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 the right way every time or taking medicines to prevent or treat HIV. Anal sex is riskier than vaginal sex for HIV transmission. Learn more about the HIV risk associated with specific sexual activities.
- Sharing injection drug equipment, such as needles,syringes, or other drug injection equipment with someone who has HIV because these items may have blood in them, and blood can carry HIV. People who inject hormones, silicone, or steroids can also get or transmit HIV by sharing needles, syringes, or other injection equipment. Learn more about HIV and injection drug use.
Less common ways are:
- An HIV-positive person transmitting HIV to their baby during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding. However, the use of HIV medicines and other strategies have helped lower the risk of perinatal transmission of HIV to less than 1% in the United States. Learn more.
- Being exposed to HIV through a needlestick or sharps injury. This is a risk mainly for health care workers. The risk is very low.
HIV is spread only in extremely rare cases by:
How Do You Get Aids
You don’t actually “get” AIDS. You might get infected with HIV, and later you might develop AIDS. You can get infected with HIV from anyone who’s infected, even if they don’t look sick and even if they haven’t tested HIV-positive yet. The blood, vaginal fluid, semen, and breast milk of people infected with HIV has enough of the virus in it to infect other people. Most people get the HIV virus by:
- having sex with an infected person
- sharing a needle with someone who’s infected
- being born when their mother is infected, or drinking the breast milk of an infected woman.
Getting a transfusion of infected blood used to be a way people got AIDS, but now the blood supply is screened very carefully and the risk is extremely low.
There are no documented cases of HIV being transmitted by tears or saliva, but it is possible to be infected with HIV through oral sex or in rare cases through deep kissing, especially if you have open sores in your mouth or bleeding gums. For more information, see the following Fact Sheets:
In the mid-1990s, AIDS was a leading cause of death. However, newer treatments have cut the AIDS death rate significantly. For more information, see the U.S. Government fact sheet at www.cdc.gov/hiv/library/factsheets/index.html.
What Are The Stages Of Hiv
HIV has three stages:
Stage 1: Acute HIV
Some people get flu-like symptoms a month or two after theyve been infected with HIV. These symptoms often go away within a week to a month.
Stage 2: Chronic stage/clinical latency
After the acute stage, you can have HIV for many years without feeling sick. It’s important to know that you can still spread HIV to others even if you feel well.
Stage 3: AIDS
AIDS is the most serious stage of HIV infection. In this stage, HIV has severely weakened your immune system and opportunistic infections are much more likely to make you sick.
Opportunistic infections are ones that someone with a healthy immune system could typically fight off. When HIV has advanced to AIDS, these illnesses take advantage of your weakened immune system.
Youre more likely to get certain cancers when you have AIDS. These cancers and opportunistic infections together are called AIDS-defining illnesses.
To be diagnosed with AIDS, you must be infected with HIV and have at least one of the following:
- Fewer than 200 CD4 cells per cubic millimeter of blood .
- An AIDS-defining illness.
You May Like: Can Someone With Hiv Donate Blood
Stage : Clinical Latency
In this stage, the virus still multiplies, but at very low levels. People in this stage may not feel sick or have any symptoms. This stage is also called chronic HIV infection.
Without HIV treatment, people can stay in this stage for 10 or 15 years, but some move through this stage faster.
If you take HIV medicine exactly as prescribed and get and keep an undetectable viral load, you can live and long and healthy life and will not transmit HIV to your HIV-negative partners through sex.
But if your viral load is detectable, you can transmit HIV during this stage, even when you have no symptoms. Its important to see your health care provider regularly to get your viral load checked.
How Is Hiv Treated
Treatments for HIV typically involve antiretroviral therapy. This isnt a specific regimen, but instead a combination of three or four drugs. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has currently approved nearly 50 different medications to treat HIV.
Antiretroviral therapy works to prevent the virus from copying itself. This maintains immunity levels while slowing the progression of HIV.
Before prescribing medication, a healthcare provider will take the following factors into consideration:
- a persons health history
- the levels of the virus in the blood
HIV doesnt cause a lot of outward or noticeable symptoms until the disease has progressed. For this reason, its important to understand how HIV is transmitted and the ways to prevent transmission.
