HIV: A Primer for Women

What is HIV?

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, and it is a virus that infects millions each year.  HIV refers to the infection, but the disease if untreated will progress into AIDS.

How is HIV Transmitted?

HIV can be transmitted through sexual contact, needle sharing, blood or organ donation.

Those who are at frequent risk of exposure are recommended to take prophylactic (preventative) anti-retroviral medications or pre-exposure prophylactics (PrEP).

What are the symptoms of HIV?

In the early stage of infection, those with HIV don’t have any symptoms.  HIV affects the immune system, so as the infection progresses to AIDS, patients will be more susceptible to infection.

How do you diagnose HIV?

HIV detection can be done via at home blood test (requires finger prick) or a saliva test.  The saliva test is less sensitive.  

How often should I be tested?

Frequency of HIV testing depends on lifestyle.  For those with a new sexual partner testing is recommended.  Intravenous drug users are also advised to test frequently.  Testing for Hepatitis C, and Syphilis simultaneously is recommended.

How is HIV treated?

Treatment of HIV must be under the supervision of a doctor.  Treatment often includes anti-retroviral medications to keep viral load low.