The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), the virus that causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), is transmitted by blood and body fluids.
Most HIV infections do not have any symptoms. A person infected with HIV can remain healthy and symptom-free for many years. If HIV leads to AIDS, serious symptoms can develop and can ultimately lead to death. Signs and symptoms may include everything from fever and rashes to lesions, soaking night sweats and blurred vision.
Although treatment options have improved greatly in recent years, HIV remains a very serious threat. Many people are unaware of their status until later stages, but unfortunately people are the most contagious soon after becoming infected. Being infected with other STIs can make you more susceptible to HIV.
There are a couple of different tests for HIV. The best option is a blood test. A rapid test can also be done using either blood or a swab from the inside of the cheek. Usually, if the initial test is positive, it will be followed up with a more sensitive blood test to confirm the results. Rapid tests take about 15–20 minutes, while a blood test sent to the lab will take up to a week to get results. If HIV is contracted, it can take three weeks to up to six months for any test to detect HIV.
There is no cure for HIV, but there are treatment options that allow HIV-positive individuals to live long, healthy lives. If someone is exposed to HIV, or thinks he or she may have been exposed, there is a post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) that can reduce the likelihood of HIV infection occurring. PEP is medication that should be started as quickly as possible, no later than 72 hours after the exposure.