Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection (cont.)
IN THIS ARTICLE
What Increases Your Risk
Most people get HIV by having unprotected sex with someone who has HIV. Another common way of getting the virus is by sharing needles with someone who is infected with HIV when injecting drugs.
You have an increased risk of becoming infected with HIV through sexual contact if you:
People who inject drugs or steroids, especially if they share needles, syringes, cookers, or other equipment used to inject drugs, are at risk of being infected with HIV.
Babies who are born to mothers who are infected with HIV are also at risk of infection.
What to think about
HIV may be spread more easily in the early stage of infection, and again later, when symptoms of HIV-related illness develop.
The risk of getting HIV from a blood transfusion or organ transplant is extremely low because all donated blood and organs in the United States are screened for HIV.
When To Call a Doctor
Known HIV infection
If you are infected with HIV or caring for someone who is, call
Call your doctor if any of the following conditions develop:
Suspected or known exposure to HIV and symptoms are present
Many people have a flu-like illness 3 to 6 weeks after they are first infected with HIV, but symptoms can occur within a few days of infection. Symptoms of acute retroviral syndrome (such as nausea and headache), which are the first signs of HIV infection, are often mistaken for symptoms of another viral infection.
Call your doctor to find out whether HIV testing is needed if you suspect you have been exposed to HIV, particularly if you engage in high-risk behavior and have any of the following symptoms:
Initial symptoms of HIV infection may be mild to severe and usually disappear on their own after 2 to 3 weeks.
Suspected or known exposure to HIV but symptoms are not present
If you have not been tested for HIV, call your doctor if:
Getting tested for HIV can be scary, but the condition can be managed with treatment. So it is important to get tested if you think you have been exposed. Early detection and monitoring of HIV will help your doctor find out whether the disease is getting worse and when to start treatment.
Until you know the results of your test:
If you do not have symptoms of HIV even though you have tested positive for the virus, you and your doctor may simply continue to watch for symptoms to occur. If you do not show any signs of disease and your CD4+ cell count is more than 500 cells per microliter (mcL), you may not need treatment. But during this time you still need regular checkups with a doctor to monitor your viral load and CD4+ cell counts. These tests measure the amount of HIV in your blood and detect how well your immune system is working.
Who to see
Health professionals who can diagnose and may treat HIV include:
HIV can also be diagnosed and treated at an HIV care clinic.
Complications of HIV may require treatment by the following doctors:
If you do not have a doctor
Public health clinics and other organizations may provide free or low-cost, confidential testing and counseling about HIV and high-risk behavior. If you have questions about the testing procedure, ask your doctor to explain the procedure to you.
If you do not have a doctor, contact one of the following for information on HIV testing in your area:
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
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