Questions To Ask Your Doctor
- Is there any sure way to avoid acquiring HIV?
- What is the best treatment for me?
- How can I avoid getting any infections that will make me very sick?
- How can I find support groups in my community?
- What diagnostic tests will you run?
- How often will I need to see my doctor?
- Will there be any side effects to my treatment?
- How does this affect my plans for having a family?
- Is it safe for me to breastfeed my baby?
- Will using a condom keep my sex partners from acquiring HIV?
- Should I follow a special diet?
Why Might People Living With Hiv Get Tested For Hiv
Because we connect with every single person who tests positive at one of our locations, we always ask why people get tested for HIV if theyve already been diagnosed in the past.
It happens for many reasons: People may test with a partner they havent yet disclosed to, they may have mental health concerns that come into play, or they need a letter of diagnosis to access services . Sometimes its because they are confused about the kind of information an HIV test will provide.
Now that weknow undetectable equals untransmittable , some people may have the misconception thatif youre undetectable, you will no longer test positive for HIV. They may think that if they test HIV-negative on an HIV test, theyll be able to show this to their sex partners as a way to prove that theyre undetectable and untransmittable. Or, they may think it will be easier to tell partners theyre HIV-negative rather than undetectable and uninfectious.
If you are living with HIV and have an undetectable viral load, you will still test positive for HIV. But, if you are living with HIV, have been taking HIV medications every day as directed, have a durably suppressed viral load and have been undetectable for at least six months, you will not transmit HIV to sex partners. You are not infectious. Thats the meaning of U=U.
Heres why you will still test positive for HIV even if you are undetectable.
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.
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Symptoms And Stages Of Hiv Infection
- There are three stages of HIV infection. The symptoms vary in type and severity from person-to-person.
- Stage 1 after initial infection can feel like flu but not everyone will experience this.
- Stage 2 is when many people start to feel better and may last for 10 years or more. During this time a person may have no symptoms.
- Stage 3 is when a persons immune system is very badly damaged and can no longer fight off serious infections and illnesses.
- The earlier a person is diagnosed with HIV and starts treatment, the better their health will be over time.
- Some people dont get any symptoms during stages 1 and 2, and may not know they have the virus, but they can still pass on HIV.
The signs of HIV infection can vary in type and severity from person-to-person, and some people may not have any symptoms for many years.
The stages below describe how HIV infection progresses in the body if it is left untreated. Without antiretroviral treatment for HIV, the virus replicates in the body and causes more and more damage to the immune system.
However with effective treatment, you can keep the virus under control and stop it from progressing. This is why its important to start treatment as soon as possible after testing positive.
Do I Need To Start Treatment
The latest guidelines recommend that all people who are diagnosed with HIV should start treatment straight away.
Current treatment for HIV is not a cure, but it can keep HIV under control which keeps your immune system strong.
Once you start taking treatment, you will need to take it every day for life, so its important that you feel ready to start. Take your time to feel prepared and find out more about starting HIV treatment.
I was speechless, frozen in time. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t stop crying… It has been six years and my boyfriend now husband has stayed by my side. He is currently negative and we have four kids together. Just because you are positive doesn’t mean you have to put your life on hold. Take your meds and enjoy life. Don’t sit around allowing life to pass you by.
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You Can Test Yourself For Hiv In The Privacy Of Your Own Home
Several at-home HIV tests have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and can be bought online or at a drugstore. Many of these tests ask consumers to prick their finger with a needle, place a few drops of blood on a blotter pad, and then mail the sample to a lab. Of course, you can also see your doctor for a conventional blood test or visit almost any public health center for a blood or saliva test . These centers also offer confidential on-site counseling. The CDC notes that if you get a positive result from any at-home test, youll have to get other testing to confirm the results.
Stage : Acute Hiv Infection
Within 2 to 4 weeks after infection with HIV, about two-thirds of people will have a flu-like illness. This is the bodys natural response to HIV infection.
Flu-like symptoms can include:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Mouth ulcers
These symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks. But some people do not have any symptoms at all during this early stage of HIV.
Dont assume you have HIV just because you have any of these symptomsthey can be similar to those caused by other illnesses. But if you think you may have been exposed to HIV, get an HIV test.
Heres what to do:
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Does Hiv Always Show Up On Testing
No, if someone was recently infected, it might not show up with testing. How quickly HIV shows up on testing depends on the type of test done:
- Testing that looks for the virus itself can find HIV 728 days after infection.
