How is HIV spread?
HIV is spread through contact with certain body fluids from a person with HIV. These body fluids include:
The spread of HIV from person to person is called HIV transmission. The spread of HIV from a woman with HIV to her child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding is called mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
In the United States, HIV is spread mainly by having sex with or sharing drug injection equipment with someone who has HIV. To reduce your risk of HIV infection, use condoms correctly and consistently during sex, limit your number of sexual partners, and never share drug injection equipment.
Mother-to-child transmission is the most common way that children become infected with HIV. HIV medicines, given to women with HIV during pregnancy and childbirth and to their babies after birth, reduce the risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
You can’t get HIV by shaking hands or hugging a person who has HIV. You also can’t get HIV from contact with objects such as dishes, toilet seats, or doorknobs used by a person with HIV. HIV does not spread through the air or through mosquito, tick, or other insect bites.
What is the treatment for HIV?
Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is the use of HIV medicines to treat HIV infection. People on ART take a combination of HIV medicines (called an HIV regimen) every day. (HIV medicines are often called antiretrovirals or ARVs.)
ART prevents HIV from multiplying and reduces the amount of HIV in the body. Having less HIV in the body protects the immune system and prevents HIV infection from advancing to AIDS.
ART can’t cure HIV, but it can help people with HIV live longer, healthier lives. ART also reduces the risk of HIV transmission.
What are the symptoms of HIV/AIDS?
Within 2 to 4 weeks after a person becomes infected with HIV, they may have flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, or rash. The symptoms may last for a few weeks after they become infected.
After this earliest stage of HIV infection, HIV continues to multiply but at very low levels. More severe symptoms of HIV infection, such as signs of opportunistic infections, generally don’t appear for many years. (Opportunistic infections are infections and infection-related cancers that occur more frequently or are more severe in people with weakened immune systems than in people with healthy immune systems.)
Without treatment with HIV medicines, HIV infection usually advances to AIDS in 10 years or longer, though it may take less time for some people.
HIV transmission is possible at any stage of HIV infection—even if a person with HIV has no symptoms of HIV.
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