What Is HIV?
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) attacks a person’s immune system. It is a blood-borne virus. This means that it travels from person to person through blood, even small amounts of it. The virus is most commonly transmitted through sexual contact or sharing needles. Sooner rather than later, it will progress to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) if you don’t start treatment early.
Symptoms of HIV Stages 1 & 2
If you’ve recently contracted the virus, you may have flu-like symptoms plus mouth ulcers for 2 to 4 weeks after exposure. Your immune system trying to fight the virus. It may have lasted a few days to a couple of weeks. During this time, you are very contagious.
In this stage, you have no symptoms. But the virus multiplies in your body. You can still transmit the virus to others. If you begin treatment in this stage, then HIV may never move to stage 3, which is AIDS.
Fact or Myth: Getting HIV from Toilet Seats or Kissing
HIV is not airborne. So, you cannot get it from simply being near someone, touching someone, or having other casual interactions. The virus isn’t present in spit, sweat, or tears. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HIV is not transmitted through open mouth kissing or sharing toilets, food, or drinks.
Risks & Dangers
A parent can also pass it to a child during birth, and having another untreated STD increases your risk of getting or passing the virus because sores may bleed.
Untreated, stage 2 will progress to stage 3, AIDS which includes symptoms like these that get progressively worse until death:
- Joint pain
- Muscle cramps
- Painful body sores that don’t heal
- Swollen glands
- Fast weight loss,
- Organ failure
- Immune system that stops protecting you
An estimated 1.2 million people live with this condition in the US today. Of them, the CDC estimates that around 13% of them may not know they’re infected. That means they could be passing it to others unaware.
Statistics to Know
In 2021, over 36,000 people were diagnosed with HIV. This number is declining, largely thanks to new treatments and education. But this remains a significant number of new cases. 67% of new cases happen through male-to-male sexual contact, while 22% occur through heterosexual sexual contact.
In the US, HIV treatment costs individuals, insurers, and the government an estimated $13.7 billion every year.
HIV Screening & Testing in Denver
Everyone should be screened for HIV at least once in their lifetime. Someone who has become pregnant should get screened in the first trimester and again in the third if they are high risk. The CDC also recommends that men who have sex with multiple men or are at higher risk should consider screening as often as every 3 months.
If you have recently been exposed or had flu-like symptoms with or without mouth ulcers, consider a rapid HIV test. If you believe you may have had the virus for several months, then consider a molecular HIV test, which is more accurate.
In the state of Colorado, you can order an HIV test without an order from a provider. And because having other STDs can increase your risk of catching this virus, consider a 10 STD panel, which you can also order online. Learn more about ordering your own STD testing online.
Is HIV Curable or Treatable?
HIV is not curable. However, current medical science can treat it. Some medications can get the virus level down to undetectable. If you stay “undetectable”, you cannot pass the virus to your partner.
To protect your partner(s), you need regular testing to confirm that you stay undetectable. However, undetectable does not mean cured. If you stop treatment, the virus will take over again and progress.