What is HIV?

Someone is infected with HIV every 9.5 minutes in the United States (1).  I don’t know about you, but those were some scary numbers when I heard them.  Are we as a society educated enough to help or support those around us that could be infected?  I believe the more education we can receive the better.

There is always a stigma based around everything, however a lot of times that stigma affects the person more than the actual disease itself.  We often focus on the disease rather than helping out the person.  What does that mean you ask?  If you discover someone you know, love, or care about has been infected with HIV/AIDS virus, what would you do?  Would you create distance between yourself and that person, or would you support them in getting the help they need? Many times, family do not understand how HIV/AIDS work and when they create distance between themselves and their loved one it makes it a lot harder for them to get the help they need.

What is HIV?
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus , a blood born virus.  HIV is a virus that causes AIDS, and AIDS is the advanced stage of HIV.  AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

How do you get HIV?
The virus is spread from person to person through blood and unprotected sex, sharing of body fluids; such as blood, semen, vaginal fluid and breast milk.  The virus can be passed by sharing needles and syringes for people who use drugs.  Using drugs is an important factor in spreading HIV, as drugs and alcohol lower a person’s ability to make decisions and create risk factors for HIV to be spread (2).  In 2001, 30% of Americans had the HIV virus under control, and about 2/3 of that 30% who were diagnosed were no longer in care (3).

What happens when you get HIV?
Our body has white blood cells, also known as CD4 Cells or T cells, which help to keep our immune system strong. Once you are exposed to HIV, the virus has to get into the blood. It then attacks the CD4 Cells and begins repeating and breaks it down. The virus will move onto another healthy CD4 Cell and do the same thing, eventually lowering our immune system’s ability to protect itself.  Once the count of CD4 Cells get below 200, someone is then considered to have AIDS (4).

How does medicine help?
There is medicine for people with HIV/AIDS and if all medicines (usually 3) are taken daily, then that person has a greater chance of leading a “normal” life.   With HIV/AIDS medicine, if you start taking it for a while and then stop for whatever reason, you have to then be started on a new group of medicines, as the old medicine will no longer be effective. No one dies of AIDS, rather they die of pneumonia, cold, flu, etc. as the body can’t protect itself any more.

How can I protect myself against HIV?
You can protect yourself against HIV by limiting the number of sexual partners you have, always using a condom, and never sharing needles.You should also get tested for HIV.

HealthNet’s Family Planning Title X Program offers confidential HIV testing. For more information, click here or call 317-957-2970.

1. https://www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-hiv-and-aids-us
2. http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/risk/behavior/substanceuse.html 
3. http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns
4. http://www.healthline.com/health/hiv-aids/how-hiv-affects-the-body

Post by Bhumi Bhavsar

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