What is it?
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that weakens the immune system and eventually causes AIDS if left untreated.
How common is it?
About 50,000 new infections occur each year, with an estimated 1.2 million people already living with HIV. Learn more at www.cdc.gov.
What are the symptoms?
Many people who are infected with HIV do not have any symptoms and feel healthy. Symptoms don’t usually develop until a person’s immune system has been weakened. The symptoms people experience are usually related to infections and cancers they get due to a weakened immune system.
How do you get it?
Through vaginal, oral, or anal sex. Also by sharing contaminated needles; and from mother-to-child during pregnancy or breast-feeding. The chance of getting it through kissing is very low.
How do you treat it?
There is no cure for HIV or AIDS. Antiretroviral treatment can slow the progression of HIV disease & delay the onset of AIDS. Early diagnosis & treatment can improve a person’s chances of living a longer, healthier life.
What are the consequences if left untreated?
Increased risk for other life-threatening infections and certain cancers. By weakening the body’s ability to fight disease, HIV makes an infected person more vulnerable to infections that they wouldn’t otherwise get. HIV can also cause infections that anyone can get, such as other STDs and pneumonia, to be much worse. Left untreated, HIV infection develops into AIDS and is a fatal disease.
Get Yourself Tested
Regular HIV testing is recommended for everyone 13-64 years-old. This does not mean though that testing is done automatically, so ask to be tested for HIV. Testing is also recommended for those who have had unprotected sex, a new sex partner, or shared needles or equipment to inject drugs.
Can it be prevented?
There is no vaccine for HIV. Abstaining from sex and sexual contact is the surest way to avoid getting an STD. Using condoms every time greatly reduces the risk of contracting HIV. Get medical treatment immediately if you think you were exposed to HIV. Sometimes, HIV medications can prevent infection if they are started quickly.
If you are sexually active, using condoms consistently and correctly, from start to finish, is one of the best ways to help prevent STDs. Condoms are the ONLY method that protects sexually active people from both STDs and pregnancy.