HIV can be transmitted by:
- having sex, including oral, vaginal, and anal sex
- sharing needles, including tattoo needles, needles used for body piercing, and needles used for injecting drugs
- coming into contact with body fluids, such as semen, vaginal fluid, blood, and breast milk
HIV is not transmitted by:
- breathing the same air as a person living with HIV
- getting bitten by a mosquito or other biting insect
- hugging, holding hands with, kissing, or touching a person living with HIV
- touching a door handle or toilet seat thats been used by an HIV-positive person
Keeping this in mind, some of the ways a person can prevent HIV include:
Symptoms can take years to appear, which is why its so important to get tested regularly.
Recommended Reading: Can Chlamydia Turn Into Hiv
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.
How Are These Disorders Diagnosed
Based on an individuals medical history and findings from a general physical exam, a physician will conduct a thorough neurological exam to assess various functions: motor and sensory skills, nerve function, hearing and speech, vision, coordination and balance, mental status, and changes in mood or behavior. The physician may order laboratory tests andone or more of the following procedures to help diagnose neurological complications of AIDS.
Brain imaging can reveal signs of brain inflammation, tumors and CNS lymphomas, nerve damage, bleeding, white matter irregularities, and other abnormalities. Several painless imaging procedures are used to help diagnose neurological complications of AIDS.
- Computed tomography uses x-rays and a computer to produce two-dimensional images of bone and tissue to show inflammation, certain brain tumors and cysts, brain damage from head injury, and other abnormalities. It provides more details than an x-ray alone.
- Magnetic resonance imaging uses a computer-generated radio waves, and a powerful magnetic field to produce either a detailed three-dimensional picture or a two-dimensional slice of body structures, including tissues, organs, bones, and nerves. It does not use the ionizing radiation that an x-ray does and provides a better look at tissue located near bone.
Don’t Miss: Is There Any Cure For Hiv
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.
Stages Of Hiv Infection
About a month after you get HIV, you might feel like you have the flu. This is the first stage, called primary or acute HIV infection. Symptoms include:
- Swollen lymph nodes
The next stage is called clinical latency, or chronic infection. You might have no symptoms, or only mild ones, for 10 years or more.
Without treatment, as HIV keeps multiplying inside your body, youâll move into the third stage, which is AIDS. A person who has HIV is diagnosed with AIDS when they have fewer than 200 CD4 cells per cubic millimeter of blood or when they get whatâs called an AIDS-defining condition.
AIDS-defining conditions are certain cancers and illnesses called opportunistic infections.
Don’t Miss: Can I Get Hiv If Someone Is Undetectable
How Do You Get Hiv
HIV is carried in semen , vaginal fluids, anal mucus, blood, and breast milk. The virus gets in your body through cuts or sores in your skin, and through mucous membranes . You can get HIV from:
having vaginal or anal sex
sharing needles or syringes for shooting drugs, piercings, tattoos, etc.
getting stuck with a needle that has HIV-infected blood on it
getting HIV-infected blood, semen , or vaginal fluids into open cuts or sores on your body
HIV is usually spread through having unprotected sex. Using condoms and/or dental dams every time you have sex and not sharing needles can help protect you and your partners from HIV. If you do have HIV, treatment can lower or even stop the chances of spreading the virus to other people during sex. If you dont have HIV, theres also a daily medicine called PrEP that can protect you from HIV.
HIV can also be passed to babies during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding. A pregnant woman with HIV can take medicine to greatly reduce the chance that her baby will get HIV.
HIV isnt spread through saliva , so you CANT get HIV from kissing, sharing food or drinks, or using the same fork or spoon. HIV is also not spread through hugging, holding hands, coughing, or sneezing. And you cant get HIV from a toilet seat.
Can Hiv Be Prevented Or Avoided
The best way to prevent HIV is to not have sex with a person who has HIV, or share a needle with a person who has HIV. However, there is also a medicine called PrEP that people can take before coming into contact with HIV that can prevent them from getting an HIV infection.
PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis. It is for people who are at long-term risk of getting HIV either through sexual activity or by injecting drugs. If youre taking PrEP and come into contact with HIV, the medicine makes it difficult for HIV to develop inside your body.
