HIV at a Glance
HIV is the infection that causes AIDS.
HIV has few or no symptoms for up to 10 years or more before symptoms of AIDS develop. There is no cure for HIV, but treatment is available. HIV can be spread during sex play. Latex and female condoms offer very good protection against HIV.
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We all want to protect ourselves and each other from infections like HIV. Learning more about HIV is an important first step. Here are some of the most common questions we hear people ask about HIV. We hope you find the answers helpful, whether you think you may have HIV, have been diagnosed with it, know someone who has it, or are just curious about it.
What Are the Symptoms of HIV?
Some people develop HIV symptoms shortly after being infected. But it usually takes more than 10 years.
There are several stages of HIV disease. The first HIV symptoms may include swollen glands in the throat, armpit, or groin. Other early HIV symptoms include slight fever, headaches, fatigue, and muscle aches. These symptoms may last for only a few weeks. Then there are usually no HIV symptoms for many years.
What Are the Symptoms of HIV?
HIV symptoms appear in the most advanced stage of HIV disease. In addition to a badly damaged immune system, a person with HIV may also have:
- Thrush — a thick, whitish coating of the tongue or mouth that is caused by a yeast infection and sometimes accompanied by a sore throat
- severe or recurring vaginal yeast infections
- chronic pelvic inflammatory disease
- severe and frequent infections
- periods of extreme and unexplained tiredness that may be combined with headaches, lightheadedness, and/or dizziness
- quick loss of more than 10 pounds of weight that is not due to increased physical exercise or dieting
- bruising more easily than normal
- long periods of frequent diarrhea
- frequent fevers and/or night sweats
- swelling or hardening of glands located in the throat, armpit, or groin
- periods of persistent, deep, dry coughing
- increasing shortness of breath
- the appearance of discolored or purplish growths on the skin or inside the mouth
- unexplained bleeding from growths on the skin, from the mouth, nose, anus, or vagina, or from any opening in the body
- frequent or unusual skin rashes
- severe numbness or pain in the hands or feet, the loss of muscle control and reflex, paralysis, or loss of muscular strength
- confusion, personality change, or decreased mental abilities
There is currently no cure for HIV. But there are treatments for people living with HIV.
How Is HIV Spread?
People have lots of questions about the ways you can get HIV. HIV is transmitted in blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. The most common ways HIV is spread are by
having vaginal or anal intercourse without a condom with someone who has HIV
sharing needles or syringes with someone who has HIV
being deeply punctured with a needle or surgical instrument contaminated with HIV
getting HIV-infected blood, semen, or vaginal secretions into open wounds or sores
Babies born to women with HIV can get HIV from their mothers during birth or from breastfeeding.
HIV is not transmitted by simple casual contact such as kissing, sharing drinking glasses, or hugging.
How Can I Prevent Getting or Spreading HIV?
There are many ways you can protect yourself from HIV. The surest way is to abstain from sexual intercourse and from sharing needles and "works" if you use steroids, hormones, or other drugs.
Many people have been infected with HIV by sharing needles. If you are using needles for steroids, hormones, or other drugs.
Safer Sex and HIV
Some kinds of sex play are "safer" because they have lower risk of infection than others. "Safer-sex" activities are those we choose to lower our risk of exchanging blood, semen, or vaginal fluids — the body fluids most likely to spread HIV. Each of us must decide what risks we will take for sexual pleasure.
Here are some common sexual behaviors grouped according to risk.
VERY LOW RISK — No reported HIV infections due to these behaviors
fantasy, cyber sex, or phone sex
- using clean sex toys
- masturbation or mutual masturbation
- manual stimulation of one another
- touching or massage
- fondling or body rubbing
- oral sex on a man with a condom
- oral sex on a woman with a Glyde dam or plastic wrap