Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

HIV is a virus that can be transmitted sexually or through sharing needles. HIV weakens a person’s immune system so they cannot fight off other infections. In some cases it can progress into a more serious condition called Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

Transmission

HIV can be transmitted through blood, semen, vaginal fluids and breast milk. The virus can be spread during sexual contact, from sharing needles (e.g., through intravenous drug use), or from mother to child during vaginal birth or breastfeeding. Using a condom or dental dam during sexual contact can prevent transmission.

Symptoms and complications

There are no direct symptoms of HIV. The virus attacks a person’s immune system, making them vulnerable to other infections. It often takes years for an infected person to notice any changes in their body.

An HIV-positive person can be diagnosed with AIDS if their immune system gets very weak and their T-cell count drops below 200. T cells are the cells in the immune system responsible for fighting pathogens that enter the body.

Testing

If you are thinking about becoming sexually active or already are, it’s very important to get tested. An HIV test is super quick. With just a finger prick of blood, a rapid HIV test can show results within 10 minutes.

Treatment

HIV is not curable but it is treatable. There are many medications known as antiretroviral drugs that help people manage HIV and AIDS. It’s very important that people infected with HIV work closely with a medical provider to find the treatment medication that works with their body. For local information on HIV, check out the Boulder County AIDS Project (BCAP).

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