May 18, 2024

What is HIV?

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system. A healthy immune system fights off infections and cancers. HIV weakens the immune system by destroying CD4 cells, which are crucial for fighting off disease.

What is AIDS?

AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) is the most advanced stage of HIV infection. It develops when the immune system is severely damaged due to long-term, untreated HIV. This makes the body susceptible to serious illnesses and infections.

How is HIV Spread?

HIV spreads through contact with infected bodily fluids, including:

  • Blood
  • Semen (vaginal or anal sex)
  • Vaginal fluids (vaginal or anal sex)
  • Breast milk (from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding)

HIV is NOT spread through casual contact, such as:

  • Pee, poop, sweat, or tears (unless mixed with blood)
  • Coughing, sneezing, or spitting
  • Sharing utensils, glasses, or toilets
  • Holding hands or hugging

Symptoms of HIV and AIDS:

Early HIV infection may cause flu-like symptoms that disappear within weeks. Later symptoms, which may not appear for years, include:

  • Swollen glands
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased infections

Diagnosis of HIV and AIDS:

  • HIV: Diagnosed through blood tests. Rapid home tests are also available.
  • AIDS: Diagnosed when someone has a very low CD4 cell count or develops an AIDS-defining illness.

Treatment of HIV and AIDS:

Effective medications called antiretroviral therapy (ART) can help people with HIV live long and healthy lives. ART does not cure HIV, but it prevents the virus from replicating and keeps the immune system strong. Regular blood tests monitor CD4 cell count and viral load.

Preventing HIV:

  • Safer Sex: Consistent use of condoms during vaginal, oral, and anal sex.
  • Get Tested: Regular HIV testing and encouraging partners to do the same.
  • Reduce Sexual Partners: Having fewer sexual partners reduces risk.
  • STD Treatment: Treat sexually transmitted diseases promptly, as they increase HIV risk.
  • PrEP: Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medication can be taken daily to prevent HIV infection for those at high risk.
  • Safe Practices: Avoid sharing needles or personal care items that may have blood on them.

Living with HIV/AIDS:

With proper medical care and medication adherence, people with HIV can live healthy and fulfilling lives. It’s important for those with HIV to have a strong support system and access to regular medical care.

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