time she has vaginal sex with an HIV-negative man.
For an HIV-negative woman, anal sex is about 17 times more risky than vaginal sex for getting HIV from a partner with HIV.
For a woman with HIV, anal sex is about 3 times more risky than vaginal sex for transmitting HIV to an HIV-negative partner.
If the partner with HIV takes HIV medicine as prescribed, and gets and keeps an undetectable viral load , their partner has effectively no risk of getting HIV through sex. See how receptive vaginal sex compares to other sexual activities here.
On average, an HIV-negative man has about a 1 in 2,500 chance of getting HIV every time he has vaginal sex with a woman who has HIV.
On average, a man with HIV has about a 1 in 1,250 chance of transmitting HIV every time he has vaginal sex with an HIV-negative woman.
Can You Get Hiv Through Oral Sex
The risk of HIV from oral sex is very small unless you or your partner have large open sores on the genital area or bleeding gums/sores in your mouth.
There is only a slightly increased risk if a woman being given oral sex is HIV-positive and is menstruating. However, you can always use a dental dam to eliminate these risks.
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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
How Is Hiv Diagnosed
A doctor may suspect HIV if symptoms last and no other cause can be found.
If a test on urine or saliva shows that you are infected with HIV, you will probably have a blood test to confirm the results.
Most doctors use a blood test to diagnose HIV infection. If the test is positive , a test to detect HIV DNA or RNA will be done to be sure.
HIV antibodies may show up in the blood as early as 2 to 4 weeks after contact but can also take as long as 3 to 6 months to show up in the blood. If you think you have been exposed to HIV but you test negative for it:
- Get tested again. A repeat test can be done after a few weeks to be sure you are not infected.
- Meanwhile, take steps to prevent the spread of the virus, in case you do have it.
You can get HIV testing in most doctors’ offices, public health units, hospitals, and HIV care clinics.
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Implications For Hiv Transmission And Prevention
Anal sex is a common practice among men who have sex with men, heterosexual men and women, and transgender individuals and is a known risk factor for HIV infection and transmission.11,12,13,14 In a recent nationally representative survey of almost 6,000 men and women in the United States , approximately 20% of women between the ages of 18 to 39 reported engaging in anal sex in the past year, as did approximately 25% of men between the ages of 25 to 49.15
Rectal fluid has implications for HIV transmission through anal sex when the HIV-negative person is the insertive partner . Research show that this type of anal sex can carry a significant risk of HIV transmission. In fact, the average risk of HIV infection through a single act of condomless insertive anal sex with an HIV-positive partner is slightly higher than through vaginal sex but much lower than if the HIV-negative person takes the receptive role during anal sex.16,17
Rectal fluid undoubtedly contributes to the risk of HIV transmission through anal sex where the insertive partner is HIV negative. We know that for HIV transmission to be possible, a fluid that contains HIV must come into contact with specific parts of the body that are vulnerable to HIV infection. If an HIV-negative person has insertive anal sex with an HIV-positive partner, rectal fluid containing HIV can come into contact with the urethra and/or the penis foreskin. Both the urethra and foreskin are vulnerable to HIV infection.
What We Know About Hormone And Steroid Injecting
Hormone and steroid injections can be done safely by a health care provider. But theres a chance that someone can get or transmit HIV if an HIV-negative person uses needles, syringes, or other injection equipment after someone with HIV has used them. This is because the needles, syringes, or other injection equipment may have blood in them, and blood can carry HIV. Likewise, youre at risk for getting or transmitting hepatitis B and C if you share syringes because these infections are also transmitted through blood.
More Information About 1 out of every 10 HIV diagnoses in the United States is among people who inject drugs. This includes gay and bisexual men who inject drugs. On average, an HIV-negative person has a 1 in 420 chance of getting HIV from a needlestick if the needle or syringe contains HIV-infected blood.
More Information There may be extremely tiny amounts of blood in syringes or works that you may not be able to see, but could still carry HIV. Be aware that HIV can survive in a used syringe for up to 42 days depending on temperature and other factors.
There are medicines to treat hepatitis B. If youve never had hepatitis B, theres a vaccine to prevent it. There are medicines to treat hepatitis C, but they arent right for everyone. Theres no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C. Talk to your health care provider to learn more about hepatitis B and C.
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Estimating Transmission Risk By Exposure Type
When discussing HIV risk, it’s important to first establish the four conditions that must take place in order for HIV transmission to occur:
Determining whether an activity is “high risk” or “low risk” is, therefore, dependent upon how efficiently an activity satisfies each of these four conditions.
Ways Hiv Is Not Transmitted
How well does HIV survive outside the body?
HIV does not survive long outside the human body , and it cannot reproduce outside a human host. It is not transmitted
- Through saliva, tears, or sweat.
- Through other sexual activities that dont involve the exchange of body fluids .
- Through the air.
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Hiv Transmission Can Occur After Only One Exposure
Assigning an actual percentage to the “riskiness” of a certain activity is a tricky business. While statistics may suggest that there is only a 1-in-200 chance of getting infected by such-and-such activity, that doesn’t mean you cant get infected after only one exposure.
Instead, a 0.5% “per exposure” risk is meant to indicate that an average of one infection will occur out of 200 people who engage in a particular activity. It doesn’t mean that you need to do something 200 times in order to get infected.
