The Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV is a viral disease that affects the immune system of the body. The effect is two-fold because HIV not only replicates through immune system cells, it also destroys them in the process.
Is it contagious?
Yes, HIV is most often passed through unprotected sexual contact. The type of sexual exposure dictates the risk. For example oral sex is almost zero risk, insertive vaginal sex is approximately 1:2000 risk, while receptive anal sex is a whopping 1:70 risk.
HIV can also be passed through infected IV drug needles, particularly those used by intravenous drug users. Blood transfusions with infected blood are also a potential cause, although rare.
You cannot get HIV through kissing, sharing food or utensils and inanimate objects like toilet seats.
Can I be screened?
Yes screening can be done via a normal blood test or a rapid fingerprick test. Both of which are highly accurate when performed at least 1 month after an exposure.
Can it be cured?
Currently there is no readily available cure. Two patients have been cured through stem cell and bone marrow transplants but these are currently not feasible for general use. Otherwise HIV can be treated with regular medication and can be well controlled. If you maintain on medication then you can essentially lead a normal life. Without medication HIV will invariably lead to the end stage disease known as Acquired Immunodeficiency Disorder or AIDS.
What are the symptoms like?
Often HIV has no noticeable symptoms. Some may experience severe flu-like symptoms in the first few weeks but most have no symptoms at all. Later on certain symptoms may appear as your immune system is weakened but these are late signs of HIV.
What can I do if I may have been exposed to HIV?
If you have been exposed and you are still within 72 hours then you can consider Post-Exposure Prophylaxis medication which is highly effective. Check the page for more information.
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