HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. If left untreated, it can lead to AIDS. It is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the CD4 cells, often called T cells. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infections and disease. These opportunistic infections or cancers take advantage of a very weak immune system and signal that the person has AIDS, the last state of HIV infection. No safe and effective cure currently exists, but with proper treatment and medical care, HIV can be controlled. The medication used to treat HIV is called ART (antiretroviral therapy).
According to the CDC, more than 1.2 million people in the US are living with HIV, and 1 in 8 of them don’t know it. Over the last decade, the annual number of new HIV diagnoses declined 19%. The only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested. Testing is relatively simple. You can ask your health care provider for an HIV test. Many medical clinics, substance abuse programs, community health centers, and hospitals offer them as well.
HIV is spread through direct contact with blood and certain body fluids from someone who has HIV. These body fluids include, blood, semen, vaginal fluids, rectal fluids, breastmilk. In the U.S HIV is primarily spread through: having anal or vaginal sex without a condom, sharing needles or supplies used for drug injection, mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding, and being stuck by an HIV contaminated needle or sharp object.
Today HIV is a manageable disease. HIV medications have significantly changed the course of HIV infection since the early days of the epidemic and with the proper care and treatment, you can live a healthy life. The sooner you take steps to protect your health, the better. Early treatment with antiretroviral drugs and a healthy lifestyle can help you stay well. Prompt medical care prevents the onset of AIDS and some life-threatening AIDS-related conditions. If you are living with HIV, it’s important to make choices that keep you healthy and protect others.
If you are taking medications for HIV, it is very important to take your medication as directed and keep your regularly scheduled appointments with your healthcare provider. Get support. Ask your healthcare provider about social service providers or local support groups. Reduce the risk of transmission to others.
HPC offers the following specialty therapies for the treatment of HIV:
- Isentress® HD
- Viramune® XR
Visit the following sites for additional information on HIV: