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HIVFactSheet.com is brought to you by AllNetHealth.com and is intended to provide basic information that you can use to make informed decisions about important health issues affecting you or your loved ones. We hope that you’ll find this information about HIV helpful and that you’ll seek professional medical advice to address any specific symptoms you might have related to this matter.

In addition to this site, we have created the "Healthpedia Network" of sites to provide specific information on a wide variety of health topics.

 

 

What is HIV?

Can I get HIV from casual contact? (shaking hands, toilet seats, sneezing)

What are the symptoms of HIV?

How long after possible exposure can I get tested?

What is AIDS?

What causes AIDS?

How does HIV cause AIDS?

Where can I buy a home test kit for HIV?

Where can I medications for HIV/AIDS?

 

 

What is HIV? (top)

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the virus that causes AIDS. This virus may be passed from one person to another when infected blood, semen, or vaginal secretions come in contact with an uninfected person’s broken skin or mucous membranes*. In addition, infected pregnant women can pass HIV to their baby during pregnancy or delivery, as well as through breast-feeding. People with HIV have what is called HIV infection. Some of these people will develop AIDS as a result of their HIV infection.

Can I get HIV from casual contact? (shaking hands, toilet seats, sneezing) (top)

No. HIV is not transmitted by day-to-day contact in the workplace, schools, or social settings. HIV is not transmitted through shaking hands, hugging, or a casual kiss. You cannot become infected from a toilet seat, a drinking fountain, a door knob, dishes, drinking glasses, food, or pets.

HIV is not an airborne or food-borne virus, and it does not live long outside the body. HIV can be found in the blood, semen, or vaginal fluid of an infected person.  The three main ways HIV is transmitted are:

  • through having sex (anal, vaginal, or oral) with someone infected with HIV

  • through sharing needles and syringes with someone who has HIV

  • through exposure (in the case of infants) to HIV before or during birth, or through breast feeding

For more information about HIV transmission, see "HIV and Its Transmission".

HIV is most commonly transmitted through specific sexual behaviors (anal, vaginal, or oral sex) or needle sharing with an infected person. An HIV-infected woman can pass the virus to her baby before or during childbirth or after birth through breastfeeding. Although the risk is extremely low in the United Stats, it is also possible to acquire HIV through transfusions of infected blood or blood products.

 

What are the symptoms of HIV? (top)

The only way to know if you are infected is to be tested for HIV infection. You cannot rely on symptoms to know whether or not you are infected with HIV. Many people who are infected with HIV do not have any symptoms at all for many years.

The following may be warning signs of infection with HIV:

  • rapid weight loss

  • dry cough

  • recurring fever or profuse night sweats

  • profound and unexplained fatigue

  • swollen lymph glands in the armpits, groin, or neck

  • diarrhea that lasts for more than a week

  • white spots or unusual blemishes on the tongue, in the mouth, or in the throat

  • pneumonia

  • red, brown, pink, or purplish blotches on or under the skin or inside the mouth, nose, or eyelids

  • memory loss, depression, and other neurological disorders

However, no one should assume they are infected if they have any of these symptoms. Each of these symptoms can be related to other illnesses. Again, the only way to determine whether you are infected is to be tested for HIV infection.

Similarly, you cannot rely on symptoms to establish that a person has AIDS. The symptoms of AIDS are similar to the symptoms of many other illnesses. AIDS is a medical diagnosis made by a doctor based on specific criteria established by the CDC.

Click here for FDA Approved HIV Home Testing Kits

 

How long after possible exposure can I get tested? (top)

Most people will develop detectable antibodies within two to eight weeks (the average is 25 days). Ninety seven percent will develop antibodies in the first three months following the time of their infection. In very rare cases, it can take up to six months to develop antibodies to HIV.

 

What is AIDS? (top)

AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome.

Acquired – means that the disease is not hereditary but develops after birth from contact with a disease causing agent (in this case, HIV).

Immunodeficiency – means that the disease is characterized by a weakening of the immune system.

Syndrome – refers to a group of symptoms that collectively indicate or characterize a disease. In the case of AIDS this can include the development of certain infections and/or cancers, as well as a decrease in the number of certain cells in a person’s immune system.

 

What causes AIDS? (top)

AIDS is caused by infection with a virus called human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). This virus is passed from one person to another through blood-to-blood and sexual contact. In addition, infected pregnant women can pass HIV to their babies during pregnancy or delivery, as well as through breast feeding. People with HIV have what is called HIV infection. Some of these people will develop AIDS as a result of their HIV infection.

 

How does HIV cause AIDS? (top)
HIV destroys a certain kind of blood cell (CD4+ T cells) which is crucial to the normal function of the human immune system. In fact, loss of these cells in people with HIV is an extremely powerful predictor of the development of AIDS. Studies of thousands of people have revealed that most people infected with HIV carry the virus for years before enough damage is done to the immune system for AIDS to develop. However, sensitive tests have shown a strong connection between the amount of HIV in the blood and the decline in CD4+ T cells and the development of AIDS. Reducing the amount of virus in the body with anti-retroviral therapies can dramatically slow the destruction of a person’s immune system.

 

Click here to buy HIV home test kits.

 

Where can I medications for HIV/AIDS? (top)

Click here to buy HIV/AIDS medications.

 

For more information on AIDS please visit AIDSFactSheet.com or NIH: National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases Fact sheet "The HIV-AIDS Connection"

 

 

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