HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). HIV is transmitted from one person to another through semen, vaginal fluids, blood and breast milk. Today, there are many treatments available for people who are infected with HIV to keep them healthier longer. The length of time someone with HIV can live after being infected can vary greatly.
HIV to AIDS
The CDC estimated that about half of all people with HIV will develop AIDS by 10 years after infection, but this time period varies from person to person. There are people living now who were infected more than 20 years ago. During the time before AIDS diagnosis, many people are unaware that they are infected and can spread the infection to others.
With new treatments available for HIV, it is expected that the time from HIV infection to AIDS diagnosis is going up, though further research is needed. After an AIDS diagnosis, it is still possible to fight off infection and increase T-cell count with treatment. Once someone has an AIDS diagnosis it is important to stay healthy and avoid illnesses such as cold and flu because the body will be less able to fight the infection off.
If two partners have HIV, it is important that they use latex or polyurethane condoms or barriers (like dental dams) with each sex act because they can infect each other with different strains of HIV.
Because most people with HIV will not experience or not notice symptoms, it is important to be tested regularly if you are at risk because early treatment can help you stay healthy and prevent you from passing the virus to others.
The best way to protect yourself against HIV is to abstain from sexual activity and not share needles with anyone. If you are sexually active, you can reduce your risk for HIV by reducing your number of partners and using latex or polyurethane condoms or barriers (like dental dams) with each sex act. You can also reduce the risk of HIV with needle use by cleaning the needles in boiling water or with bleach.