What is HIV/AIDS?
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS. Unlike some other viruses, the human body cannot get rid of HIV. That means that once you have HIV, you have it for life.
No safe and effective cure currently exists, but scientists are working hard to find one, and remain hopeful. Meanwhile, with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled. Treatment for HIV is often called antiretroviral therapy or ART. It can dramatically prolong the lives of many people infected with HIV and lower their chance of infecting others. Before the introduction of ART in the mid-1990s, people with HIV could progress to AIDS in just a few years. Today, someone diagnosed with HIV and treated before the disease is far advanced can have a nearly normal life expectancy.
HIV affects specific cells of the immune system, called CD4 cells, or T cells. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infections and disease. When this happens, HIV infection leads to AIDS.
How is HIV/AIDS transmitted (How can I get it?)?
In the United States, HIV is spread mainly by having sex with or sharing drug injection equipment with someone who is infected with HIV.
How can I prevent getting HIV?
Use a new condom every time you have sex. If you don’t know the HIV status of your partner, use a new condom every time you have anal or vaginal sex. Women can use a female condom.
Use only water-based lubricants. Oil-based lubricants can weaken condoms and cause them to break. During oral sex use a nonlubricated, cut-open condom or a dental dam — a piece of medical-grade latex.
Consider the drug Truvada. Use of the combination drug emtricitabine-tenofovir (Truvada) can reduce the risk of sexually transmitted HIV infection in those who are at high risk. Truvada is also used as an HIV treatment along with other medications.
When used to help prevent HIV infection, Truvada is only appropriate if your doctor is certain you don’t already have an HIV infection. Your doctor should also test for hepatitis B infection. If you have hepatitis B, your doctor should test your kidney function before prescribing Truvada.
Truvada must be taken daily, exactly as prescribed. Truvada should only be used along with other prevention strategies, such as condom use every time you have sex, as it doesn’t protect against other sexually transmitted infections, and it can’t provide complete protection against HIV transmission. If you’re interested in Truvada, talk with your doctor about the potential risks and benefits of the drug.
Tell your sexual partners if you have HIV. It’s important to tell anyone with whom you’ve had sex that you’re HIV-positive. Your partners need to be tested and to receive medical care if they have the virus. They also need to know their HIV status so that they don’t infect others.
Use a clean needle. If you use a needle to inject drugs, make sure it’s sterile and don’t share it. Take advantage of needle-exchange programs in your community and consider seeking help for your drug use.
If you’re pregnant, get medical care right away. If you’re HIV-positive, you may pass the infection to your baby. But if you receive treatment during pregnancy, you can cut your baby’s risk significantly.
Consider male circumcision. There’s evidence that male circumcision can help reduce a man’s risk of acquiring HIV.
What should I know about testing?
One in five people with HIV are unaware of their infection. That’s why CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested at least once and that high-risk groups get tested more often.
For more detailed information on these topics please visit the Centers for Disease Control http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/index.html