What is HIV?
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is the virus that can lead to AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).
AIDS in turn, attacks the body's immune system leaving it prone to infections. HIV works through the immune system
by infecting its vital cells and lessening an individual's ability to fight infections or cancer.
Those with HIV do not always have AIDS, and in fact it can take many years to develop AIDS. People are typically
infected with HIV via bodily fluids like blood, semen, vaginal fluid, etc. HIV can also enter the blood through
linings in the mouth, anus or sex organs, or through broken skin. Both men and women can spread the virus, and
because some cases are symptom-free, it can be spread unknowingly.
There is no cure for either HIV or AIDS but there are treatments that can dramatically prolong life.
One or two months after being infected, symptoms can crop up that are similar to the flu, and then can go away
even though the HIV infection is still there. Some telltale symptoms are:
o a fever that won't go away
o flu-like muscle aches
o swollen glands (neck, groin or underarms)
o headache/sore throat
o persistent rashes
o energy loss
Individuals engaging in unprotected sex or the sharing of needles while using drugs should be tested for HIV.
Most commonly a blood test is taken and a diagnosis made based on the presence or absence of disease-fighting
antibodies in the blood.
Two other tests - Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) and Western blot - can be given to detect antibodies
to the HIV. The ELISA test screens for HIV and the blot test confirms it.
Additionally, urine and oral fluid tests are available, as is a nucleic acid test that can help diagnose in some
HIV is highly manageable. Early diagnosis accompanied with treatment can slow or completely stop the progress of
the HIV infection.
Once HIV is confirmed, a drug regimen consisting of several drugs, can be implemented immediately. Upon
diagnosis if individuals experience any severe physical changes or conditions, hospitalization is recommended, as
they could be signals of life-threatening conditions.
While there is not cure for HIV, antiretroviral treatment does keep the virus to a very low number.
Additionally, treatment can help the immune system to recover and continue doing its job.
HIV and Pneumonia