Learn about HIV symptoms, testing and treatment
The human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, is generally recognized as one of the most serious illnesses that can be passed between human beings. Not all human contact will transmit the disease, but the most common causes are sharing needles and sexual contact, and it can also be passed down from mother to child during childbirth. Learn the facts about HIV AIDS to take adequate precautions and maintain sexual health.
HIV Risk Factors, Symptoms and Tests
HIV AIDS can be passed through four bodily fluids—semen, vaginal fluids, blood and breast milk. A very common method of transmission is sexual contact, when bodily fluids can mingle easily and be absorbed through mucous membranes. In fact, other STDs such as chlamydia can produce open sores or irritations on the genitals, which will increase the probability of contracting the HIV infection. Choice of partners and choice of protection is a major factor in determining risk for HIV infection, as unprotected sex with several partners will place an individual in the high-risk group.
Symptoms of the HIV virus can be very similar to symptoms of other illnesses or infections, and some carriers may not experience symptoms at all. The most typical HIV symptoms are flu-like—swollen glands, fever, rash, headache and fatigue. These may become noticeable a few days after infection, and will often fade over the course of a week or two. If HIV has become AIDS, the symptoms can be more aggressive and pronounced. If you are at a high risk for contracting the disease and you suspect that you could be infected, visit a doctor as soon as possible to get tested.
There are several methods to test for HIV, but the HIV antibody blood test is often the most favored by doctors. Most people develop detectable HIV antibodies with 6 to 12 weeks of infection, and this HIV test is designed to look for those antibodies in the blood, saliva or urine. If this test comes back positive, another test called the Western blot test will be conducted to confirm the results.
Another option is the HIV home test, which is sold at most pharmacies and can be purchased without a prescription. It will involve taking a small blood sample yourself and sending it to a lab, after which you will receive your tests results over the phone. Although the home test can be convenient, some professionals recommend that you be tested in person by a doctor to ensure accuracy.
The HIV antiretroviral drug treatment is the main course of action for a person who has become infected. HIV treatment will consist of drugs that are taken every day for the rest of a person's life to keep the amount of HIV in the body at a low level. However, one HIV drug will not be enough: taking two or more antiretroviral drugs together will reduce the chance that the HIV will become resistant to the treatment. HIV AIDS treatment continues to advance, and today there are a number of options for those who live with HIV.
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