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1 in 2  people with HIV have had the virus at least 3 years before their diagnosis.

(Although this website provides general information regarding HIV, this information DOES NOT constitute medical advice and should not be used as such.  The information is NOT intended to diagnose or treat any health issues and is NOT a substitute for professional medical treatment or consultation.  Visit a qualified physician or health care provider regarding individual health-related needs, concerns, or questions.)

HIV is a virus that infects the body, attacking the immune system (which defends against germs and diseases), spread through certain bodily fluids.  These fluids include:

        • Semen

        • Vaginal fluids

        • Blood

        • Breast Milk or childbirth (if the mother is not in treatment)

At least one of these fluids must enter a person’s body in order for infection to be transmitted.  This most commonly happens during unprotected sex (without the use of a latex condom or HIV treatment or preventative medication) or the sharing of injectable drug needles.


If untreated, HIV infection can leads to AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.) 


A virus is a small “germ” that enters the body and can make one ill.  HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) attacks the immune system’s T-cells, also known as the CD-4 cells, which combat infections in the body.  These cells recognize bacteria and foreign viruses and make helpers to fight the germs.  If left untreated, a large number of these immune cells can be killed by the virus, preventing the body from fighting off diseases and opportunistic infections.


Someone with HIV can infect others, even if he or she does not feel or look sick.  It is not possible to tell by looking at someone whether or not they are infected with HIV, as they may appear healthy.  An HIV test is the only way to be sure.


The progression of HIV’s damaging effects on  the immune system can lead to AIDS - the last stage of HIV infection; a disease I’m which the body’s immune system is weakened.  Once the immune system is weakened, there is the potential to develop a variety of life-threatening illnesses.   Although HIV-infected, with proper treatment and care,  many people never develop AIDS.


Although successful preventative medicine has begun to emerge, currently, there is no cure for HIV infection.   However, proper medical treatment can control HIV , keeping viral loads suppressed and CD-4 counts higher.  Antiretroviral therapies (ART) are  daily prescription medications used to preserve the health of infected individuals, decrease the chance to transmission, combat the virus, and prevent progression into AIDS.  Prompt medical care is advised if a person receives a postpositive diagnosis.


Currently, there are various treatments available, which can slow or halt the progression of HIV infection.  Anti-retorviral medications can help control HIV infection by raising the CD-4 count and lowering the viral load.

About 40% of new HIV infections come from people who do not know they are HIV+

You CANNOT get HIV from:

    • Someone spitting on you

    • Mosquitoes

    • Hugging or holding hands

    • Kissing (unless both parties have cuts or sores)

    • Tears from someone who is crying

    • Sharing eating utensils or plates

    • Sitting on a toilet seat

    • Washing clothes in the same washing machine

    • Body piercings (as long as only new needles or ink are/is used)

   Swimming pools

    • Sneezing or coughing


Disclosure

• Disclosure (of YOUR) positive HIV status is at YOUR discretion.

• You do not have to disclose to your employer.

• However, you MUST disclose to someone with whom you are consenting to have sexual activities.

• You CANNOT disclose someone else’s status.

If let untreated, an HIV infection can progress, overwhelming the immune system.



Three Stages of HIV Infection:

        • Acute HIV infection (Stage 1)

        • Clinical latency (Stage 2)

        • AIDS : Acquired  ImmunoDeficiency Syndrome (Stage 3)



Early symptoms of HIV infection may resemble the flu - muscle and joint aches, headache, sore throat, and fever.


Once again, successful and consistent ART treatment can suppress the virus and prevent the progress from infection to AIDS.  Once a person’s T-cell (CD-4) count drops to 200 or below, they are considered to have an AIDS diagnosis, even if their CD-4 count returns to higher healthier numbers.  Most people can remain healthy, if they are adherent to their antiretroviral therapy.  HIV positive individuals on consistent ART can live a nearly normal lifespan. Continuum care is critical for the most quality of life and keeping CD-4 count high.


HIV is a retrovirus.  This means that is has an enzyme that gives them the unique property of transcribing their RNA into DNA after entering a cell. The retroviral DNA can then integrate into the chromosomal DNA of the host cell, to be expressed there.


