What Are HIV and AIDS?
Despite the stigma that HIV/AIDS carry, modern medicine has made it possible for people with HIV to live long, healthy, and active lives.
Department of Health and Human Services
Kaiser Family Foundation
AETC National Coordinating Resource Center
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that weakens the immune system, leading to patients being more vulnerable to other infections and diseases. It spreads through contact with the bodily fluids of a person with HIV, typically in the form of unprotected sex or through shared injection drug equipment.
There is currently no cure for HIV, and as a result, patients carry it on to the rest of their lives; however, patients with HIV can be treated through antiretroviral therapy (ART) in order to live a long and healthy life without transmitting HIV to their sexual partners. While it is one of the most deadly and persistent epidemics, with the first patient having been identified in 1981, there are varying forms of protection and treatment that can help stop the spread of HIV. Methods to prevent getting HIV include pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) treatments. 1
HIV has three stages: Acute Infection, Chronic Infection, and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). AIDs is the last stage of HIV, which happens when the body’s immune system becomes badly damaged and can no longer function to protect itself. This results in increased vulnerability to other severe illnesses, called opportunistic infections, as well as increased risk of patient infectiousness. Because HIV medication stops the progression of this disease, most people do not reach this stage. 2
AIDS is the final stage of HIV. It is identified when CD4 cells fall to less than 200 cells per cubic millimeter of blood (200 cells/mm), as compared to between 500 and 1,600 cells/mm for someone with a healthy immune system. CD4 cells help your body fight infections, which is what the HIV virus tries to weaken.3 At this point, a person with AIDS can survive for about three years.4 However, if they have a dangerous opportunistic disease, this timeline can fall to less than a year of survival.5
Some patients develop flu-like symptoms about 2-4 weeks after infection. Some of the symptoms that arise in this first phase of acute HIV infection are:
However, many people can be asymptomatic and not feel sick during this phase. Other illnesses can cause these symptoms as well, so having them does not guarantee that a patient has contracted HIV. See a health care provider if you develop these symptoms and think you might have been exposed to HIV. Getting tested is the only way to detect HIV. 6
You can find an HIV testing location near you using the HIV Services Locator.
There is also the option to self-test. This allows for people to take an HIV test and find out the result in their own home or other private location. Self-test kits are available at local pharmacies and online. Some health departments and local organizations also provide these kits for free.7
Some Hispanics/Latinos are among the most affected subpopulations in the US and dependent areas. In fact, 27% of new HIV diagnoses in 2018 were among Hispanics/Latinos here. 1 in 6 patients are unaware they even have it. At least 61% of Hispanics/Latinos with HIV received some form of care, and 53% have had the virus significantly suppressed.8
Challenges the community faces in combating the spread of HIV includes: