Letting Partners Know You Have Hiv
If you have just been diagnosed with HIV, it will likely be a difficult time. You might still be struggling to come to terms with diagnosis.
During this time, it is important to let any sexual or injecting partners know they may have been exposed to HIV as soon as you can, so they can be tested and offered PEP if appropriate.
You do not have to do this alone. Your doctor or the Department of Health and Human Services Partner Notification Officers can help you through this process and ensure your identity is not revealed.. Both groups can provide information, support, and guidance for people living with HIV.
Stage : Acute Primary Infection
The early symptoms of HIV can feel like having the flu. Around one to four weeks after getting HIV, you may start to experience these flu-like symptoms. These normally dont last long . You may only get some of the symptoms and some people dont have any symptoms at all.
Symptoms can include:
- joint aches and pains
- muscle pain.
These symptoms happen because your body is reacting to the HIV virus. Cells that are infected with HIV are circulating throughout your blood system. In response, your immune system tries to attack the virus by producing HIV antibodies this process is called seroconversion. Timing varies but once you have HIV it can take your body up to a few months to go through the seroconversion process.
Having these symptoms alone does not mean you definitely have HIV. The only way to know if you have HIV is by taking a test. You should always visit your healthcare professional if youre worried about or think youve been at risk of getting HIV, even if you feel well and dont have any symptoms. They can then arrange for you to get tested.
HIV will not always show up in a test at this early stage, and you may need to test again later to confirm your result . Your healthcare professional will talk to you about the timing of your test and answer any concerns. Its important not delay speaking to a healthcare worker if you are worried about HIV.
Effects On The Immune System
HIV primarily affects the body by targeting and damaging cells in the immune system. The immune system protects the body against viruses, bacteria, and fungi.
After attaching itself to a type of white blood cell called a CD4 T cell, the virus merges with it. These T cells are an important part of the immune system.
Once inside the CD4 T cell, the virus multiplies. It damages or destroys the cell, then moves on and targets other cells.
A persons CD4 T-cell count is an indication of the health of their immune system.
A healthy CD4 T-cell count is 5001,600 cells/mm3 of blood. If a person does not receive treatment for HIV, their CD4 T-cell count drops over time.
When it drops below 200 cells/mm3, the persons immune system is significantly impaired, making them more susceptible to opportunistic infections.
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What You Can Do
If a healthcare provider makes an HIV diagnosis, they will help determine the best treatment. Treatments have become more effective over the years, making the virus more manageable.
Treatment can start right away to reduce or limit the amount of damage to the immune system. Taking medication to suppress the virus to undetectable levels in the blood also makes it virtually impossible to transmit the virus to someone else.
If a person receives a negative test result but isnt sure if its accurate, they should get retested. A healthcare provider can help determine what to do in this situation.
What Are The Factors That Affect Disease Progression
The most important factor affecting HIV progression is the ability to achieve viral suppression. Taking antiretroviral therapy regularly helps many people slow the progression of HIV and reach viral suppression.
However, a variety of factors affect HIV progression, and some people progress through the phases of HIV more quickly than others.
Factors that affect HIV progression can include:
- Ability to achieve viral suppression. Whether someone can take their antiretroviral medications and achieve viral suppression is the most important factor by far.
- Age when symptoms start. Being older can result in faster progression of HIV.
- Health before treatment. If a person had other diseases, such as tuberculosis, hepatitis C, or other sexually transmitted diseases , it can affect their overall health.
- Timing of diagnosis. Another important factor is how soon a person was diagnosed after they contracted HIV. The longer between their diagnosis and treatment, the more time the disease has to progress unchecked.
- Lifestyle. Practicing an unhealthy lifestyle, such as having a poor diet and experiencing severe stress, can cause HIV to progress more quickly.
- Genetic history. Some people seem to progress more quickly through their disease given their genetic makeup.
Some factors can delay or slow the progression of HIV. These include:
Living a healthy lifestyle and seeing a healthcare provider regularly can make a big difference in a persons overall health.
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Hiv Testing And Your Rights
Testing for HIV is voluntary and can only be done with your informed consent, except in exceptional circumstances.
Before you are tested, you will be provided with information about what is involved. what the results might mean for you, and how to prevent HIV transmission in the future. All people who request an HIV test must receive this information from the test provider.
