7 facts about HIV
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We all think we know a lot about HIV, but there’s so much misinformation out there that it’s easy to get mixed up. So, we compiled a list of 7 HIV facts that will set the record straight and help you become more informed about this disease that affects approximately 1.2 million people in the United States.
- HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It attacks the immune system, weakening it and reducing the capacity of the carrier organism to defend itself against “opportunistic” diseases or infections.
- AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is the advanced stage of HIV infection. It is identified by having symptoms that occur when the immune system stops working properly. This is why diseases or infections known as “opportunistic” develop and can be deadly.
- The main difference between HIV and AIDS is that when the body is a carrier of HIV, it is only exposed to the virus, but this does not ensure that the syndrome will develop. With early detection and treatment of HIV, it is possible to continue without symptoms (as an asymptomatic carrier) for a long time.
- HIV is spread through sexual contact, through blood (for example, by a blood transfusion or by sharing syringes), and from mother to child (most likely during childbirth or breastfeeding).
- The only birth control or contraceptive method that protects against possible HIV infection is the condom.
- The virus is not spread by typical superficial contact (such as a hug or handshake), by insect bites, or by touching things that have been touched by a person carrying the virus.
- The only way to reliably diagnose whether or not someone is HIV positive is through a blood test.
Now that you know the facts, you can be more aware of how HIV is transmitted and how it works. If you think you have been exposed to the virus, request an HIV test at your doctor’s office or clinic.