(Currently) there is no cure for HIV.  Once a person is infected, they will always have it.  This also means that it can be transmitted to others.


If a female who if HIV+ is pregnant and she does not receive treatment, there is a 1 in 4 chance that the child will acquire the virus from the mother.  However, there is medication that the expectant mother can take while pregnant that may prevent the baby from becoming infected.   Expectant mothers who are HIV+  should talk to their health care provider about strategies to keep both mother and child healthy.

Prevention Strategies

• Avoid high-risk behaviors.

• Refrain from having unprotected sex.  

• Use a latex condom properly when engaging in sexual activity (vaginal, anal, and oral sex.). Condoms are barriers that can help protect from Sexually Transmitted Infections (like syphilis and HIV.)

• Do not share needles.

• In addition to using condoms, if you are having sex or sharing needles with someone who is HIV positive, you can take PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis), a medication that is highly successful in preventing the transmission of the virus to uninfected individuals. (Click here for more information about PrEP.)

• Speak with your partner(s) about past sexual partners and/or about any drug and needle use.

DEFINITIONS


    •    HIV: Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV is a virus that weakens the immune system of the infected person, destroying the cells that combat disease and infection (CD4 cells/T cells).  This reduction in the number of CD4 cells makes it more likely that a person may get other infections (OIs) or certain cancers. The HIV virus is spread though certain bodily fluids. There currently is no effective cure for HIV, but HIV can be controlled with proper medical care.  However, even with proper treatment, once infected, a person has HIV for life. If left untreated, HIV infection can lead to AIDS.


    •    AIDS: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome: This is the final and most severe stage of HIV infection (Stage 3).  Once a person’s T-cell (CD-4) count drops to 200 or below, that are considered to have an AIDS diagnosis and makes a person more susceptible to Opportunistic Infections (OIs).   This may lead to immune system failure.  Early treatment to an HIV infection is may prevent the progression unto AIDS.  Early detection is also key.


    •    STI: Sexually Transmitted Infection:   An infection that is transmitted from an infected person to a non-infected person  via sexual contact.  STIs may be caused by virus, bacteria, or parasites.  STIs are preventable though safe sex practices.  A small list of STIs includes: HPV, genital herpes, syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and more.


    •    Retrovirus: A single-stranded RNA virus.  These RNA viruses insert a DNA copy of their genome into the DNA of host cells in order to replicate, changing the genome of the host cells. Retorviruses contain an enzyme that allows them to transcribe their RNA into DNA.


    •   ART: AntiRetroviral Therapy: Daily prescription medications used to preserve the health of infected individuals, decrease the chance to transmission, combat the virus, and prevent progression into AIDS.  Taking ART as prescribed by a physician can lower the viral load significantly, even to undetectable levels (however, a person still has HIV. ). ARTs became available as treatment in the mid-1990s.


    •    Viral Load:  The amount of HIV virus in a person’s system.  A lower viral load means a smaller amount of HIV in the body.  The aim of treatment is to bring a person’s viral load to a low amount.


    •    CD-4 Count:  The number of CD4 cells (T-cells) in the body.  


    •    Opportunistic Infection (OI): OIs are infections that are more severe and occur more frequently in people whose immune system is weakened.  They are caused by viruses, fungi, bacteria, and parasites.


    •    PrEP: Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis: A once-daily prescription medication for persons who are HIV-negative that can reduce the chance of contracting HIV through sex.  


    •   Prophylaxis: To prevent or control the the spread of an infection or disease.



A person may be HIV-positive and not display symptoms for years.  The only way to accurate way to know if a person is HIV-positive is to get tested.  


Get tested for free!  Click here for more information.  Testing is confidential.



Get the facts!  
Contact your physician regarding any questions or concerns you have.

(Although this website provides general information regarding HIV, this information DOES NOT constitute medical advice and should not be used as such.  The information is NOT intended to diagnose or treat any health issues and is NOT a substitute for professional medical treatment or consultation.  Visit a qualified physician or health care provider regarding individual health-related needs, concerns, or questions.)

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425 Kingsley St.        Lake Charles, LA 70605        337.439.5861