- Testing that looks for HIV antibodies can find HIV antibodies 312 weeks after infection.
Sex With A Partner That Is Hiv+
Condoms should be used during all sex acts, whether it be oral, anal or vaginal intercourse. Condoms uses correctly and consistently form very good protection against infection with HIV and most other sexually transmitted diseases.
When using condoms, check the expiration date. Condoms kept in a cool and dark place can be used for 4 years after the manufacturing date. Never use oils, creams or Vaseline for extra lubrication when using condoms. Use a water or silicon based lubricant such as KY-Jelly or other brand.
There has been no evidence of spread of HIV infection through saliva. Kissing, including tongue/deep kissing is safe. However, if there are bleeding gum irritations in the mouth deep kissing should be avoided.
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When Should You Get Tested For Hiv After Condomless Sex
Theres a window period between the time a person is first exposed to HIV and when it will show up on different types of HIV tests.
During this window period, a person may test HIV-negative even though theyve contracted HIV. The window period can last anywhere from ten days to three months, depending on your body and the type of test that youre taking.
A person can still transmit HIV to others during this period. In fact, transmission may even be more likely because there are higher levels of the virus in a persons body during the window period.
Here is a quick breakdown of different types of HIV tests and the window period for each.
Getting Pregnant When You Are Hiv
If you want to conceive, are an HIV-positive woman with an HIV-negative male partner, you can choose artificial insemination. You can do this at home using your partners semen, rather than having unprotected sex.
To improve your chances of becoming pregnant through artificial insemination it is best to do it at the most fertile time in your menstrual cycle.
Learning about fertility awareness will help you to know when you are most likely to conceive.
Speak to your GP, HIV doctor, sexual health nurse, or fertility specialist.
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What Are The Types Of Hiv Tests
There are three types of tests used to diagnose HIV infection: antibody tests, antigen/antibody tests, and nucleic acid tests . How soon each test can detect HIV infection differs, because each test has a different window period. The window period is the time between when a person may have been exposed to HIV and when a test can accurately detect HIV infection.
- Antibody tests check for HIV antibodies in blood or oral fluid. HIV antibodies are disease-fighting proteins that the body produces in response to HIV infection. Most rapid tests and home use tests are antibody tests.
- Antigen/antibody tests can detect both HIV antibodies and HIV antigens in blood.
- NATs look for HIV in the blood.
A persons initial HIV test will usually be either an antibody test or an antigen/antibody test. NATs are very expensive and not routinely used for HIV screening unless the person had a high-risk exposure or a possible exposure with early symptoms of HIV infection.
When an HIV test is positive, a follow-up test will be conducted. Sometimes people will need to visit a health care provider to take a follow-up test. Other times the follow-up test may be performed in a lab using the same blood sample that was provided for the first test. A positive follow-up test confirms that a person has HIV.
Talk to your health care provider about your HIV risk factors and the best type of HIV test for you.
If You Have A Negative Test Result Does That Mean That Your Partner Is Hiv
No. Your HIV test result reveals only your HIV status.
HIV is not necessarily transmitted every time you have sex. Therefore, taking an HIV test is not a way to find out if your partner is infected.
Its important to be open with your partner and ask them to tell you their HIV status. But keep in mind that your partner may not know or may be wrong about their status, and some may not tell you if they have HIV even if they know theyre infected. Consider getting tested together so you can both know your HIV status and take steps to keep yourselves healthy.
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Should Pregnant Women Get Tested For Hiv
CDC recommends that all pregnant women get tested for HIV so that they can begin taking HIV medicines if they are HIV positive. Women with HIV take HIV medicines during pregnancy and childbirth to reduce the risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and to protect their own health. For more information, read the ClinicalInfo fact sheet on Preventing Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV.
Where To Get Help
- , Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Palasanthiran P, Starr M, Jones C, Giles M 2014, Management of perinatal infections, Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases , Sydney.
- Recommendations for use of antiretroviral drugs in pregnant HIV-1-infected women for maternal health and interventions to reduce perinatal HIV transmission in the United States, 2017, Panel on treatment of HIV-infected pregnant women and prevention of perinatal transmission, AIDSinfo, USA.
- Antiretroviral drugs for treating pregnant woman and preventing HIV infection in infants Recommendations for a public health approach, 2010, World Health Organization.
- Perinatal exposure to HIV among children born in Australia, 19822006, Medical Journal of Australia, vol. 190, no. 8, pp. 416420.
