HIV: What You Need to Know to Help Prevent Infection

HIV is a dangerous virus that can infect anyone, regardless of their age, race, or gender. This virus, also known at the human immunodeficiency virus, is capable of turning into a more dangerous disease called AIDS. Understanding the risk factors and symptoms of HIV is an important step in learning how to prevent becoming infected with this potentially dangerous and incurable virus.

Risk Factors

HIV is spread though certain types of bodily fluids. Blood and seminal fluid are some of the most common. However, the virus is not easily transmitted from one person to another. In order for someone to become infected, these bodily fluids must come in contact with a mucous membrane or an open wound. It is can also be transmitted through syringes or needles that force the virus directly into the bloodstream. Pregnant women may transmit the virus to their child during birth; however, this is only common when high levels of the virus are found in the mother’s blood.

Symptoms

In the early stages, HIV is hard to detect. Many patients fall sick with a flu-like illness a few weeks after exposure. Some common symptoms during this phase are fever, swollen lymph nodes, and fatigue. Since these symptoms occur with other common viruses, many people don’t suspect they have HIV. After the initial symptoms fade away, some patients don’t experience any other symptoms for years, even though the virus is thriving in their system.

Effects on the Body

HIV puts a person’s immune system at risk. White blood cells are attacked by the virus, especially the T-cells. These cells are needed to ward off infection from everyday viruses. When the immune system becomes extremely compromised, the patient may develop AIDS. This disease is very deadly, and if left untreated, most patients will live less than a year. The earlier an HIV infection is caught, the sooner a patient can begin taking medication to help prevent the virus from turning into AIDS.

Anyone who feels they may have been exposed to the virus should immediately seek out an HIV testing clinic. There are many drugs on the market that are proven to lower the levels of the virus in the bloodstream. It is also important for infected individuals to inform all of their intimate partners about their diagnosis, to help prevent the virus from being spread to others.