Under Australian and Victorian law, it is unlawful to discriminate against anyone who has HIV. Test results, and details on whether someone has been tested are strictly confidential. It is illegal for any information about a person being tested or a person with HIV to be disclosed without their permission.
What Should I Know Before I Start Pep
When you go to the hospital or clinic, you will be asked to have an HIV test. Taking an HIV test at this time will let you know if you already have HIV or not. It is your choice whether or not to take the HIV test.
There may be a cost for PEP and it may be covered by your health insurance. Ask your provider about costs for PEP before starting it.
PEP combines three HIV drugs that you take for four weeks. Some HIV drugs may not be safe for pregnant women. Be sure to let the doctor or health care worker know if you may be pregnant so that they know which drugs to give you.
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If I’ve Had Sex That Put Me At Risk How Soon Should I Get Tested
Most experts recommend waiting to be tested until three months after having sex that put you at risk. That’s because it may take that long to develop antibodies that can be found by testing. There are, though, some newer tests that may provide results sooner. Discuss your timing for having tests with your doctor.
It’s important to avoid risky behaviors during that three-month period. If you think you are infected, see a doctor right away. They can help guide you in the testing.
Treatment To Prevent Hiv Infection
Health care workers who are at risk for HIV because of an accidental needle stick or other exposure to body fluids may need medicine to prevent infection.footnote 13
Medicine may also prevent HIV infection in a person who has been raped or was accidentally exposed to the body fluids of a person who may have HIV.footnote 14 This type of treatment is usually started within 72 hours of the exposure.
Studies have shown that treatment with antiretroviral medicine also can reduce the risk of an uninfected person getting infected through sex.footnote 15, footnote 16
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How Often Do You Need To Get Tested For Hiv
How often you should get tested depends on your personal practices, risk behaviours, and how often you engage in them.
For most people, it is important to have a full sexual health test at least once each year. This testing includes:
Even if you always use condoms, it is recommended you get tested annually as condoms dont provide 100% protection against HIV and STIs.
What Is Risky Sex
Risky sex is sex that may lead to infection of an HIV-negative individual. There are many ways to decrease the risk of HIV infection, like taking HIV medications every day, or using PrEP, or using condoms or other latex barriers during sex.
HIV is passed through body fluids such as semen, vaginal, or anal fluid, or blood. The less contact you have with these, the lower the risk. The most sensitive areas where these fluids are risky are in the vagina or anus and rectum . The protective tissue there is thin, and is easily torn, which makes it easier for the virus to enter your body. Saliva and tears aren’t as risky.
In general, vaginal or anal sex without a condom is the most risky.
Here is a list of sexual activities organized by level of risk to help you and your partner make decisions:
- Anal sex without a condom
- Vaginal sex without a condom
- Sex with a condom when you use it correctly
- Oral sex, but don’t swallow semen
- Deep kissing
- Sharing sex toys that have been cleaned or covered with a new condom between uses
- Cyber sex
- Using sex toys that you don’t share
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If You’re Feeling Depressed
It’s normal to feel as though you’re not coping at times, to stop enjoying being with friends and family, or to feel sad or have trouble sleeping.
But if these feelings last a long time or you continue to feel overwhelmed by them, you may have depression.
Get help as soon as possible as you may need treatment.
Your HIV clinic, local mental health services or GP can all help you.
Telling People You’re Hiv Positive
Talking about what you’re going through can help, but think carefully about who you tell about your diagnosis.
Work out why you want to tell them and think of the potential consequences .
If you decide to tell them, work out how you will answer any questions they might ask, such as “How did you get it?”
Find out more about telling people you’re HIV positive in the living with HIV section.
If your family or partner would like support to help them cope with your diagnosis, they can also contact HIV organisations.
You might also want to meet other people with HIV. Finding out how other people have coped with a positive diagnosis, and hearing about their experiences of living with HIV, can be helpful for some people.
There are support groups for people who have recently found out they’re HIV positive. Your HIV clinic, a GP or a helpline can let you know what’s available in your area.
There are also support groups for specific people, such as young people, women, gay people, people from Africa and people who are HIV negative and have a partner who is HIV positive.
