HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks the body's immune system. If HIV is not treated, it can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). Learning the basics about HIV can keep you healthy and prevent HIV transmission. You can also download sharing materials or watch videos on basic HIV information.
What is HIV?
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks the body's immune system. If HIV is not treated, it can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).
There is currently no effective cure. Once people contract HIV, they have it for life.
But with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled. People with HIV who receive effective HIV treatment can live long and healthy lives and protect their partners.
Where did HIV come from?
- HIV infection in humans came from a type of chimpanzee in Central Africa.
- The chimpanzee version of the virus (called simian immunodeficiency virus or SIV) was likely transmitted to humans when humans hunted these chimpanzees for meat and came into contact with their infected blood.
- Studies show that HIV may have passed from chimpanzees to humans as early as the late 1800s.
- For decades, HIV slowly spread through Africa and then to other parts of the world. We know that the virus has existed in the United States from at least the mid to late 1970s.
For more information on the history of HIV in the United States and CDC's response to the epidemic, see the CDC HIV and AIDS Timeline.
How do I know if I have HIV?
The only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested. Knowing your HIV status helps you make healthy choices to prevent getting or transmitting HIV.
Are there symptoms?
Chart listing HIV symptoms: fever, HIV symptoms and tests, chills, rash, night sweats, muscle aches, sore throat, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, and mouth ulcers.
Some people have flu-like symptoms within 2 to 4 weeks after infection (called acute HIV infection). These symptoms can last a few days or several weeks. Possible symptoms include
- Shaking chills,
- Night sweatshirts,
- Muscle pains,
- Throat pain,
- Swollen lymph nodes and
- Ulcers in the mouth
However, some people may not feel sick during acute HIV infection. These symptoms do not mean you have HIV. Other diseases can cause these same symptoms.
See a healthcare provider if you have these symptoms and think you may have been exposed to HIV. Getting tested for HIV is the only way to know for sure.
What are the stages of HIV?
When people with HIV go untreated, they generally go through three stages. But HIV drugs can slow or prevent the progression of the disease. With advances in treatment, progression to Stage 3 is less common today than it was in the early days of HIV.
Stage 1: acute HIV infection
- People have a large amount of HIV in their blood. They are very contagious.
- Some people have flu-like symptoms. This is the body's natural response to infection.
- However, some people may not feel sick right away or at all.
- If you have flu-like symptoms and think you may have been exposed to HIV, seek medical attention and request a test to diagnose an acute infection.
- Only antigen / antibody tests or nucleic acid tests (NAT) can diagnose an acute infection.
Stage 2: chronic HIV infection
- This stage is also called asymptomatic HIV infection or clinical latency.
- HIV is still active but reproduces at very low levels.
- People may not have any symptoms or may get sick during this phase.
- Without taking anti-HIV drugs, this period can last a decade or more, but some can progress faster.
- People can transmit HIV in this phase.
- At the end of this phase, the amount of HIV in the blood (called the viral load) increases and the CD4 cell count decreases. The person may have symptoms as virus levels rise in the body and the person goes to Stage 3.
- People who take their HIV medications as prescribed may never go to Stage 3.
Stage 3: acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)
- The most serious phase of HIV infection.
- People with AIDS have such damaged immune systems that they contract an increasing number of serious diseases, called opportunistic infections.
- People are diagnosed with AIDS when their CD4 cell count falls below 200 cells / mm, or if they develop certain opportunistic infections.
- People with AIDS can have a high viral load and be very infectious.
- Without treatment, people with AIDS usually survive for about three years.
Fuente: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention