HIV Status and Treatment
What are the symptoms?
You might not know if you are infected with HIV. Some people get flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, sore muscles and joints, stomach ache, swollen lymph glands, or a skin rash four to six weeks after exposure to the virus. Most people have no symptoms at all.
How is HIV/AIDS treated?
As mentioned earlier, there is no cure for AIDS. There are anti-retroviral drugs now available that can slow down the virus, and slow down the damage to your immune system. These drugs have also helped reduce the overall rates of opportunistic infections in people with AIDS. The drug regime is severe however - many expensive pills have to be taken regularly on a daily basis - and there can be side effects when the pills are taken for a long period of time. Many people who are able to, though, choose to go on anti-retroviral therapy once they are diagnosed HIV+ to stem any potential illness and keep their quality of life high as long as possible. For more detailed and current information about treatment, visit www.hivinsite.org.
What can I do if I have HIV/AIDS?
The best thing you can do is to stay healthy -- keep your stress levels low, eat well, exercise regularly, get lots of rest, and if you're sexually active, have protected sex with your partners. You also need to work closely with a medical provider to monitor your health and determine the best course of continued treatment over time. There are resources available to help HIV+ people in the U.S. get treatment and regular medical services, sometimes at low-cost or reduced fees.
In order to avoid transmission of the virus to your sex partners, as well as to protect yourself from getting other bacterial and viral STDs, we advise discussing your HIV status with a prospective partner before having sex. Communication is one of the keys to keeping our community sexually healthy.
How can I learn my HIV status?
HIV is primarily spread by those unaware they have HIV, as they are less likely to take measures to protect their sex and injection drug use partners. Since many people feel healthy for years after contracting HIV, the only definitive way to know one’s HIV status is to get tested. In Alameda County, testing can be done by a medical provider or through various HIV testing programs. Home test kits are now available, as well.
There are many very good HIV tests available that detect HIV-specific antibodies (part of the body’s response to many infections) or, in some cases, the virus itself. With advancements in the field of rapid HIV testing, it is possible to obtain preliminary results in as little as 20 minutes or less. Although HIV tests are very accurate, all HIV positive results must be confirmed by another test before a final diagnosis can be made.
How is HIV/AIDS treated?
There is presently no cure for HIV, but the virus can be treated safely and effectively with medication. Since 1987, over 30 anti-HIV medications (also called anti-retrovirals or ARVs) have been developed and approved. There are five different classes of ARVs; each one controls the virus in a different way. Because HIV can mutate and develop resistance, it is necessary to take three ARVs from at least two different classes. Because ARVs are prescribed in groups of three, they are often collectively referred to as a drug “Cocktail,” Combination Therapy, Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART), or just Antiretroviral Therapy (ART). Almost everyone infected with HIV will eventually become ill and die from the infection if they do not receive treatment. With treatment, HIV infected persons live near normal lives.
There is currently no cure for HIV, and no effective commercially available vaccine. However, there are a few case reports and some important research that show promise in these areas.