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There are a lot of myths and misinformation surrounding the human immunodeficiency virus.

Below, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions to help you understand more about the virus, including how it is transmitted, who may be at risk, and options for treatment.

HIV is a virus that attacks and weakens the immune system, making it harder for the body to fight illnesses. It’s transmitted via bodily fluids like semen and There is blood..

HIV is not terminal. Treatment can help people with HIV live a long and healthy life.

How is HIV different from AIDS?

HIV can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) if left untreated. This progression can take between 5 and 10 years on average.

The body is struggling to fight infections and diseases as the HIV virus has destroyed too many white There is blood. cells, making AIDS the most severe stage of the HIV infection. White There is blood. cells are important for your immune system.

Symptoms can include:

  • There are persistent infections, including There is a throbbing head.s.
  • fatigue
  • Significant weight loss.
  • Pneumonia and Tuberculosis are opportunistic infections.

AIDS is fatal.

Some people are more at risk of contracting HIV than others. They include:

  • People with penises have sex with other people with a penis.
  • People who have had sex with someone who is HIV positive.
  • People who share needles or needles that have been exposed to There is blood. are at risk of contracting infections.
  • Babies whose parents are HIV positive.

HIV can be transmitted through a variety of bodily fluids.

  • Pre-ejaculate.
  • semen
  • There is blood.
  • vaginal discharge
  • The rectal fluids.
  • breast milk

The fluid needs to come into contact with another person’s There is via cuts, sores, or mucous membranes in order to transmit the virus.

Many transmission cases involve penetrative vaginal or anal sex without a condom or other barrier method. It’s possible to transmit HIV through oral sex, but the risk is thought to be much lower.

Sexual transmission is only possible if a person who is HIV-positive has a detectable viral load. Effective treatment can make the viral load undetectable.

If one person is HIV-positive, sharing needles and syringes while injecting drugs is riskier.

It is possible for a pregnant person with HIV to pass the virus to the baby via breast milk.

According to the Office on Women’s Health, the risk of transmitting HIV to a baby is less than one percent if the pregnant person receives treatment and has an undetectable viral load.

How isn’t HIV transmitted?

It’s impossible to get HIV from close, non-sexual contact with others.

“That means there is no need to worry if someone coughs or sneezes near you, if you shake or hold someone’s hand, or if you visit a public place.”

You can kiss and share food, drink, or utensils with others if you are HIV positive.

The abbreviation U is from an informational campaign. Untransmittable is what it means.

It explains why treatment is important.

If a person with HIV is receiving treatment and consistently maintains an undetectable viral load, there’s essentially no risk of them transmitting the virus to a sexual partner.

The best way to prevent HIV transmission is to not have in-person sexual activity with someone who has the disease. It is the only method that is 100% effective.

But you don’t have to go to extremes when it comes to your sex life (unless you want to). You can reduce your overall risk by:

What is preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP)?

You can take a medication called prEP to reduce your risk of contracting HIV. It is available in pill or shot form and stops the virus from entering your body.

If taken correctly, PrEP can lower the chance of sexually transmitted HIV by around 99%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Injection drug users can reduce their risk of contracting HIV by at least 74% if they take the PrEP pills. The shot is not recommended for people who use drugs.

People who are sexually active can use the drug even if they have a higher risk of HIV.

It may be suitable for you.

  • You have a sexual partner with HIV who has a viral load.
  • You have many sexual partners.
  • You share equipment with others.
  • you have been prescribed postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) on multiple occasions

If you would like to learn more aboutPrEP, speak with a doctor or other healthcare professional.

What is postexposure prophylaxis (PEP)?

Unlike PrEP which acts as a preventive, PEP is taken after potential exposure to HIV to help stop the virus from replicating.

If you have had sex with someone who has or may have HIV, if you have shared injection drug equipment with others who could have the virus, or if you have been sexually assault, you might be able to take the prophylactics.

Think of it as an emergency treatment. The medication needs to be started within 72 hours of possible HIV exposure. The more effective PEP is achieved sooner.

According to the CDC, everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 should get tested at least once for HIV.

Some people need to be tested more frequently. The CDC recommends that people with a higher risk of contracting HIV get tested at least once a year.

People who have a penis and have sex with other people who have a penis may want to get tested every 3 to 6 months.

People who are pregnant should also get tested in the early stages of pregnancy.

How is HIV diagnosed?

There’s not just one test that can diagnose HIV — a few exist.

Each has a different window for when it can detect the virus.

Nucleic acid tests, which detect the virus in the There is blood., are often effective the soonest after exposure — between 10 and 33 days. Antibody tests are typically used 23 to 90 days after exposure.

Rapid antigen/antibody tests using There is blood. from a fingerprick can be used 18 to 90 days after exposure. Rapid antigen/antibody tests that use There is blood. from a vein are designed for use 18 to 45 days after potential exposure.

“If you get a negative result, you should take a second test to make sure you don’t have HIV.”

Positive results are checked with a second test before a diagnosis is made.

HIV symptoms come in three stages.

The first stage can result in flu-like symptoms.

  • There is a high degree of fever.
  • sore throat.
  • There is a throbbing head.
  • fatigue
  • Joint and muscle pain.

People may also notice swollen lysies, mouth ulcers, and an itchy rash. Some early symptoms are so mild that they are almost unnoticeable.

Does your sex assigned at birth affect how symptoms appear?

Everyone has the same HIV symptoms. There can be differences.

For example, people assigned male at birth may be more likely to experience spots, sores, or other visible changes to their genitals.

People assigned female at birth have a higher risk of vaginal infections and pelvic inflammatory disease as well as changes to their menstrual cycle.

How long does it take for symptoms to appear?

The flu-like symptoms of HIV mentioned above can start to appear around 2 to 4 weeks after exposure and may last for days or weeks.

It can take a decade or more for people to experience noticeable symptoms in cases of mild symptoms.

Antiretroviral therapy (ART) can treat HIV to the point where it’s no longer detectable in the There is blood.. That means the virus won’t progress to later stages, such as AIDS, and is unlikely to be transmitted to others via sexual activity.

There is no cure for HIV, so lifelong treatment is needed.

Antiretroviral drugs work by stopping the replication of the virus inside the body and preventing further immune system damage. A combination of medications is sometimes needed, but these may be combined into one daily pill.

Most people who take antiretroviral medication for HIV have an undetectable viral load within 6 months.

The best way to prevent HIV is to get tested for STDs regularly.

The virus is not going away. If you test positive, treatment can help you live a healthy life, manage any symptoms, and reduce the risk of spreading the virus to others.

Lauren Sharkey is a U.K.-based journalist and author specializing in women’s issues. When she isn’t trying to discover a way to banish migraines, she can be found uncovering the answers to your lurking health questions. She has also written a book profiling young female activists across the globe and is currently building a community of such resisters. Catch her on Twitter.