What is HIV/AIDS?
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. HIV attacks and destroys the infection-fighting T cells or CD4 cells of the immune system. The loss of CD4 cells makes it difficult for the immune system to fight infections. (The CD4 count of a person not living with HIV ranges from 500 to 1,200 cells/mm3.) AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome and is the most advanced stage of HIV infection.
HIV attacks your T cells and then uses them to make copies of itself.
How is HIV transmitted?
HIV is transmitted (spread) from one person to another through specific body fluids—blood, semen, genital fluids and breast milk. Unprotected sex or sharing needles and/or injection equipment with a person infected by HIV are the most common ways HIV is transmitted. HIV transmission can be prevented when individuals practice safer sex and safer injection practices.
Also, treatment helps prevent transmission. With consistent medication, a person with HIV may reach an undetectable viral load, which can prevent HIV transmission. If HIV is undetectable, it is untransmittable (U=U).
Can I get HIV through everyday contact?
You can’t get HIV by shaking hands, hugging or kissing with a person who has HIV. And HIV is not spread through objects such as toilet seats, doorknobs, dishes or drinking glasses used by a person with HIV.
Why is it important to get tested?
Although it can take many years for symptoms to develop, a person infected with HIV can spread the disease at any stage of HIV infection. Detecting HIV during the earliest stages of infection and starting treatment well before symptoms develop can help people with HIV stay healthy.
What is the treatment for HIV?
Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is the recommended treatment for HIV infection. ART involves taking a combination of anti-HIV medications (called an HIV regimen) every day. ART prevents HIV from multiplying and destroying infection-fighting CD4 cells. This helps the body fight off life-threatening infections and cancers.
Is there a cure for HIV?
No effective cure currently exists for HIV, but it can be controlled with proper medical care. People with HIV are enjoying long, healthy lives thanks to ART. And for people at high risk, there’s now PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) treatment that can lower the chance of getting HIV when exposed to the virus. When combined with additional strategies, PrEP can help prevent the spread of HIV.
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