HIV and Aids News and Information
More than 1.1 million people in the United States are currently living with HIV infection, and almost 1 in 6 (15.8%) are unaware of their infection.
"HIV" stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus:
H - Human - This particular virus can only infect human beings.
I - Immunodeficiency - HIV weakens your immune system by destroying important cells that fight disease and infection. A "deficient" immune system can't protect you.
V - Virus - A virus can only reproduce itself by taking over a cell in the body of its host.
"AIDS" stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome:
A - Acquired - AIDS is not something you inherit from your parents. You acquire AIDS after birth.
I - Immuno - Your body's immune system includes all the organs and cells that work to fight off infection or disease.
D - Deficiency - You get AIDS when your immune system is "deficient," or isn't working the way it should.
S - Syndrome - A syndrome is a collection of symptoms and signs of disease. AIDS is a syndrome, rather than a single disease, because it is a complex illness with a wide range of complications and symptoms.
HIV Symptoms Can Include:
- Sore throat
- Swollen glands
- Fever (most common symptom)
- Muscle and joint aches and pains
Certain body fluids from an HIV-infected person can transmit HIV:
- Breast milk
- Rectal fluids
- Vaginal fluids
- Pre-seminal fluid
HIV is spread mainly by:
- Having sex with someone who has HIV.
- Vaginal sex (penis in the vagina) is the second highest-risk sexual behavior.
- Having multiple sex partners or having sexually transmitted infections can increase the risk of HIV infection through sex.
- Anal sex (penis in the anus of a man or woman) is the highest-risk sexual behavior. Receptive anal sex ("bottoming") is riskier than insertive anal sex ("topping").
Less commonly, HIV may be spread by:
- Being stuck with an HIV-contaminated needle or other sharp object. This is a risk mainly for health care workers.
- Being born to an infected mother. HIV can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding.
- Contact between broken skin, wounds, or mucous membranes and HIV-infected blood or blood-contaminated body fluids. These reports have also been extremely rare.
- Eating food that has been pre-chewed by an HIV-infected person. The contamination occurs when infected blood from a caregiver’s mouth mixes with food while chewing, and is very rare.
- Deep, open-mouth kissing if the person with HIV has sores or bleeding gums and blood is exchanged. HIV is not spread through saliva. Transmission through kissing alone is extremely rare.
- Receiving blood transfusions, blood products, or organ/tissue transplants that are contaminated with HIV. This risk is extremely small because of rigorous testing of the US blood supply and donated organs and tissues.
- Being bitten by a person with HIV. Each of the very small number of documented cases has involved severe trauma with extensive tissue damage and the presence of blood. There is no risk of transmission if the skin is not broken.
- Oral sex - using the mouth to stimulate the penis, vagina, or anus (fellatio, cunnilingus, and rimming). Giving fellatio (mouth to penis oral sex) and having the person ejaculate (cum) in your mouth is riskier than other types of oral sex.
HIV is NOT spread by:
- Air or water
- Toilet seats
- Drinking fountains
- Saliva, tears, or sweat
- Insects, including mosquitoes or ticks
- Casual contact, like shaking hands, hugging or sharing dishes/drinking glasses
HIV Positive Progression to AIDS:
Being diagnosed with HIV does NOT mean a person will also be diagnosed with AIDS. Healthcare professionals diagnose AIDS only when people with HIV disease begin to get severe opportunistic infections or their CD4 counts fall below a certain level.
Aids Symptoms Include:
- Rapid weight loss
- Extreme and unexplained tiredness
- Sores of the mouth, anus, or genitals
- Recurring fever or profuse night sweats
- Diarrhea that lasts for more than a week
- Memory loss, depression, and other neurologic disorders.
- Prolonged swelling of the lymph glands in the armpits, groin, or neck
- Red, brown, pink, or purplish blotches on or under the skin or inside the mouth, nose, or eyelids
The only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested.
Testing is relatively simple. You can get an HIV test from your doctor or healthcare provider, community health center, Veteran’s health center, Title X family planning clinic, and other locations. There also are FDA-approved HIV home test kits you can use.