It’s important to remember that risk estimates are based on two factors and two factors alonethat one person has HIV and the other doesn’t. Additional co-factors, such as co-existing sexually transmitted infections , general health, and the infected person’s viral load, can further compound risk until a low-risk activity is suddenly considerably higher.
Testing For Drug Resistance
HIV often changes or mutates in the body. Sometimes these changes make the virus resistant to certain medicines. Then the medicine no longer works.
Medical experts recommend testing the blood of everyone diagnosed with HIV to look for this drug resistance.footnote 8 This information helps your doctor know what medicines to use.
You also may be tested for drug resistance when:
- You are ready to begin treatment.
- You’ve been having treatment and your viral load numbers stop going down.
- You’ve been having treatment and your viral load numbers become detectable after not being detectable.
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Are There Any Issues That Affect Hiv Treatment In Women
Treatment with HIV medicines is recommended for everyone with HIV. Treatment with HIV medicines helps people with HIV live longer, healthier lives. ART also reduces the risk of HIV transmission.
People should start taking HIV medicines as soon as possible after HIV is diagnosed. However, birth control and pregnancy are two issues that can affect HIV treatment in women.
Some HIV medicines may reduce the effectiveness of hormonal contraceptives, such as birth control pills, patches, rings, or implants. Women taking certain HIV medicines may have to use an additional or different form of birth control. For more information, view the HIV and Birth Control infographic from HIVinfo.
Women with HIV take HIV medicines during pregnancy and childbirth to reduce the risk of perinatal transmission of HIV and to protect their own health.
The choice of an HIV treatment regimen to use during pregnancy depends on several factors, including a womans current or past use of HIV medicines, other medical conditions she may have, and the results of drug-resistance testing. In general, pregnant women with HIV can use the same HIV treatment regimens recommended for non-pregnant adultsunless the risk of any known side effects to a pregnant woman or her baby outweighs the benefits of a regimen.
How Is It Treated
The standard treatment for HIV is a combination of medicines called antiretroviral therapy, or ART. Antiretroviral medicines slow the rate at which the virus multiplies.
Taking these medicines can reduce the amount of virus in your body and help you stay healthy.
To monitor the HIV infection and its effect on your immune system, a doctor will regularly do two tests:
- Viral load, which shows the amount of virus in your blood
- CD4+ cell count, which shows how well your immune system is working
After you start treatment, it’s important to take your medicines exactly as directed by your doctor. When treatment doesn’t work, it is often because HIV has become resistant to the medicine. This can happen if you don’t take your medicines correctly.
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No 4 Having Vaginal Sex : 1 In 1250
Most women who get HIV are infected through vaginal sex. In such cases, an HIV-positive man transmits the virus to his female partner through preseminal fluid or ejaculate, which allows HIV to pass through the linings of the vagina and cervix.
- Reduce the risk. In theory, withdrawal practiced as a safety measure may help reduce a womans risk of contracting HIV from an HIV-positive partner, but because the virus can be found in preseminal fluids, the method may not be effective. Using condoms, however, can help lower the odds of transmitting HIV by 80 percent or more, according to the World Health Organization.
What Are The Symptoms Of Hiv
Many people do not notice symptoms when they first acquire HIV. It can take as little as a few weeks for minor, flu-like symptoms to show up, or more than 10 years for more serious symptoms to appear, or any time in between. Signs of early HIV infection include flu-like symptoms such as headache, muscle aches, swollen glands, sore throat, fevers, chills, and sweating, and can also include a rash or mouth ulcers. Symptoms of later-stage HIV or AIDS include swollen glands, lack of energy, loss of appetite, weight loss, chronic or recurrent diarrhea, repeated yeast infections, short-term memory loss, and blotchy lesions on the skin, inside the mouth, eyelids, nose, or genital area.
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What You Can Do
Not having sex is a 100% effective way to make sure you dont get or transmit HIV through sex. If youre sexually active, you can lower your risk by choosing sexual activities that carry a lower risk for HIV than anal sex. You can also do other things to reduce your risk, including taking medicine to prevent or treat HIV and using condomsthe right way, every time. Condoms and medicine to prevent or treat HIV are highly effective at preventing HIV if used correctly. But the medicines are much less effective if you dont take them daily as prescribed, and condoms can sometimes break or come off during anal sex. Using a water-based or silicone lubricant can help prevent condoms from breaking or slipping.
Talking openly and frequently with your partner about sex can help you make decisions that decrease your risk of getting or transmitting HIV. Learn more about how to get the conversation started.
Certain things about your sex and injection partners can put you at increased risk for getting or transmitting HIV. Explore Estimate the HIV Risk to learn more.
Explore other resources from CDC:
Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet to keep your immune system strong. A heart-healthy diet can help prevent some of the problems, such as high cholesterol, that can be caused by treatment for HIV.footnote 24
- Learn how to deal with the weight loss that HIV infection can cause.
- Learn how to handle food properly to avoid getting a foodborne illness. For more information, see the topic Foodborne Illness and Safe Food Handling.
- Exercise regularly to reduce stress and improve the quality of your life. Take steps to help prevent HIV-related fatigue.
- Don’t smoke. People with HIV are more likely to have a heart attack or get lung cancer.footnote 25, footnote 26 Cigarette smoking can raise these risks even more.
- Don’t use illegal drugs. And limit your use of alcohol.
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