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HIV is a virus that attacks and weaken the body’s immune system making it harder for the body to fight off infections and disease. HIV is spread through contact with certain body fluids from an infected person, including blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, or breast milk. You can get HIV if you have unprotected sex or share needles with someone who has HIV.

Window Period - Seroconversion

When someone becomes infected with HIV, their body begins to produce antibodies to the virus. This process is known as seroconversion, and it usually takes place within two to four weeks of infection.During this time, an HIV-positive person may experience a range of symptoms, including fever, rash, and fatigue. However, not everyone experiences these symptoms, and they can vary in severity.After seroconversion, an HIV-positive person will carry the virus for life. However, with treatment, they can manage the virus and live a long and healthy life.

Symptoms of HIV

There are many symptoms of HIV, and they can differ from person to person. Some people may experience no symptoms at all, while others may only have a few mild symptoms. The most common symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Joint pain
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Skin rash or lesions
  • Weight loss

How HIV Is Transmitted

There are three main ways that someone can get HIV:

1. Through sexual contact with an infected person. This can happen through vaginal, anal, or oral sex, or by sharing sex toys with an infected person.

2. By sharing needles or other injecting equipment with an infected person. This includes sharing needles for injecting drugs, tattoos, or body piercings.

3. From an infected mother to her child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding.

4. By accidents in a medical environment when the medical professional cuts themself with a sharp that has an infected person's blood on it.

It's also important to note that you can't get HIV from casual contact like hugging, shaking hands, or sharing food or utensils with someone who has HIV.

Testing For HIV

If you think you may have been exposed to HIV, it’s important to get tested as soon as possible. There are two types of tests that can be used to detect the presence of HIV antibodies in your blood:

Antibody tests

• ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays): This is the most common type of test used to screen for HIV infection. ELISA tests can usually be done at your doctor’s office or local health clinic.

• Western blot: This test is generally used to confirm the results of an ELISA test. It is usually done at a specialized laboratory.

Both types of tests are highly accurate and can detect HIV antibodies within 2-8 weeks after infection. If you think you may have been exposed to HIV, it’s important to get tested as soon as possible so that you can start treatment if necessary.

RNA tests

These test for the presence of HIV RNA, which is the genetic material of the virus.  This type of test can be used to detect the presence of HIV in your blood soon after you’ve been infected (before antibodies have had a chance to develop). HIV RNA test can be taken after 6 days of exposure and conclusively detect an HIV infection as early as 9-11 days after exposure. RNA tests are typically only used when someone has recently been exposed to HIV and it is important to know their status right away.

If you are diagnosed with HIV infection your doctor may also order other tests, such as a blood test to measure the level of virus in your blood (viral load), or a CD4 cell count, which measures the number of a type of white blood cell that is attacked by HIV.

Rapid HIV test: This test can provide results within about 20 minutes. It is usually done using a finger-stick blood sample, although some rapid tests can also be done using saliva.

Home HIV test: Home HIV tests are available without a prescription at most drug stores. These tests usually require you to collect a small sample of blood from your finger or use oral fluid from your mouth.

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Treatment For HIV

There is currently no cure for HIV, but there are treatments available that can enable people with the virus to live long, healthy lives.

The most common and effective treatment for HIV is a combination of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs). ARVs work by interfering with the replication of the HIV virus in the body, which reduces the amount of the virus in the blood and makes it easier for the immune system to fight off infection.

In order to be effective, ARV treatment must be taken consistently and as prescribed by a healthcare provider. People who take ARVs as prescribed and adhere to their treatment regimen can expect to live long, healthy lives.

Undetectable Viral Load

While someone with an undetectable viral load is not infectious and cannot transmit HIV through unprotected sex, there is still a small chance that they could transmit the virus. This is because the viral load test does not measure all of the viruses in a person's body, just the amount of virus in their blood. There are other ways to reduce the risk of transmission, such as using condoms, taking PrEP, or being in a monogamous relationship with someone who also has HIV and an undetectable viral load.

How To Prevent Getting HIV

There are also ways to reduce your risk of getting HIV in the first place. These include:

- Abstaining from sexual activity
- Using condoms consistently and correctly every time you have sex
- Limiting your number of sexual partners
- Avoiding sharing needles or other injecting equipment

If you are sexually active, it is important to get tested for HIV regularly. This will help ensure that you are aware of your status and can take steps to protect your and other's health if necessary.

Complications Of HIV - AIDS

Nowadays thanks for the various ARV therapies people living with HIV don't develop AIDS as long as treatment is started early and if they follow their healthcare professional's advice.

If diagnosed late there are a number of complications that can arise as a result of HIV infection. These include opportunistic infections, which take advantage of a weakened immune system; cancers such as Kaposi’s sarcoma and lymphoma; and neurological problems.

People with HIV are also at increased risk of cardiovascular disease, bone density loss, and liver and kidney disease. As the virus progresses, it can damage the brain and nervous system, leading to problems with memory, thinking, and movement.

Complications from HIV can be difficult to manage and sometimes life-threatening. It’s important to see your healthcare provider regularly so they can monitor your health and start treatment early if any problems arise.

Find more information here.

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