Other ways to prevent HIV include:
- When you have sex, practice safer sex by using a condom. The best condom is a male latex condom. A female condom is not as effective but does offer some protection.
- Do not share needles and syringes.
- Never let someone elses blood, semen, urine, vaginal fluid, or feces get into your anus, vagina, or mouth.
Also Check: What Are The Two Types Of Hiv Testing
Hiv Effects On The Eyes
Some eye problems are mild, but others can be severe enough to cause blindness. Some of the most common are infections that can lead to bleeding in your retina and retinal detachment. About 7 in 10 people with untreated AIDS will have AIDS-related trouble with their eyes, usually because of cytomegalovirus.
You may not have any symptoms until the problems are far along, so if you have advanced HIV, it’s important to get regular eye exams. Call your doctor if your vision changes, including if:
- You get blurry or double vision.
- Colors don’t look right.
Respiratory And Cardiovascular Systems
HIV makes it hard to fight off respiratory problems such as the common cold and flu. In turn, an HIV-positive person may develop related infections, such as pneumonia.
Without treatment for HIV, advanced disease puts an HIV-positive person at an even greater risk for infectious complications, such as tuberculosis and a fungal infection called pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia .
PJP causes trouble breathing, cough, and fever.
The risk of lung cancer also increases with HIV. This is due to weakened lungs from numerous respiratory issues related to a weakened immune system.
According to available research , lung cancer is more prevalent among people with HIV compared to people without it.
People with HIV are more likely to develop high blood pressure. HIV also raises the risk of pulmonary arterial hypertension . PAH is a type of high blood pressure in the arteries that supply blood to the lungs. Over time, PAH will strain the heart and can lead to heart failure.
If a person has HIV with a low CD4 count, theyre also more susceptible to tuberculosis .
TB is an airborne bacterium that affects the lungs. Its a leading cause of death in people who have AIDS. Symptoms include chest pain and a bad cough that may contain blood or phlegm. The cough can linger for months.
Also Check: How Do Gay Men Get Aids
Where Can I Get More Information
For more information on neurological disorders or research programs funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, contact the Institute’s Brain Resources and Information Network at:
Office of Communications and Public LiaisonNational Institute of Neurological Disorders and StrokeNational Institutes of HealthDepartment of Health and Human ServicesBethesda, MD 20892
NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient’s medical history.
What Happens If I’m Hiv Positive
You might not know if you are infected by HIV. Within a few weeks after being infected, some people get fever, headache, sore muscles and joints, stomach ache, swollen lymph glands, or a skin rash for one or two weeks. Most people think it’s the flu. Some people have no symptoms. has more information on the early stage of HIV infection.
The virus will multiply in your body for a few weeks or even months before your immune system responds. During this time, you won’t test positive for HIV, but you can infect other people.
When your immune system responds, it starts to make antibodies. When this happens, you will test positive for HIV. After the first flu-like symptoms, some people with HIV stay healthy for ten years or longer. But during this time, HIV is damaging your immune system.
One way to measure the damage to your immune system is to count your CD4+ cells. These cells, also called “T-helper” cells, are an important part of the immune system. Healthy people have between 500 and 1,500 CD4 cells in a milliliter of blood. has more information on CD4 cells.
Without treatment, your CD4 cell count will most likely go down. You might start having signs of HIV disease like fevers, night sweats, diarrhea, or swollen lymph nodes. If you have HIV disease, these problems will last more than a few days, and probably continue for several weeks.
Don’t Miss: When Does Treatment Of Hiv Typically Begin
Can Hiv Be Prevented
To reduce the risk of getting HIV, people who are sexually active should:
- use a latex condom every time they have sex
- get tested for HIV and make sure all partners do too
- reduce their number of sexual partners
- get tested and treated for STDs having an STD increases the risk of getting infected with HIV. To find a testing site, visit the CDC’s National HIV and STD Testing Resources.
- consider taking a medicine every day if they are at very high risk of getting infected
- Do not inject drugs or share any kind of needle.
- Do not share razors or other personal objects that may touch blood.
- Do not touch anyone else’s blood from a cut or sore.