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About HIV

What is HIV?
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is the virus that causes AIDS. The virus infects the body’s immune system. Your immune system is your body’s defense system. The HIV virus has the ability to enter a cell and create copies of itself and weaken your body’s ability to protect itself against infections and disease.

What is AIDS?
AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) is a disease caused by the HIV virus. Not everyone who has HIV gets AIDS. AIDS is a diagnosis that a doctor makes when looking at a person’s overall health and lab tests. Because they have a weakened immune system, someone with AIDS is at significant risk of contracting a life threatening illness.

Behaviors That Put You at Risk of HIV
Have you ever?

  • Had sex (vaginal, oral or anal) with either a man or a woman without using a condom?
  • Had an STD?
  • Used IV drugs or had a partner who used IV drugs?
  • Been tattooed with unsterilized needles or had body piercing?
  • Exchanged blood by cutting or biting?
  • Had a blood transfusion in another country or in the U.S. before 1985?
  • Had more than one sex partner at a time?
  • Received or had sex for drugs or money?

What Are the Symptoms?
Some people who have HIV have no physical symptoms. Some people do.
Do you have any of these symptoms that are unexplained?

  • Night sweats
  • Fever
  • Unexplained headache
  • Mouth sores
  • White patches in the mouth
  • Swollen glands in the neck or armpits
  • Dry cough
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Anemia (low blood count)
  • Diarrhea
  • Sores on genitals
  • STDs
  • Recurrent Yeast infections
  • Recurrent shingles

Individuals who have been infected with the HIV virus may not experience any symptoms for 10 years or more after infection. The only way to be sure about your HIV status is to be tested.

Getting pregnant if you have the HIV virus can be risky for your baby because mothers can pass the virus to babies during pregnancy or by breast feeding.

How is HIV treated?
Fortunately, treatment for HIV is very effective. Although there is no cure for HIV, medications are usually successful in strengthening the patient’s immune system. Regular follow up with a doctor specializing in HIV care and laboratory testing several times per year are key elements of HIV treatment. Other preventative health care measures such as immunizations and screenings are also important.