How Do I Know If I Have Hiv
The only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested. Testing is relatively simple. You can ask your health care provider for an HIV test. Many medical clinics, substance abuse programs, community health centers, and hospitals offer them too.
To find an HIV testing location near you, use the HIV Services Locator.
HIV self-testing is also an option. Self-testing allows people to take an HIV test and find out their result in their own home or other private location. You can buy a self-test kit at a pharmacy or online. Some health departments or community-based organizations also provide self-test kits for a reduced cost or for free.
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.
The Global Hiv/aids Epidemic
HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is one of the worlds most serious public health challenges. But there is a global commitment to stopping new HIV infections and ensuring that everyone with HIV has access to HIV treatment.
According to UNAIDS:
Number of People with HIVThere were approximately 38.4 million people across the globe with HIV in 2020. Of these, 36.7 million were adults and 1.7 million were children . In addition, 54% were women and girls.
New HIV InfectionsAn estimated 1.5 million individuals worldwide acquired HIV in 2021, marking a 32% decline in new HIV infections since 2010. New HIV infections, or HIV incidence, refers to the estimated number of people who newly acquired HIV during a given period such as a year, which is different from the number of people diagnosed with HIV during a year. Of these 1.5 million new HIV infections:
- 1.3 million were among adults
- 160,000 were among children
HIV TestingApproximately 85% of people with HIV globally knew their HIV status in 2021. The remaining 15% did not know they had HIV and still needed access to HIV testing services. HIV testing is an essential gateway to HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support services.
- 85% knew their HIV status
- 75% were accessing ART
- 68% were virally suppressed
Perinatal TransmissionIn 2021, 81% of pregnant people with HIV had access to ART to prevent transmitting HIV to their babies during pregnancy and childbirth and to protect their own health.
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Hiv Doesnt Always Produce Symptoms
HIV usually causes flu-like symptoms about two to four weeks after transmission. This short period of time is called acute infection. The immune system brings the infection under control, leading to a period of latency.
The immune system cant completely eliminate HIV, but it can control it for a long time. During this latency period, which can last for years, a person with HIV may experience no symptoms at all. Without antiretroviral therapy, however, that person may develop AIDS and as a result will experience many symptoms associated with the condition.
Hiv And Aids Diagnosis
HIV tests check your blood or fluid from your mouth for antibodies that your body makes in response to the virus. You can take them at a doctorâs office, a community health center, a hospital, or at home.
When you have HIV, your doctor will keep an eye on how much of the virus is in your system. You might hear them call it your âviral load.â Two things will tell them if your infection has become AIDS:
- Your CD4 count. A person with a healthy immune system has 500 to 1,600 CD4 cells in a cubic millimeter of their blood. A person with AIDS has fewer than 200. This number is called your âCD4 count.â
- AIDS-defining infections. These are also called opportunistic infections. These generally happen in people who have a CD4 count below 200. Viruses, bacteria, or fungi that donât usually make healthy people sick can cause these infections in someone with HIV or AIDS.
How long it takes HIV to become AIDS is different for everyone. If you donât get treatment, it might take 10 to 15 years. With treatment, you may never have AIDS.
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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.
How Do I Know If I Have Aids
HIV disease becomes AIDS when your immune system is seriously damaged. If you have less than 200 CD4+ cells or if your CD4 percentage is less than 14%, you have AIDS. See for more information on CD4 cells. If you get an opportunistic infection, you have AIDS. There is an “official” list of opportunistic infections, put out by the Centers for Disease Control . The most common ones are:
- PCP , a lung infection, see
- KS , a skin cancer, see
- CMV , an infection that usually affects the eyes, see and
- Candida, a fungal infection that can cause thrush or infections in your throat or vagina, see .
AIDS-related symptoms also include serious weight loss, brain tumors, and other health problems. Without treatment, these opportunistic infections can kill you. The official CDC definition of AIDS is available at .
AIDS is different in every infected person. A few people may die in a few months after getting infected, but most live fairly normal lives for many years, even after they “officially” have AIDS. A few HIV-positive people stay healthy for many years even without taking antiretroviral medications .
Side Effects And Costs
Side effects of antiretroviral therapy vary and may include nausea, headache, and dizziness. These symptoms are often temporary and disappear with time.
Serious side effects can include swelling of the mouth and tongue and liver or kidney damage. If side effects are severe, the medications can be adjusted.
Costs for antiretroviral therapy vary according to geographic location and type of insurance coverage. Some pharmaceutical companies have assistance programs to help lower the cost.
To develop AIDS, a person has to have contracted HIV. But having HIV doesnt necessarily mean that someone will develop AIDS.
Cases of HIV progress through three stages:
- stage 1:acute stage, the first few weeks after transmission
- stage 2: clinical latency, or chronic stage
- stage 3: AIDS
As HIV lowers the CD4 cell count, the immune system weakens. A typical adults CD4 count is 500 to 1,500 per cubic millimeter. A person with a count below 200 is considered to have AIDS.
How quickly a case of HIV progresses through the chronic stage varies significantly from person to person. Without treatment, it can last up to a decade before advancing to AIDS. With treatment, it can last indefinitely.
Theres currently no cure for HIV, but it can be managed. People with HIV often have a near-normal lifespan with early treatment with antiretroviral therapy.
Also, treatment can typically help manage opportunistic infections.
HIV and AIDS are related, but theyre not the same thing.
Opportunistic Infections And Cancer
Stage 3 HIV reduces the bodys ability to combat a range of infections and associated complications and types of cancer.
