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What is HIV?
HIV is a virus that damages the immune system. Untreated HIV affects and kills CD4 cells, which are a type of immune cell called T cell.
Over time, as HIV kills more CD4 cells, the body is more likely to get various types of conditions and cancers.
HIV is transmitted through bodily fluids that include:
Vaginal and rectal fluids
The virus isn' t transferred in air or water, or through casual contact.
At that point, the immune system is too weak to successfully respond against other diseases, infections, and conditions.
Untreated, life expectancy with end- stage AIDS is about 3 years trusted Source. With antiretroviral therapy, HIV can be well- managed, and life expectancy can be nearly the same as someone who has not contracted HIV.
Also, treatment can typically help manage opportunistic infections.
HIV and AIDS are related, but they' re not the same thing.
Some of the ways HIV is transferred from person to person include:
through vaginal or anal intercourse— the most common route of transmission
by sharing needles, syringes, and other items for injection drug use
by sharing tattoo equipment without sterilizing it between uses
during pregnancy, labour, or delivery from a pregnant person to their baby
through " premastication, " or chewing a baby' s food before feeding it to them
through exposure to the blood, semen, vaginal and rectal fluids, and breast milk of someone living with HIV, such as through a needle stick
The virus can also be transmitted through a blood transfusion or organ and tissue transplant. However, rigorous testing for HIV among blood, organ, and tissue donors ensures that this is very rare in the United States.
Causes of AIDS
AIDS is caused by HIV. A person can' t get AIDS if they haven' t contracted HIV.
Healthy individuals have a CD4 count of 500 to 1, 500 per cubic millimetre. Without treatment, HIV continues to multiply and destroy CD4 cells. If a person' s CD4 count falls below 200, they have AIDS.
Also, if someone with HIV develops an opportunistic infection associated with HIV, they can still be diagnosed with AIDS, even if their CD4 count is above 200. What tests are used to diagnose HIV?
Several different tests can be used to diagnose HIV. Healthcare providers determine which test is best for each person.
Antibody/antigen tests are the most commonly used tests. They can show positive results typically within 18– 45 daysTrusted Source after someone initially contracts HIV.
These tests check the blood for antibodies and antigens. An antibody is a type of protein the body makes to respond to an infection. An antigen, on the other hand, is the part of the virus that activates the immune system.
These tests check the blood solely for antibodies. Between 23 and 90 days trusted Source after transmission, most people will develop detectable HIV antibodies, which can be found in the blood or saliva.
These tests are done using blood tests or mouth swabs, and there' s no preparation necessary. Some tests provide results in 30 minutes or less and can be performed in a healthcare provider' s office or clinic.
Other antibody tests can be done at home
OraQuick HIV Test. An oral swab provides results in as little as 20 minutes.
Home Access HIV- 1 Test System. After the person pricks their finger, they send a blood sample to a licensed laboratory. They can remain anonymous and call for results the next business day.
If someone suspects they' ve been exposed to HIV but tested negative in a home test, they should repeat the test in 3 months. If they have a positive result, they should follow up with their healthcare provider to confirm.
Nucleic acid test (NAT)
This expensive test isn' t used for general screening. It' s for people who have early symptoms of HIV or have a known risk factor. This test doesn' t look for antibodies; it looks for the virus itself.
It takes from 5 to 21 days for HIV to be detectable in the blood. This test is usually accompanied or confirmed by an antibody test.
Today, it' s easier than ever to get tested for HIV. What' s the HIV window period?
As soon as someone contracts HIV, it starts to reproduce in their body. The person' s immune system reacts to the antigens (parts of the virus) by producing antibodies (cells that take countermeasures against the virus).
If a person has been exposed to HIV, they may also have been exposed to other intercourse transmitted infections (STIs). These include:
Men, and those with a penis, may be more likely than women to notice symptoms of STIs such as sores on their genitals. However, men typically don' t seek medical care as often as women. HIV symptoms in women: Is there a difference?
For the most part, symptoms of HIV are similar in men and women. However, symptoms they experience overall may differ based on the different risks men and women face if they have HIV.
Both men and women with HIV are at increased risk for STIs. However, women, and those with a vagina, may be less likely than men to notice small spots or other changes to their genitals.
In the United States and other settings where the formula is accessible and safe, it' s recommended that women with HIV not breastfeed their babies. For these women, the use of the formula is encouraged.
Options besides formula include pasteurized banked million people trusted Source living with HIV were using antiretroviral therapy.
Life expectancy statistics are just general guidelines. People living with HIV should talk to their healthcare provider to learn more about what they can expect. Is there a vaccine for HIV?
Currently, there are no vaccines to prevent or treat HIV. Research and testing on experimental vaccines are ongoing, but none are close to being approved for general use.
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