HIV is the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired immune deficiency syndrome). It is transmitted through sexual contact or through blood and contaminated needles from an infected person. The beginning of HIV infection is often silent or mistaken for a common flu-like illness; then a person will have no symptoms for a period of months or years until the disease progresses. It is recommended that all adults have HIV testing, and sexually active adults be tested regularly. There is also a pill that can be taken to prevent HIV in certain people.
WHO IS AT RISK?
All sexually active people are at risk for HIV, but certain practices put you at higher risk. Men who have sex with men are at a high risk than the general population. Also, anal sex of any kind puts you are higher risk as does the use of IV drugs through exposure to contaminated needles. If you have already had a sexually transmitted disease, have a partner with HIV, have multiple partners, have been sexually assaulted, or have exchanged money or drugs for sex you are at higher risk.
More than half of people exposed to HIV will have symptoms that begin a few weeks after the infection. Often mistaken for the flu, the symptoms include body aches, sore throat, and a fever higher 100.4 F. Less commonly, people develop painful sores in their mouth and on their genitals as well as nausea and diarrhea. Following this, you usually will have no symptoms for an extended time period, until the HIV progresses and weakens the immune system. Then, you will often develop an infection that is unusual in a healthy person and the doctors will be tipped off that there may be something wrong.
DIAGNOSIS AND HIV TREATMENT
HIV testing is simple, fast, and the only way to know whether you have HIV. It is recommended that all adults have it, and that high risk individuals have it every 6 to 12 months or every time you change partners. HIV tests can be bought without a prescription from most pharmacies in the US. You can also have a test done with a doctor’s order at any lab, which can be quick and discreet. Any positive test will be confirmed with a second test, just to be sure.
For certain high risk individuals including men who have sex with men, sex workers, those who have unprotected sex with these groups, and injection drug users a daily pill, Truvada, is recommended by the CDC to prevent HIV. This is something that your doctor can prescribe, and is relatively free of side effects.
Treatment for HIV, once acquired is extremely effective when taken regularly. While there is no cure, patients can live full and productive lives after diagnosis. The specifics of all the various treatments for HIV are complicated and you should seek out your physician for further information.
HOW PLUSHCARE WORKS
1. Order HIV testing, or video chat with a doctor to tell them about symptoms, exposures, or ask questions about PEP and PrEP.
2. The doctor can order HIV tests, prescribe PEP and PrEP, and make other recommendations.
3. Get blood drawn at your local lab, or pick up prescriptions at your pharmacy, and followup with your PlushCare doctor as needed.