Current treatment is often effective enough to keep many infections at bay. If a person with HIV does not receive treatment, latent infections that once caused minimal or no health problems can pose a serious risk. Doctors refer to these infections as opportunistic.
Below are some opportunistic infections that can signal to a doctor that a person has stage 3 HIV:
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How Can I Protect Myself
The best way to protect yourself from HIV is to not have sex and not share needles.
If you decide to have sex, reduce your risk of getting HIV by:
- using a condom every time you have sex
- getting tested for HIV and making sure all partners do too
- reducing the number of sexual partners you have
- getting tested and treated for STDs having an STD increases the risk of HIV infection
Understanding how HIV spreads can help you make safer choices about sex. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions about HIV and if you want to get tested.
If I Have Hiv How Can I Keep From Spreading It To Others
The best ways to keep from spreading HIV to others are many of the same ways you use to protect yourself:
- Let sexual partners and anyone you inject drugs with know that you have HIV.
- Follow your treatment plan and dont miss medications. If you have an undetectable viral load, you greatly reduce the risk of transmitting HIV through sex.
- Talk to your sexual partner about taking PrEP.
- Dont share needles or other equipment to inject drugs.
- Limit the number of sexual partners you have.
- If youre pregnant and have HIV, following your treatment plan, including ART medications, can reduce your risk of transmitting the virus to your child.
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How To Know Im At Risk Of Having Hiv
It is recommended to consult a doctor and get tested for persons, their spouses and children if they:
- Have multiple sexual partners.
- Complain of Sexually-Transmitted Infections .
- Use unsterile or shared needles .
- Had a contaminated blood transfusion.
- Were sexually assaulted or raped.
- Were born to mothers with HIV.
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.
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Treatment Options For Hiv
Treatment should begin as soon as possible after a diagnosis of HIV, regardless of viral load.
The main treatment for HIV is antiretroviral therapy, a combination of daily medications that stop the virus from reproducing. This helps protect CD4 cells, keeping the immune system strong enough to take measures against disease.
Antiretroviral therapy helps keep HIV from progressing to AIDS. It also helps reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to others.
When treatment is effective, the viral load will be undetectable. The person still has HIV, but the virus is not visible in test results.
However, the virus is still in the body. And if that person stops taking antiretroviral therapy, the viral load will increase again, and the HIV can again start attacking CD4 cells.
Prevalence And Distribution Of Hiv/aids
According to data published by the World Health Organization , about 36.7 million people were living with HIV, approximately 1.8 million people were newly infected with HIV, and about 1 million people died of HIV-related causes in 2016. Since 1981 about 35 million people have died from HIV infection. In the early 21st century, however, the annual number of new infections began to decrease, and since about 2005 the annual number of AIDS-related deaths globally has also declined. The latter trend has been largely due to improved access to treatment for the afflicted. Thus, there has been an increase in the overall number of people living with AIDS. Nonetheless, a 2016 United Nations report on AIDS suggested that the decline in annual new infections had plateaued, and disparities in HIV incidence, AIDS-related deaths, and access to treatment were evident within countries and between regions, different age groups, and males and females.
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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.
Hiv Doesnt Always Progress To Stage 3
HIV is a virus, and AIDS is the condition the virus may cause. An HIV infection doesnt necessarily progress to stage 3. In fact, many people with HIV live for years without developing AIDS. Thanks to advances in treatment, a person living with HIV can expect to live a near-normal life span.
While a person can have an HIV infection without having AIDS, anyone diagnosed with AIDS has already contracted HIV. Because there is no cure, the HIV infection never goes away, even if AIDS never develops.
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Hiv Treatment & Undetectable
Todays HIV treatments, called antiretroviral therapy or ART, are extremely effective. Some treatments are a single tablet. Long-acting injectable medications are likely to be approved and available soon. Medicine has come a long way since the first HIV treatment options became available in the 1990s.
There is still no functional cure for HIV, but ART can help people live long, healthy lives. Todays medications are provided in combinations that reduce a persons viral load to levels so low its undetectable. People who become undetectable cannot transmit the virus to others.
Viral load is a term that describes how much virus a person living with HIV has in their body.
Without HIV medications, the virus replicates which causes the amount of virus in the body to increase.
HIV medications prevent HIV from making copies of itself. Then, the amount of HIV in the body goes down.
To see how well HIV treatments are working, doctors and other providers measure the amount of virus in the blood and report a measurement called your viral load. Its simply a measurement of how many copies of the virus are in a single unit of blood.
A very low amount of virus may even be undetectable by viral load tests . A common undetectable level is < 20 copies per milliliter of blood. Low viral loads are those that are less than 200 copies per milliliter. Very high viral loads can be over 500,000 copies per milliliter.
How Is Hiv Diagnosed
HIV is diagnosed with either a test of your blood or your spit . You can take a test at home, in a healthcare providers office or at a location that provides testing in your community.
If your test comes back negative, no further testing is required if:
- You havent had a possible exposure in the previous three months before testing with any kind of test.
- You havent had a possible exposure within the window period for a test done with a blood draw.
If you have had a possible exposure within three months of testing, you should consider retesting to confirm the negative result.
If your test comes back positive, the lab may do follow-up tests to confirm the result.
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Hiv And Aids Treatment
More than 25 antiretroviral therapy drugs are approved to treat the virus. Your doctor will prescribe a mix of these medications.
The drugs will help stop HIV from making copies of itself. That will keep you healthy and lower your risk of spreading it.
Thereâs no cure for HIV or AIDS. ARTâs goal is to lower your viral load and keep your immune system healthy. The idea is to lower the viral load to âundetectableâ and keep it that way, by taking your medicine every day as prescribed.