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. You can also buy a home testing kit at a pharmacy or online.
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 free.
Read the U.S. Food and Drug Administrations fact sheet on the OraQuick In-Home HIV Test, the only FDA-approved in-home HIV test.
The coronavirus pandemic has made it more difficult for some people to access traditional places where HIV testing is provided. Self-testing allows people to get tested for HIV while still following stay-at-home orders and social distancing practices. Ask your local health department or HIV service organization if they offer self-testing kits.
What Are The Symptoms Of Hiv
Not everyone will have identical symptoms because it depends on the person and what stage of the disease they are in.
There are three stages of human immunodeficiency virus . Each stage has a unique set of symptoms. These include the following
Stage 1: Acute HIV infection
This stage starts around two to four weeks after getting HIV. The symptoms are similar to those of the flu, which last for a week or two. Symptoms include the following
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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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.
How Can I Keep From Getting Hiv
The best way to protect yourself is to avoid activities that put you at risk. There’s no way to tell by looking at someone if he or she has HIV. Always protect yourself. Use latex condoms whenever you have any type of sex .
- Don’t use condoms made from animal products.
- Use water-based lubricants .
- Never share needles to take drugs.
- Avoid getting drunk or high. Intoxicated people might be less likely to protect themselves.
- Consider getting testedit is really important to be aware of your HIV status.
If you are a healthcare worker, you are at a slightly higher risk of getting HIV from a needle-stick injury, skin contact with contaminated fluid or from human bites. You should follow universal precautions:
- Always wear protective equipment when dealing with blood and body fluids.
- Follow careful hand-washing guidelines when dealing with such fluids.
- Follow safe handling guidelines for needles and sharp instruments.
- Be aware of post-exposure policies at your workplace.
If you are in a relationship with a partner who has HIV, or you are at high risk for any other reason, consider using pre-exposure prophylaxis, commonly called PrEP. This means taking one of two medicines every day, emtricitabine-tenofovir or emtricitabine-tenofovir alafen .
If you are a person with HIV who is in a relationship with a person who is HIV-negative, you should also be on a medication regimen.
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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.
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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What Is Hiv What Is Aids
HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system, the body’s natural defence system. Without a strong immune system, the body has trouble fighting off disease. Both the virus and the infection it causes are called HIV.
White blood cells are an important part of the immune system. HIV infects and destroys certain white blood cells called CD4+ cells. If too many CD4+ cells are destroyed, the body can no longer defend itself against infection.
The last stage of HIV infection is AIDS . People with AIDS have a low number of CD4+ cells and get infections or cancers that rarely occur in healthy people. These can be deadly.
But having HIV doesn’t mean you have AIDS. Even without treatment, it takes a long time for HIV to progress to AIDSusually 10 to 12 years.
When HIV is diagnosed before it becomes AIDS, medicines can slow or stop the damage to the immune system. If AIDS does develop, medicines can often help the immune system return to a healthier state.
With treatment, many people with HIV are able to live long and active lives.
There are two types of HIV:
- HIV-1, which causes almost all the cases of AIDS worldwide
- HIV-2, which causes an AIDS-like illness. HIV-2 infection is uncommon in North America.
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. Taking HIV medicine daily as prescribed can make the viral load very lowso low that a test cant detect it .
People with HIV who take HIV medicine daily as prescribed and get and keep an undetectable viral load have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to an HIV-negative partner through sex.
HIV medicine is a powerful tool for preventing sexual transmission of HIV. But it works only as long as 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 every day as prescribed and visit their healthcare provider regularly to get a viral load test. Learn more.
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Avoiding Exposure To Relevant Body Fluids
To limit the risk of exposure to HIV, reduce contact with blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and other body fluids that can carry the virus.
Frequently and thoroughly washing the skin immediately after coming into contact with body fluids can also reduce the risk of infection.
To prevent transmission, healthcare workers use gloves, masks, protective eyewear, face shields, and gowns when exposure to these fluids is likely, and they follow established procedures.
What Do Test Results Mean
To understand what your test results mean, you first have to understand what kind of test is being used and what a “window period” is.
Most HIV screening tests look for HIV antigen or for HIV antibodies , or may look for both. Newer testing strategies use a combination antigen/antibody test. Some testing sites also use a test that looks for genetic material of the HIV virus.
The window period is the period between the time someone is first infected with the HIV virus and the time an HIV test can detect HIV infection. After someone has been infected with the virus it can take about 2 weeks for HIV antigen to be detectable with current antigen tests, and more than 3 weeks to produce enough HIV antibodies to be detected by antibody tests. In a very small number of people, the process takes up to several months.
During the window period, someone might be infected with HIV yet still have a negative result on an HIV test. Here’s how that can happen. Let’s say you have condomless sex on Saturday night and become infected with HIV. On Monday, you get an HIV test. The test almost certainly will come back negative, because there is not yet enough HIV antigen or HIV antibody for the tests to detect.
Newer methods of HIV testing are narrowing the time of the “window period” and reducing the chance of a falsely negative result.
When testing is completed, your provider will tell you the result. Possible results are:
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Talk With Your Hiv Health Care Provider
Talk with your health care provider about the benefits of HIV treatment and which HIV medication is right for you. Discuss how frequently you should get your viral load tested to make sure it remains undetectable.
