Essential Facts to Know about HIV

Dr. Ricardo Alvarez | Last Updated : May 4, 2023

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A few decades ago, HIV/ AIDS used to have a fearsome reputation – still – it is a dangerous infection. Even today, the world needs to be well-informed about HIV to do its best to avoid it. With that said, here are some essential facts everyone should know about HIV.

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It Affects the Immune System

HIV or AIDS impacts the immune system. Simply put – the HIV virus causes the deterioration of the immune system, which further causes disruption and makes space for infectious pathogens to take hold of the body and spread in all directions.

The HIV infection reaches the AIDS stage, when more than twenty infections or cancers can make their way to the body.

Transmission of HIV

HIV tends to transmit via bodily fluids. Contrary to the common myth – one cannot sneeze HIV onto another person. As a matter of fact, HIV is transmitted through the exchange of bodily fluids between people.

The causes of human transmission include the following:

HIV Strains

There are two known HIV strains:

HIV-1 – this strain is the more popular kind that is likely to develop into AIDS.

HIV-2 – this strain is mostly found in West Africa and is less likely to develop into AIDS.

Anyone Can Have HIV

Now, this might come as a shocker to many – but – the fact is that anyone can get HIV. There is no immunity from HIV or any specific group that can contract HIV. No matter how one lives, anyone can get HIV.

Nonetheless, financial status and living conditions can cause a discrepancy in reported cases. The truth is that everyone in the world can be at risk of getting HIV.

You may be unaware of the fact that you might have HIV. The thing about HIV is that there are no exact symptoms that suggest an HIV infection, which is why it is essential to keep regularly checking on oneself through an in home HIV test.

You may have it a long time before you eventually find out that you have been infected with it. The initial symptoms of HIV include flu and a slight fever. With that said, the only sure way to know whether you are infected or not is by getting yourself tested.

Ideally, you should opt for a test when you are experiencing the initial symptom before it progresses to AIDS. Also, doctors recommend testing for STIs before the start of a relationship to ensure that you and your partner are free of any sexually transmitted disease.

This way, you and your partner can kick-start your relationship with a clean slate.

HIV is Manageable

Here is the thing about STIs – all infections are treatable, curable, and manageable. Simply put – contrary to how things were a few decades ago, an HIV infection is no longer a necessary killer.

With the introduction of ART – antiretroviral therapy, HIV/ AIDS has become a manageable infection rather than a fatal one. Though, for ART to work – the HIV infection needs to be detected as early as possible.

Otherwise, late-stage AIDS is difficult to manage.

HIV is Preventable

It is possible to protect oneself from HIV infection by taking precautionary measures. For instance, one of the widely-known steps is to have protected sex. You will also be mindful about not sharing hypodermic needles.

Simply put – you will have to ensure that no foreign bodily fluids make their way inside your body unless you are absolutely sure that they are not infected.

AIDS Can Cause Other Infections

It is important to mention here that AIDS in itself does not make an affected person sick. Instead, it is the infections that it makes room for that lead to a deterioration of the immune system and eventual sickness. Having AIDS tends to increase the probability of getting opportunistic infections.

Because of an HIV infection, tuberculosis, pneumonia, and severe kinds of cancers can get hold of the body. Also, it is impossible to get HIV from saliva. In other words, an infected person’s saliva cannot transmit the disease unless it gets mixed with blood.

This aspect breaks the stereotype that one cannot live with an infected person. Living with an HIV-infected person is okay as they are less likely to give you the disease. The only thing that you will want to be mindful of is that no bodily fluids get mixed.

The Takeaway

AIDS remains a major global problem. Although medicinal advancements have made surviving with HIV manageable, it is essential to know that late-stage AIDS is incredibly dangerous. Typically, the life expectancy is three years since the detection of AIDS.

You get AIDS after getting infected with the HIV virus through unsafe sex and contact with an infected person’s blood – or – during pregnancy (from mother to child). Saliva isn’t the primary cause of getting infected with the virus – the same goes for shaking hands.

Dr. Ricardo Alvarez

Dr. Ricardo Alvarez was a former Medical professor and faculty at Harvard Medical school. After resigning, now he is practicing as a general physician who deals with the diagnosis and treatment of general health problems and disorders. He earned his MS and PhD from Columbia University. Ricardo Alvarez completed his undergraduate education from an accredited medical college under the University of London and completed his training from AMCAS and is a doctor with earned board certification.

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