HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system. If HIV is not treated, it can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).

There is currently no effective cure. Once people get HIV, they have it for life.

But with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled. People with HIV who get effective HIV treatment can live long, healthy lives (like people with other chronic diseases, such as diabetes) and protect their partners.

  • can spread through sex (vaginal or anal) without a condom with a partner who has the infection
  • can spread through sharing needles, syringes or other drug injection equipment
  • most people have flu-like symptoms within 2-4 weeks after infection, which may last for a few days or several weeks
  • flu-like symptoms include sore throat, fever, night sweats, chills, rash, muscle aches, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes
  • detected by a blood test
  • there is currently no cure for HIV, but it can be controlled with HIV treatment
  • proper and consistent HIV treatment (antiretroviral therapy or ART, administered in pills or shots) can reduce the amount of HIV in the blood
  • most people can get the virus under control within six months
  • begin treatment as soon as possible after a positive test
  • if you are concerned about becoming infected with HIV, ask your health care provider if pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is right for you
  • if you think you’ve been exposed to HIV within the last 3 days, ask a health care provider as soon as possible about post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), which can prevent HIV, but must be started within 72 hours
HIV Stages

When people with HIV don’t get treatment, they typically progress through three stages. But HIV treatment can slow or prevent progression of the disease. With advances in HIV treatment, progression to Stage 3 (AIDS) is less common today than in the early years of HIV.

Stage 1: Acute HIV Infection

  • infected people have a large amount of HIV in their blood and are very contagious
  • many people have flu-like symptoms
  • if you have flu-like symptoms and think you may have been exposed to HIV, get tested.

Stage 2: Chronic Infection

  • HIV is still active and continues to reproduce in the body
  • infected people may not have any symptoms or get sick during this phase but can transmit HIV
  • infected people who take HIV treatment as prescribed may never move into Stage 3 (AIDS)
  • without HIV treatment, this stage may last a decade or longer, or may progress faster
  • at the end of this stage, the amount of HIV in the blood (viral load) goes up and the person may move into Stage 3 (AIDS)

Stage 3: Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)

  • the most severe stage of HIV infection
  • people with AIDS can have a high viral load and may easily transmit HIV to others
  • people with AIDS have badly damaged immune systems and can get an increasing number of infections or other serious illnesses
  • without HIV treatment, people with AIDS typically survive about three years

Source and more info: CDC – HIV/AIDS
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