Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is the late stage of HIV infection. Having AIDS means that the HIV virus has caused severe damage to the body’s immune system.
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HIV is the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is the virus that causes AIDS. Over time, HIV gradually weakens that body’s ability to fight disease. HIV makes it easier to get many infections and cancers that would not normally occur in a healthy person. HIV is life-threatening.
HIV can be spread in several ways. People can get HIV by having unprotected sexual intercourse with someone who is HIV infected. HIV can be transmitted by sharing needles with someone who is HIV infected. If a mother has HIV it can be passed to her baby, either at birth or through breastfeeding. HIV can also be spread through accidental needle sticks and, though rare, through infected blood during blood transfusions. You cannot get HIV from:
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the virus that causes AIDS. HIV makes copies of itself by slowly killing a type of immune cell, the CD4 cell. Over time, this weakens the immune system.
As a result, a person may develop a serious disease called "opportunistic infections." These occur as a sign of later-stage HIV disease called Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). A person with HIV can also be diagnosed with AIDS when the number of their CD4 cells falls to 200 or below. HIV treatments can delay the onset of AIDS for many years.
No, condoms are not 100% effective at preventing HIV transmission; however, when used correctly and consistently, condoms are highly effective and reliable in reducing the risk of transmitting and acquiring HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The surest way to avoid the sexual transmission of HIV (and other STDs) is to abstain from sex.
The following are behaviors that increase your chances of getting HIV. If you answer "yes" to any of them, you should definitely get an HIV test. If you continue with any of these behaviors, you should get tested every year. Talk to a health care provider about an HIV testing schedule that is right for you.
If you have had sex with someone whose history of sex partners and/or drug use is unknown to you, or if you or your partner has had many sex partners, then you have more of a chance of being infected with HIV. Both you and your new partner should get tested for HIV, and learn the results, before having sex for the first time.
For women who plan to become pregnant, testing is even more important. If a woman is infected with HIV, medical care and certain drugs given during pregnancy can lower the chance of passing HIV to her baby. All women who are pregnant should be tested during each pregnancy.
Once HIV enters the body, the immune system starts to produce antibodies-chemicals that are part of the immune system that recognize invaders like bacteria and viruses and mobilize the body’s attempt to fight infection. In the case of HIV, these antibodies cannot fight off the infection, but their presence is used to tell whether a person has HIV in his or her body. In other words, most HIV tests look for HIV antibodies rather than looking for HIV itself. There are tests that look for HIVs genetic material directly, but these are not in widespread use.
The most common HIV tests use blood to detect HIV infection. Tests using saliva or urine are also available. Some tests take a few days for results, but rapid HIV tests can give results in about 20 minutes. All positive HIV tests must be followed up by another test to confirm the positive result. The results of this confirmatory test can take a few days to a few weeks.
In most cases the enzyme immunoassay (EIA) used on blood drawn from a vein, is the most common screening test used to look for antibodies to HIV. A positive (reactive) EIA must be used with a follow-up (confirmatory) test, such as the Western blot, to make a positive diagnosis. There are EIA tests that use other body fluids to look for antibodies to HIV. These include:
Oral fluid tests use oral fluid (not saliva) that is collected from the mouth using a special collection device. This is an EIA antibody test similar to the standard blood EIA test. A follow-up confirmatory Western blot uses the same oral fluid sample.
Urine tests use urine instead of blood. The sensitivity and specificity (accuracy) are somewhat less than that of the blood and oral fluid tests. This is also an EIA antibody test similar to blood EIA tests and requires a follow-up Western blot using the same urine sample.
A rapid test is a screening test that produces very quick results, in approximately 20 minutes. Rapid tests use oral fluid or blood from a vein or finger stick to look for the presence of antibodies to HIV. As is true for all screening tests, a reactive rapid HIV test result must be confirmed with a follow-up confirmatory test before a final diagnosis can be made. These tests have similar accuracy rates as traditional EIA screening tests.
Consumer-controlled test kits (popularly known as "home testing kits") were first licensed in 1997. Although home HIV tests are sometimes advertised through the internet, currently the Home Access HIV-1 Test System is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) - the accuracy of other home test kits cannot be verified. Each kit comes with specific instructions on how to collect a sample, how to send it to an accredited laboratory, and how to receive test results. Every part of the process is done anonymously.
Customers may speak to a counselor before taking the test, while waiting for the test result and when the results are given. All individuals receiving a positive test result are provided referrals for a follow-up confirmatory test, as well as information and resources on treatment and support services. The Home Access HIV-1 Test System can be found at most local drug stores and online.
RNA tests look for the genetic material of the virus and can be used in screening the blood supply and for the detection of rare very early infection cases when antibody tests are unable to detect antibodies to HIV.
Most HIV tests are antibody tests that measure the antibodies your body makes against HIV. It can take some time for the immune system to produce enough antibodies for the antibody test to detect, and this time period can vary from person to person. This time period is commonly referred to as the "window period." Most people will develop detectable antibodies within two to eight weeks (the average is 25 days). Even so, there is a chance that some individuals will take longer to develop detectable antibodies.
Therefore, if the initial negative HIV test was conducted within the first three months after possible exposure, repeat testing should be considered more than three months after the exposure occurred to account for the possibility of a false-negative result. 97% of persons will develop antibodies in the first three months following the time of their infections. In very rare cases, it can take up to six months to develop antibodies to HIV.
No. Your HIV test result reveals only your HIV status. Your negative test result does not indicate whether or not your partner has HIV. HIV is not necessarily transmitted every time you have sex. Therefore, your taking an HIV test should not be seen as a method to find out if your partner is infected. Ask your partner if he or she has been tested for HIV and what risk behaviors he or she has engaged in, both currently and in the past. Think about getting tested together.
It is important to take steps to reduce your risk of getting HIV. Not having (abstaining from) sex is the most effective way to avoid HIV. If you choose to be sexually active, having sex with one person, who only has sex with you and who is uninfected, is also effective.
If you are not sure that both you and your partner are HIV negative, use a latex condom to help protect both you and your partner from HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Studies have shown that latex condoms are very effective, though not 100%, in preventing HIV transmission with used correctly and consistently. If either partner is allergic to latex, plastic (polyurethane) condoms for either the male or female can be used.
There are several reasons that you should get tested for HIV: