Signs and Symptoms
The only way that you can totally be sure about whether or not you have HIV is to get tested. You can't and shouldn't rely on symptoms to tell whether you have HIV. Many of the people who are infected with this disease don't have any symptoms at all for many years.
The following may be warning signs of infection with HIV:
* rapid weight loss
* dry cough
* recurring fever or profuse night sweats
* profound and unexplained fatigue
* swollen lymph glands in the armpits, groin, or neck
* diarrhea that lasts for more than a week
* white spots or unusual blemishes on the tongue, in the mouth, or in the throat
* red, brown, pink, or purplish blotches on or under the skin or inside the mouth, nose, or eyelids
* memory loss, depression, and other neurological disorders
Remember, no one should assume they are infected if they have any of these symptoms. Each of the symptoms of HIV can also be related to other diseases as well. Again, the only way to determine whether you are infected is to be tested for HIV infection.
How HIV is spread
HIV (which stands for human immunodeficiency virus) is the virus that causes AIDS. This virus is passed from one person to another through blood-to-blood and sexual contact. Also, a women who is pregnant and is infected by the disease can pass it on to their child during pregnancy or delivery, and also by breast-feeding. There is an 8% chance that the baby will get HIV from their mother. Most of the people who have HIV will develop AIDS as a result.
These body fluids have been proven to spread HIV:
* vaginal fluid
* breast milk
* other body fluids containing blood
If you are a docter, nurse, or any type of health care worker, the following are additional body fluids that can tranmit the disease. If you come into contact with:
* cerebrospinal fluid surrounding the brain and the spinal cord
* synovial fluid surrounding bone joints
* amniotic fluid surrounding a fetus
HIV damages the cells of your immune system, and interferes with your body's ability to fight off viruses, bacteria, anf ungi that cause disease. It is easier to get infections that your body would normally resist when this happens.
HIV is most commonly spread by sexual contact with an infected partner. It can also spread through infected blood and shared needles or syringes contaminated with the virus. Untreated women with HIV also can pass the infection to their babies during pregnancy, delivery or through their breast milk.
More than a dozen HIV vaccines are currently being tested, and many new drugs for HIV- or AIDS-related infections are in development. Although these drugs are not yet licensed, some may be available by compassionate exception to people who need them.
Who is at Risk
HIV crosses all cultures, national borders and religions. Anyone, of any age, race, sex or sexual orientation can be infected, but you're at greatest risk of HIV/AIDS if you:
* Have unprotected sex with multiple partners. You're at risk whether you're heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual. Unprotected sex means having sex without using a new latex or polyurethane condom every time.
* Have unprotected sex with someone who is HIV-positive.
* Have another sexually transmitted disease, such as syphilis, herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea or bacterial vaginosis.
* Share needles during intravenous drug use.
* Are a person with hemophilia who received blood products between 1977 and April 1985 the date standard testing for HIV began.
* Received a blood transfusion or blood products before 1985.
Newborns or nursing infants whose mothers have tested positive for HIV also are at high risk.
There's no vaccine to prevent HIV infection and no cure for AIDS. But it's possible to protect yourself and others from infection. That means educating yourself about HIV and avoiding any behavior that allows HIV-infected fluids blood, semen, vaginal secretions and breast milk into your body.
Links to Reliable Health Websites
1) Medical and health information for a healthier life from mayo clinic. Mayo Clinic staff . October 15, 2003 http://www.mayoclinic.com/invoke.cfm?objectid=32278E96-F109-4807-8738841CD620091B§ion=8
2) HIV/AIDS. Mayo Clinic staff . October 14, 2003 http://www.mayoclinic.com/invoke.cfm?id=DS00005
3) Advancing HIV Prevention: The Science Behind the New Initiative . CDC. October 15, 2003 http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/partners/ahp_science.htm
Created by: Aly R and Derek A
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