There is no cure for HIV yet, but treatment is available to help keep the immune system healthy. The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested.

What is HIV/AIDS?

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) attacks your immune system. HIV attacks the cells in your body that help fight off infection.

The HIV virus can be passed through bodily fluids from an infected person.

If left untreated, HIV can progress to AIDS, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. AIDS is the last stage of HIV infection.

Taking HIV medication prevents the progression of HIV and keeps people healthy.

Who can get HIV/AIDS?

HIV/AIDS can be spread through bodily fluids that include blood, semen and breast milk.

Sexual contact with someone with HIV puts you at risk of contracting HIV. HIV can be spread through vaginal, anal, or oral sexual contact.  It is also spread through sharing needles or other contact between your blood and an HIV positive person’s blood.

  • Using condoms greatly reduces the chances of passing HIV on to another person.

  • Taking daily medicine to prevent HIV reduces the chance of getting HIV from an HIV-positive partner.

  • Never share needles or syringes. The HIV virus can live for more than a month in a used needle.

HIV symptoms

There are three stages of HIV: acute HIV infection, clinical latency, and AIDS. Many people experience flu-like symptoms when first exposed to HIV. Symptoms present within 7 to 10 days after exposure and can include:

  • Fever/chills

  • Rash

  • Night sweats

  • Joint and muscle aches

  • Fatigue

  • Swollen lymph nodes

  • Mouth ulcers

  • Sore throat.

The clinical latency stage is when HIV is still active but there may not be symptoms. AIDS is the last stage and includes serious symptoms such as:

  • Rapid weight loss

  • Infections of the lungs, skin, and GO tract

  • Fevers and extreme night sweats

  • Pneumonia

  • Red, brown, pink or purplish spots on/under the skin, inside the mouth, nose, or eyelids

  • Neurologic disorders, memory loss, and depression

  • Swelling of lymph glands

  • Sores in the mouth, on the genitals or anus

  • Diarrhea that lasts for a long time

  • Feeling overly tired all the time.

HIV testing

The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested. Be sure to talk to any sexual partners about possible risks as well. Early stage HIV is spread easily, even without the presence of symptoms. Treatment is most effective when started early.

It is possible to test negative and still have HIV. If you think you are at risk, let your provider know your concern.

How do you treat HIV?

Scientists are working to find a cure for HIV. There are medications to help combat the spread and effects of the virus.

Antiretroviral therapy (ART) can help reduce the risks of spreading HIV and can prevent HIV from developing into AIDS.

Reduce your HIV risk

  • Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, is a way for people at high risk of HIV to prevent HIV infection. PrEP involves taking a pill every day.

  • Post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP, gives you a 72-hour window after HIV exposure to prevent HIV. Patients take antiretroviral medicines (ART) for 1 month.

Contact your provider to learn more about preventative measures. Go to urgent care or the emergency department as soon as possible after a potential exposure and ask for post-exposure prophylaxis.