- AIDS, or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, is caused by HIV
- You can have HIV in your body for many years and not feel or look sick
How do you get it?
HIV is transmitted through blood, semen, pre-cum, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. The two main ways that people get HIV are through unprotected sexual contact (during anal, vaginal, and possibly oral sex), and sharing needles (shooting drugs or getting tattoos) with someone who has HIV. If you are pregnant and have HIV, you can give it to your baby before or during birth, or when you breastfeed.
From two to 12 weeks after you are first infected, you may get flu-like symptoms, like fevers, body aches, and swollen glands. You may start to get night sweats, fevers, weight loss, diarrhea, swollen lymph nodes, oral thrush (white fungus patches in your mouth), and vaginal yeast infections. As HIV slowly weakens your immune system, these symptoms get worse and worse.
HIV slowly destroys your immune system (the system in your body that fights infections). As a result, diseases that your body normally fights off, such as a cold, can make you very sick and cause you to die. Over time, HIV infection develops into AIDS, which can lead to opportunistic infections such as cancer and tuberculosis. The number of years that a person remains HIV positive before advancing to AIDS varies and can range from one year to many years.
To get tested for HIV, go to a clinic or doctor to take an HIV anti-body test. Oral and blood tests are available; there is even a new rapid test that can provide results on the same day. It could take about three to six months after exposure to HIV before antibodies appear in your blood. Therefore, it is a good idea to get retested to confirm your initial results.
AIDS is not curable but there are medicines and other ways to help you stay healthy for a longer time. Treatment goals are to prolong life, improve the quality of life, and slow the progression of disease.
Wear a latex condom! Don’t shoot drugs, or use clean needles if you do. Limit your number of sex partners. Talk to your partner about STDs before having sex. It can save you a lot of pain, trouble, and maybe even your life. Remember, the more sex partners you have, the more likely you are to get infected. Get tested regularly for STDs. HIV takes up to six months to become detectable in your body. HIV/AIDS is not curable, but it can be managed through medication. With the new drugs out there, you can live a longer, better life. There are many places that you can go and numbers you can call if you need support.
For information on free and low cost STD testing and treatment services in Los Angeles County, call the STD Hotline at 1-800-758-0880 or visit our STD Testing & Services section.