If your lab results show that the virus is detectable or if you are having trouble taking every dose of your medication, you can still protect your HIV-negative partner by using other methods of preventing sexual transmission of HIV such as condoms, safer sex practices, and/or pre-exposure prophylaxis for an HIV-negative partner until your viral load is undetectable again.
Taking HIV medicine to maintain an undetectable viral load does not protect you or your partner from getting other sexually transmitted diseases , so talk to your provider about ways to prevent other STDs.
Can Hiv/aids Be Prevented
You can reduce the risk of spreading HIV by
- Getting tested for HIV
- Choosing less risky sexual behaviors. This includes limiting the number of sexual partners you have and using latex condoms every time you have sex. If your or your partner is allergic to latex, you can use polyurethane condoms.
- Getting tested and treated for sexually transmitted diseases
- Not injecting drugs
- Talking to your health care provider about medicines to prevent HIV:
- PrEP is for people who don’t already have HIV but are at very high risk of getting it. PrEP is daily medicine that can reduce this risk.
- PEP is for people who have possibly been exposed to HIV. It is only for emergency situations. PEP must be started within 72 hours after a possible exposure to HIV.
NIH: National Institutes of Health
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Rash Related To Medication
While rash can be caused by HIV co-infections, it can also be caused by medication. Some drugs used to treat HIV or other conditions can cause a rash.
This type of rash usually appears within a week or 2 weeks of starting a new medication. Sometimes the rash will clear up on its own. If it doesnt, a change in medications may be needed.
Rash due to an allergic reaction to medication can be serious.
Other symptoms of an allergic reaction include:
- trouble breathing or swallowing
Stevens-Johnson syndrome is a rare allergic reaction to HIV medication. Symptoms include fever and swelling of the face and tongue. A blistering rash, which can involve the skin and mucous membranes, appears and spreads quickly.
When 30 percent of the skin is affected, its called toxic epidermal necrolysis, which is a life threatening condition. If this develops, emergency medical care is needed.
While rash can be linked with HIV or HIV medications, its important to keep in mind that rashes are common and can have many other causes.
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.
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Medical Definition Of Aids
- Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
Reviewed on 3/29/2021
AIDS:Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, a syndrome caused by infection with the human immunodeficiency virus , with ensuing compromise of the body’s immune system. Features include deficiency of certain types of leukocytes, especially T cells infection with opportunistic infections that take advantage of the impaired immune response, such as tuberculosis, bacterial pneumonia, human herpes virus, or toxoplasmosis certain types of cancer, particularly Kaposi sarcoma inability to maintain body weight and in advanced cases, AIDSdementia complex. Treatment for AIDS has advanced rapidly. Antiviral, antibacterial, and immune-boosting medications, among other treatments, are part of current treatment protocols.
What Behaviors Are The Most Risky For Getting Or Transmitting Hiv
Since there is a fairly high number of people who have HIV and dont know it, you should be tested for HIV so you know your status. Being intoxicated is risky because you are more likely to engage in risky sex if you are drunk or high. In terms of sex acts, anal sex and vaginal intercourse are the most risky behaviors.
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How Can I Know If I Have Hiv
The only way to know if you have HIV is to take an HIV test. Many medical groups recommend routine voluntary HIV screening of all patients aged 18 to 75 years of age as a normal part of medical care. The reason for this is that nearly one out of seven people infected with HIV are not aware that they have the infection.
How Can You Tell If You Have Hiv
The only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested. You cant rely on symptoms to tell whether you have HIV.
Knowing your HIV status gives you powerful information so you can take steps to keep yourself and your partner healthy:
- If you test positive, you can take medicine to treat HIV. By taking HIV medicine daily as prescribed, you can make the amount of HIV in your blood very lowso low that a test cant detect it . Getting and keeping an undetectable viral load is the best thing you can do to stay healthy. If your viral load stays undetectable, you have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to an HIV-negative partner through sex.
- If you test negative, there are more HIV prevention tools available today than ever before.
- If you are pregnant, you should be tested for HIV so that you can begin treatment if you’re HIV-positive. If an HIV-positive woman is treated for HIV early in her pregnancy, the risk of transmitting HIV to her baby can be very low.
Use the HIV Services Locator to find an HIV testing site near you.
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, or your health care provider may be able to order one for you. Some health departments or community-based organizations also provide self-test kits for free.
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Do I Still Need To Use Condoms If Im Undetectable
Some couples decide that they want to stop using condoms once they or their partner are undetectable. Its important to remember that although theres no HIV risk, being undetectable doesnt prevent you from getting or passing on other sexually transmitted infections or stop unwanted pregnancies, so you will have to use other measures to avoid these.
If you do stop using condoms, its important that both you and your partner are comfortable with the decision. It can help to talk it through with a healthcare worker first. Its recommended that you have a least two viral load tests confirming that youre undetectable before relying on this for HIV prevention. If your partner is HIV-negative they may consider using PrEP as an extra precaution.
In couples where both partners are living with HIV, its important that you are both undetectable before deciding not to use condoms. This is because if one partner has a different strain of HIV or has developed drug resistance this can be passed on if they have a detectable viral load.