HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus and is a very serious sexually transmitted disease that negatively impacts the body’s immune system, eventually giving rise to AIDS, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. HIV is most commonly spread through vaginal, anal and oral sex. HIV can also be spread by sharing needles with infected persons and, less commonly, the disease can be spread when blood infected with HIV contacts an open cut or wound of another person. HIV is spread “fluid to fluid” meaning an infected person’s secretions need to come in contact with the mucous membranes or blood stream of another.
Learning and understanding about HIV and AIDS and the symptoms of HIV can help reduce your chances of infection and aid in prevention. It is important to note that HIV is effectively treated with an ongoing course of drugs that the infected person must take regularly. This medication is very successful at slowing the spread of HIV throughout one’s body and people living with the disease can expect to live decades after contracting the virus given proper care. If left untreated, however, HIV will progress into AIDS, a life-threatening auto-immune disease that has no cure – as such, it is a disease which is avoided through prevention, not through treatment (as treatment will not cure you of HIV.) It is therefore of utmost importance to get regularly tested for STDs if you have an active sex life with multiple partners, as HIV must be caught as early as possible for care to be effective, as well as help prevent further spread of the disease. It is also incredibly important to note that you don’t “catch AIDS” from someone – you instead contract HIV from an infected person and then can eventually transition into AIDS if you left infected and untreated long enough.
HIV symptoms include:
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Skin rash
- Weight loss
HIV testing is done via a blood test that measures the antibodies present in the blood.
Pregnant women with HIV or AIDS are at risk of passing HIV to their children either in the womb, during delivery or while breast-feeding. A March of Dimes study concluded that 25 percent of babies born to HIV/AIDS mothers who are not receiving any HIV/AIDS treatment are born infected with the HIV virus. When HIV/AIDS mothers are receiving the correct treatment however, the percentage of their babies born with HIV drops to less than two percent. HIV prevention falls in line with STD prevention – proper use of condoms reduces risk of transmission during sex with infected partners to less than 1%, abstinence is completely effective and relations with HIV negative partners is also completely effective.
Please note, however, that transmission of HIV cannot be prevented by washing the genitals, urinating or douching after sex. Any unusual discharge, sore, or rash, particularly in the groin area, should be a signal to stop all sexual activity and visit a doctor immediately. It is important to submit to HIV testing at the first manifestation of symptoms. HIV and AIDS are life threatening, so the symptoms of HIV should never be ignored – educate yourself on prevention and on the facts about the virus and resultant syndrome. HIV is an STD, and as such, STD prevention techniques remain applicable, but it is important to note that HIV is incurable and as such should be afforded a tremendous amount of attention and understanding. If you believe you might have HIV, please call or schedule an appointment with an Obria Medical Clinic for a low cost HIV test. Remember that birth control (outside of condoms) is not an effective means of preventing an infection – HIV is not stopped by any sort of pill, injection, patch or IUD.
CDC HIV Information: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/whatishiv.html