Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a largely sexually-transmitted virus whose symptoms eventually cause Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). The longer a person is infected, the less able they are to fight infections, cancer, and the spread of HIV itself.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1,185,000 people in the United States alone are infected with HIV, and as many as 25% may not even realize they have it until they are in the advanced stages of infection. HIV is mainly spread from person to person by way of bodily fluids, and can be spread from mother to child by way of breast milk, or through the womb.
A person infected with HIV may not show any symptoms, and still be capable of transmitting the virus to others. Consider testing for HIV if these factors apply to you, or your partner:
Engaging in unprotected sex with new partners. HIV can be transmitted through anal or vaginal sex without a condom, as well as oral sex without a latex barrier. Properly following all instructions on condoms, barriers, and anti-infection gels to insure you are best protected is one of the most effective ways to remain safe.
Engaging in unprotected anal sex. The anus is especially prone to micro-tears along its soft tissue, making it easier for HIV to enter one’s system. Thicker condoms made to be tear-resistant should be used whenever one has anal sex with an untested partner.
Sharing hypodermic needles. HIV can be transmitted through blood, and dirty needles are a potential source of infection. Needles used in tattooing or body piercing are also capable of spreading HIV.
Always insure you are being treated with a fresh needle, and that your doctor or body-artist disposes of them properly after use.
Having a history of infection with other sexually transmitted disease, including syphilis, gonorrhea, herpes, or hepatitis.
Having one or more partner who shares these high-risk traits.
The best way to know that you or your partner does not have HIV, is to test for it. In most standard tests, our doctors will require a small sample of intravenous blood, which will be sent to a lab for analysis. It is recommended that this test be taken two to three months after suspected infection.
Those most at risk of becoming infected should have themselves tested at the next available opportunity. There are test kits for STDs at home testing as well.
Remember that while there is no definite cure for HIV yet, antiretroviral compounds can drastically improve one’s quality of life while living with infection. The sooner HIV is detected and treatment begins, the more effective treatment is likely to be.