HIV & AIDS

 

What is it?

What is HIV?

HIV means Human Immunodeficiency Virus, which tells us that the infection weakens the immune system, and therefore the body’s defense system against illnesses. HIV is a serious infection that if left untreated can lead to AIDS. 1 in 8 people living with HIV doesn’t know that they have it. 

 

What is AIDS?

AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. When someone has AIDS, their immune system is weakened to a point where it can longer fight off infections and illnesses that it could otherwise. They can have serious health problems like seizures, vision loss, headaches, and stomach illness. When someone dies from AIDS, they are dying from one of those illnesses that they can’t recover from.

 

How can someone get it?

People can get infected with HIV through having oral, anal, or vaginal sex or sharing needles with someone who has HIV. Anal sex has the highest risk for HIV. HIV can also be passed from a pregnant person to a fetus. There are five body fluids that can spread HIV. Those are blood, vaginal fluid, semen, rectal fluid, and breast milk. Other body fluids, like spit or sweat, do not have HIV in them. 

 

How can it be prevented?

Some ways HIV can be prevented are

  • using condoms, internal condoms, or dental dams as a barrier between the bodies; 

  • not having sex or being abstinent;

  • avoiding sharing needles;    

  • getting tested regularly, especially with new sexual partners, to know your status;

  • talking openly, honestly, and without judgment with sexual partners about STIs;

  • learning how to care of your health.

There are 2 types of medicine that can reduce the chance of being infected with HIV

  • Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is an emergency medication taken after being exposed to HIV. It has to be started within 72 hours of potentially being infected.          

  • Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a medication taken if at risk of getting HIV to prevent getting it. These might be people who have a partner with HIV. PrEP works very well when taken correctly.

 

If you have questions about PEP or PrEP, contact our clinic and we can answer your questions.

 

Symptoms

People don’t always experience symptoms when they have HIV.


Some people might feel 

  • flu-like symptoms like fever, chills, tiredness; 

  • muscle aches a few weeks after they are infected.

 

Who should get tested?

Anyone engaging in sexual activity or sharing needles for injecting drugs could potentially become infected with HIV, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. It is recommended that people ages 13-64 get tested at least once a year. Getting tested is the only way to know if you have HIV.

 

Here are some times when is important to get tested soon

  • If someone notices any of the symptoms listed above, it is important to get checked out.

  • If someone has tuberculosis or hepatitis.

  • If someone is sexually active and/or is a gay or bisexual male-bodied person.

  • When someone has been diagnosed and treated for another STI.

  • When someone has multiple sexual partners.    

  • When someone has exchanged sex for money, drugs, housing, or other goods.   

  • When someone is told by a sexual partner that they have HIV or they have experienced any of the situations listed above.

  • When someone is pregnant.

 

How is it tested?

HIV is tested with a blood sample (finger prick or blood draw) or a mouth swab. There are rapid tests for both, and there are also tests done by a lab that can take a little longer. 

It takes time for the amount of HIV in someone’s body to get high enough to be seen on a test, so there is a period of time up to 3 months before being able to be tested. During that period of time, people can easily pass HIV to another person.
 

 

How is it treated?

There is no cure for HIV, although research is being done. HIV treatment involves taking medications that slow the growth of the virus in the body helping people with HIV to live long, healthy lives. In fact, the medication can reduce the amount of HIV in someone’s body so much that HIV might stop showing up. When this happens, they can no longer infect someone else with HIV. It’s called Undetectable=Untransmittable.

 

When pregnant people with HIV use medication it significantly decreases the chances of their child having HIV.

 

Where to get checked?

If you are in Pueblo, Colorado, contact the Family Planning Clinic from Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment.

 

English: Call (719) 583-4380. Monday to Friday 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM.
Español: Llama (719) 583-4376. Lunes a viernes 8:00 AM a 4:30 PM. 

If you are somewhere else in the United States you can find other resources here.