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HIV affects millions of people worldwide – people living with HIV as well as their friends, families, and partners.

By educating yourself about HIV and AIDS, you can better guard your health and minimize the impact of living with the virus on yourself or those you care about. What Are HIV and AIDS? HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. The virus compromises the body’s ability to handle disease and causes AIDS. This is a slow process, and positive people may not have symptoms for over a decade. AIDS stands for acquired immune deficiency syndrome. It is related to HIV, but they are not one and the same. A person has AIDS only in the final stages of HIV, after the immune system becomes unable to defend itself against foreign invaders like bacteria, other viruses, and fungi, and allows for the development of certain cancers.

How HIV progresses

HIV Myths!

How Is HIV Transmitted?

  • Having sex without a condom-
    HIV infection can happen through anal, vaginal, or oral sex if you don’t use a condom. Unprotected (condom-less) oral sex is not as risky as vaginal and anal, but still can spread HIV, especially when there are cuts, bleeding gums, or canker sores in the mouth. Learn more about condoms and their use.

  • Sharing needles, syringes or drug works-
    Sharing any of the equipment to inject drugs can spread HIV.

  • Pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding-
    Without treatment, an HIV positive woman will transmit HIV to her child during pregnancy or childbirth about 25% of the time. Babies can also become positive through breastfeeding.

The symptoms of HIV

HIV infection has spread so far so fast in part because it can lack symptoms for many years. When HIV emerges from latency – the period when someone with HIV shows no sign of it – symptoms can include:

  • Dry, flaky skin

  • Persistent tiredness

  • Fever that comes and goes

  • Diarrhea that lasts more than a week

  • Heavy night sweats

  • Rapid weight loss

  • Swollen lymph nodes in the armpits, groin or neck

  • White spots on the tongue, mouth or throat

  • Symptoms specific to infection of certain areas of the body, such as headaches for the brain and cough for the lungs

Having these symptoms doesn’t mean a person has HIV or AIDS. Many illnesses have symptoms like these. The only way to know if you’re positive is to get tested.

HIV progresses to AIDS at different speeds.

Factors that may lead one person to develop AIDS quicker than another include an immune system that is genetically more vulnerable and the use of drugs such as methamphetamine. Antiretroviral medication can delay the progression of the disease dramatically. In the period between infection and an AIDS diagnosis, people with HIV may show no outward signs of infection, or they may experience some symptoms while their immune systems aren’t severely compromised. A person with HIV receives an AIDS diagnosis when the body’s CD4 cell count – the number of key immune cells in a cubic millimeter of blood – drops below 200, or if he or she has an opportunistic infection or HIV-related cancer.

Opportunistic Infections (OIs)

As HIV progresses, the immune system becomes less able to defend the body against common bacteria and viruses. These infections are called “opportunistic” because they take advantage of the weakened immune system.
People with HIV are more likely to develop certain illnesses – pneumonia, fungal infections and some cancers, for example – than others.

Learn about specific opportunistic infections and HIV-related cancers in more detail. Today, there are many effective medications that can help people manage the virus and live a healthy and productive life. Learn more about the treatments available.

  • “HIV is a death sentence.”-
    In the 1970s and 80s, people with HIV had extremely limited treatment options and often died quickly after they first got sick. Since then, advances in medical treatment have made it possible to live long and well with HIV. Research into still better treatment is ongoing. In fact, People can be treated (not cured ) with medications and  have  a normal life expectancy

  • “HIV only affects gay men or drug users.”-
    HIV is an equal opportunity virus. Newborn babies, women, seniors, teens, and people of all races or nationalities can have HIV. The prevalence of the virus in different groups varies (as it does for other diseases), but it can affect anyone. Of HIV positive people worldwide, slightly more than half are women. Find out how HIV is transmitted.

  • “HIV can be cured and after the cure, you don't need any more medications.”-
    Beliefs that HIV can be cured – through specific sex acts or by new medicines – are unfounded. There is no cure for HIV. Antiretroviral therapy can reduce the presence of the virus in the body, but not eliminate it. Learn more about current treatments.

  • “HIV can be spread through casual contact, through kissing or by mosquitoes.”-
    Contact with the blood, semen, vaginal fluid, or breast milk of someone with HIV is necessary to get the virus. HIV is not airborne and cannot be caught by touching skin, sweat, or saliva. This means that holding hands, sharing drinking glasses and other casual contacts can’t spread HIV. Open-mouthed kissing is likewise extremely low risk – open sores or blood would need to be present for transmission. Mosquitoes do not inject other people’s blood when they bite, and so can’t spread HIV. Find out how HIV is transmitted.

  • “HIV can’t be spread if you’re taking antiretroviral medicine, or if you use birth control.”-
    Safer sex and, if you inject drugs, clean works are necessary to keep from spreading HIV. Antiretroviral therapy will control HIV symptoms and progression, but it won’t prevent infection by itself. Birth control methods like the pill, sponges, diaphragms, and spermicides are designed to prevent pregnancy, not infection. None of these methods protect against HIV or other STDs



Consult a doctor for medical advice or schedule an appointment with us at the People Care Institute for more info!


Note: The information you see describes what usually happens with a medical condition, but doesn't apply to everyone. This information isn't a substitute for medical advice, so make sure to contact a healthcare provider if you have a medical problem. If you think you may have a medical.

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