When it comes to HIV, it's important to be informed. Don't be scared, don't be paranoid about contracting the virus, but do educate yourself on the disease. Consider this a crash course...
What is HIV?
First of all, to dispel a common misconception, this disease is not AIDS. It stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. To dispel another common misconception, human immunodeficiency virus does not actually pose a direct threat to the body, but rather, an indirect threat through its ability to develop into full blown AIDS.
What are the statistics?
In high-income countries like the US and the UK, the infection rate is roughly 0.04% for female-to-male infection through sexual contact, or 0.08% for male to female. This means that every new sexual partner carries an average 1/1666 chance of infection. In total, the infected population is suspected to be anywhere from thirty to forty million people worldwide.
How is HIV transmitted?
Transmission occurs through bodily fluids: Blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. Interestingly, two HIV positive parents can have an HIV-free child, but spread the disease through breast milk. One of these bodily fluids must be exchanged in order for transmission to occur through sex or any other means of interaction.
Symptoms of HIV
The main symptom of the immunodeficiency virus is in a loss of cell count. Specifically, the CD4 T count, with CD4 T being a vital "helper cell" in the immune system. Interestingly, many HIV patients actually do not display a loss of CD4 T, and are classified as being lower risk for the development of AIDS.
The Window Period
The "Window Period" refers to the period of time between initial infection and the development of antibodies. This period is important, as during this time, false negatives may come up. This period takes place over the course of about six months, though can sometimes take place over a year, which is why follow up tests are often necessary.
Testing for HIV
Testing has to be done by testing bodily fluids or tissue. This commonly means blood tests, but more recently, there have been tests introduce that can determine the level of infection via tests of oral tissue along the cheek and gums, with the OraQuick rapid test.
To get tested for HIV today at a local clinic, please call toll free 888-480-5680. No appointment is necessary.
There is no cure for the virus, but treatment methods include medications that can be used to hinder the development of the virus into full blown AIDS. It is not a cure, it does not guarantee that it won't develop into AIDS, but it may significantly help as a preventative measure. Beyond this, there is simply not much that can be done, and this is especially true should it develop into full blown AIDS.
The only way to guarantee the prevention of the virus is by staying away from drugs and practicing abstinence. If you have sex with a new partner, you run the risk of contracting HIV, if you share needles, you run the risk of contracting the virus. Practicing safe sex, however, can greatly, greatly reduce that risk. Always use condoms when having sex with a new partner, and continue using condoms until you have both been tested.
More information about the HIV test.