HIV is the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is the virus that causes the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). There are two types of HIV. HIV-1 is responsible for most HIV infections throughout the world, while HIV-2 is found primarily in West Africa.
If you take your medicine and take care of yourself, you can live the same number of years as someone without HIV.
HIV kills the cells in your body that help fight infections. With fewer of these cells (which are called T-cells or CD4 cells), your body can get taken over by cancer, pneumonia,
and other harmful diseases.
Signs of HIV that has not been treated include: losing weight fast, night sweats, being tired all the time, very bad coughing, swelling, skin blotches, diarrhea for a week or more, forgetting things a lot, and being depressed.
Each person is different and may or may not have any side effects. New HIV medications have fewer and rarer side effects. Some common side effects are stomach aches, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, getting tired, dizziness, strange dreams, tingling or numb feeling, and skin rash. If you do have a side effect, contact your doctor to fix it.
Yes, you probably will. Everyone is hopeful that there will be a cure for HIV, but there is not one yet.
Your doctor will run some tests on you to figure out which medications will work best for you. It may mean one (1) pill a day. It could be more. The DC Department of Health recommends that everyone who has HIV takes the medication to keep them healthy - even if you are feeling okay. Most of today's medications are very easy to take. Your doctor will tell you how to store them, when to take them, if you need to eat when you take the medication and more. You should ask as many questions as you want:
If you have private insurance, your insurance plan should cover the doctor and medications. You can ask the business manager at your doctor's office for more information. You can also call your insurance company. If you have Medicaid or Medicare, your doctor and medications are covered. If you don't have insurance, the DC Department of Health has a program that will cover your doctor and medications. Call 202-671-4900 for more information.
HIV is spread by contact with HIV-infected body fluids: blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. Having unprotected (raw) sex and sharing needles are the most common ways of spreading HIV in DC. Condoms can help you protect your sex partners from HIV.
Another reason to get in treatment: a study found that HIV-positive people who take their medications and lower their amount of virus to almost zero have a much smaller chance of passing their HIV to another person. That's one of the reasons we say it's important to take your medications regularly.
There are a few things more you should understand about how to see how you are doing with your HIV. There are two very important tests that measure how your body is handling the HIV:
You should get both of these tests two (2) times a year. You should ask your doctor what your numbers are and what they mean. Your doctor can change which medicines you take to try to make your numbers better.