- Perinatal exposure to HIV in Australia, 1982-1994, Medical Journal of Australia, vol. 166, no. 2, pp. 7780.
- Variable uptake of recommended interventions to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV in Australia, 1982-2005, Medical Journal of Australia, vol. 189, no. 3, pp. 151154.
- Lindsay, M 2014, Women with HIV infection on antiretroviral therapy with low viral loads can safely opt for vaginal delivery in the absence of obstetrical risk factors, Evidenced-Based Medicine, vol 19, no. 4, p. 159.
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What Is Hiv And How Is It Transmitted
HIV is a virus that can weaken the immune system to the point that it is unable to control some infections.
HIV infection is not the same thing as AIDS. AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV infection, when the immune system is at its weakest and a person has several specific illnesses.
AIDS is now very rare in Australia, as HIV treatments are highly effective at protecting the immune system from the virus.
Most people living with HIV in Australia can expect to live long, healthy lives without ever developing AIDS, if they are on effective treatment.
In Australia, HIV is commonly transmitted through:
- Anal or vaginal sex without the use of condoms.
- Having unprotected sex without using other prevention methods like PrEP or undetectable viral load or U=U .
- Sharing needles, syringes and other injecting equipment.
People who are HIV-positive and on treatment and have achieved and maintained an undetectable viral load cannot transmit HIV sexually.
For people who do not have HIV, regular use of condoms is the easiest way to prevent HIV.
For those at higher risk of HIV, PrEP is a medication that, when taken as prescribed, is up to 99% effective at preventing the virus.
When To Contact A Doctor
Anyone who is showing symptoms of HIV should contact a doctor as soon as possible. This is especially important if the individual has recently had sexual contact with someone else or shared a needle with someone else.
HIV can remain asymptomatic for a long time. For this reason, anyone who has recently had unprotected sex and is concerned about exposure to HIV should contact a doctor as soon as they can, even if they do not have any symptoms. The same goes for anyone who has recently shared a needle.
It can be difficult to discuss the possibility of having HIV. However, without proper treatment, HIV can be life threatening. In these situations, it is very important for people to put their long-term health first and to discuss the matter with a doctor.
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Actions For This Page
- HIV can pass from mother to baby during pregnancy or birth or via breastmilk.
- Due to treatment advances, mother to child transmission of HIV is very rare in Australia.
- With medical support, the HIV transmission rate from mother with HIV taking antiretroviral treatment to their unborn child is 1% or less in Australia.
A Timeline Of Hiv Symptoms
What is HIV?
HIV is a virus that compromises the immune system. Theres currently no cure for it, but there are treatments available to reduce its effects on peoples lives.
In the majority of cases, once HIV infection takes hold, the virus stays in the body for life. However, unlike what may occur with infections by other types of viruses, HIV symptoms dont suddenly appear and peak overnight.
If left untreated, the disease progresses over time through three stages, each with its own set of possible symptoms and complications some severe.
Regular antiretroviral treatment can reduce HIV to undetectable levels in the blood. At undetectable levels, the virus wont progress to the later stages of HIV infection. In addition, the virus cant be transmitted to a partner during sex.
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Getting Pregnant When Both Parents Have Hiv
Seroconcordant couples , can have an HIV-negative child. If both partners are on treatment, the risk of either partner transmitting HIV to their baby is almost zero.
If you are a seroconcordant couple and you are thinking of becoming pregnant it is important to speak with an obstetrician and an HIV specialist to minimise the risk of transmitting HIV to your baby.
When Should I Get Tested For Hiv
If you think you could have HIV, talk to your doctor or sexual health clinic about having a test. Not all people who have HIV will experience a seroconversion illness, so testing is important if you think you might be at risk. Some people at high risk need to be tested regularly.
You should get tested for HIV if:
- you have had unprotected sex with a partner whose HIV status is unknown or who has HIV but does not have a measurable amount of virus in their blood
- you have had unprotected sex with a person from a country that has high rates of HIV infection
- your sexual partner has recently travelled to a country that has high rates of HIV infection and may have had unprotected sex there
- you have had unprotected sex with a sex worker in Africa, Eastern Europe, South East Asia or Papua New Guinea
- you have ever shared injecting equipment
Early diagnosis is important and can improve the long-term course of the illness.
It is a good idea to talk to your doctor or sexual health clinic about other STIs at the same time.
Your information will be kept confidential unless there are major concerns for your safety or the safety of others. HIV is a notifiable disease, which means laboratory staff need to inform the government about new cases, but this information is also confidential.
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