The website healthtalk.org has videos and articles about people’s experiences of living with HIV, including getting an HIV diagnosis.
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How Hiv Is Not Spread
The virus doesn’t survive well outside the body. So HIV cannot be spread through casual contact with an infected person, such as by sharing drinking glasses, by casual kissing, or by coming into contact with the person’s sweat or urine.
It is now extremely rare in Canada or the United States for HIV to be transmitted by blood transfusions or organ transplants.
Gains And Losses In Life Years
Factors that influence life expectancy are either static or dynamic .
Static factors, like race or sexual orientation, influence life expectancy because they are ones people are often unable to escape. For example, high levels of poverty in Black communities combined with a lack of access to health care and high levels of HIV stigma take back many of the gains seen in White communities.
Dynamic factors, by comparison, have a strong cause-and-effect relation to survival times. For instance, treatment adherence is directly related to disease progression. The less adherence is maintained, the greater the risk of drug resistance and treatment failure. With each failure, a person loses more and more treatment options.
When looking at both static and dynamic risk factors, we can begin to identify where an individual can gain or lose life-years without even knowing it. Among them:
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Which Lab Tests Are Used To Make Decisions About Hiv Treatment
A health care provider reviews a persons lab test results to:
- Determine how far the persons HIV infection has advanced
Results from the following three lab tests help answer these questions.
CD4 countA CD4 count measures the number of CD4 cells in a sample of blood. CD4 cells are infection-fighting cells of the immune system. As HIV advances, a persons CD4 count drops, which indicates increasing damage to the immune system. Treatment with HIV medicines prevents HIV from destroying CD4 cells.
Viral loadA viral load test measures how much virus is in the blood . As HIV progresses to AIDS, a persons viral load increases. HIV medicines prevent HIV from multiplying, which reduces a persons viral load. A goal of HIV treatment is to keep a persons viral load so low that the virus cant be detected by a viral load test. This is known as having an undetectable viral load.
Once HIV treatment is started, the CD4 count and viral load are used to monitor whether the HIV medicines are controlling a persons HIV.
Drug-resistance testingHealth care providers consider many factors when recommending HIV medicines, including a persons drug resistance test results. Drug-resistance testing identifies which, if any, HIV medicines will not be effective against a persons strain of HIV.
The ClinicalInfo infographic What do my lab results mean? has more information about tests used to monitor HIV infection and treatment.
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.
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Stages Of The Hiv Lifecycle
Binding and fusion
HIV attaches to a T-helper cell. It then fuses to it and releases its genetic information into the cell.
The types of drugs that stop this stage of the lifecycle are called fusion or entry inhibitor drugs because they stop HIV from entering the cell.
Reverse transcription and integration
Once inside the T-helper cell, HIV converts its genetic material into HIV DNA, a process called reverse transcription. The new HIV DNA then enters the nucleus of the host cell and takes control of it.
The types of drugs that stop this stage of the lifecycle are called NRTIs , NNRTIs and integrase inhibitor drugs.
Transcription and translation
The infected T-helper cell then produces HIV proteins that are used to produce more HIV particles inside the cell.
Assembly, budding and maturation
The new HIV is put together and then released from the T-helper cell into the bloodstream to infect other cells and so the process begins again.
The type of drugs that stop this stage of the lifecycle are called protease inhibitor drugs.
Causes Of Hiv Infection
HIV is found in the body fluids of an infected person. This includes semen, vaginal and anal fluids, blood and breast milk.
It’s a fragile virus and does not survive outside the body for long.
HIV cannot be transmitted through sweat, urine or saliva.
The most common way of getting HIV in the UK is through having anal or vaginal sex without a condom.
Other ways of getting HIV include:
- sharing needles, syringes or other injecting equipment
- transmission from mother to baby during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding
The chance of getting HIV through oral sex is very low and will be dependent on many things, such as whether you receive or give oral sex and the oral hygiene of the person giving the oral sex.
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Take Time To Process The News
- Receiving an HIV diagnosis can be life changing. You may feel many emotionssadness, hopelessness, or anger.
- Allied health care providers and social service providers can help you work through the early stages of your diagnosis. They are often available at your health care providers office.
- Learn more about what a positive test result means.