Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection (cont.)
IN THIS ARTICLE
There are two types of HIV:
How the disease is spread
HIV is spread when blood, semen, or vaginal fluids from an infected person enter another person's body, usually through:
It is now extremely rare in the United States for HIV to be transmitted by blood transfusions or organ transplants. Blood and organ donors are screened for risk factors. All donated blood and organs are screened for HIV.
Spread of HIV to babies
A woman who is infected with HIV can spread the virus to her baby during pregnancy, delivery, or breast-feeding.
Ways HIV cannot be spread
HIV does not survive well outside the body. So HIV cannot be spread through casual contact with an infected person, such as by sharing drinking glasses or by casual kissing. HIV is not transmitted through contact with an infected person's saliva, sweat, tears, urine, or feces, or through insect bites.
Contagious and incubation period
The incubation period—the time between when a person is first infected with HIV and when early symptoms develop—may be a few days to several weeks.
It can take as little as 2 weeks or as long as 6 months from the time you become infected with HIV for the antibodies to be detected in your blood. This is commonly called the "window period," or seroconversion period. During the window period, you are contagious and can spread the virus to others. If you think you have been infected with HIV but you test negative for it, you should be tested again. Tests at 6, 12, and 24 weeks can be done to be sure you are not infected.
After you become infected with HIV, your blood, semen, or vaginal fluids should always be considered infectious, even if you receive treatment for the HIV infection.
Stages of HIV
Most people go through the following stages after being infected with HIV if the infection is not treated:
A small number of people who are infected with HIV are rapid progressors. They develop AIDS within a few years if they do not receive treatment. It is not known why the infection progresses faster in these people.
Nonprogressors and HIV-resistant
A few people have HIV that does not progress to more severe symptoms or disease. They are referred to as nonprogressors.
A small number of people never become infected with HIV despite years of exposure to the virus. For example, they may have repeated, unprotected sex with an infected person. These people are said to be HIV-resistant.
eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise
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Resources for Staying Well
- HIV-AIDS: Myths and Facts
- Understanding The Symptoms of AIDS/HIV
- The Top 10 Myths and Misconceptions About HIV and AIDS