Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that destroys the body’s CD4 immune cells, which help fight disease. With the right medications, you can have HIV for years or decades without HIV progressing to AIDS.
You can’t catch or spread HIV from hugging someone, using the same towel, or sharing the same glass. It’s very rare to get HIV from blood transfusion. However, you can get the disease from having unprotected sex, sharing needles, or getting a tattoo from unsterilized equipment.
Because of HIV drugs that are now available, the truth is that many people can live for decades with HIV and have a normal or near-normal life span.
Some people don’t show sign of HIV for years after being infected. However, many can have some symptoms within 10 days to a few weeks after infection. These first symptoms are similar to the flu or mononucleosis and may include fever, swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, rash, and muscle aches.
There is no cure for HIV in most cases, but treatment can control virus levels and help maintain your immune system.
Just because you and your partner have HIV, it doesn’t mean you should forget about protection when having sex. Using a condom or other latex barrier can help protect you from other sexually transmitted diseases as well as other strains of HIV, which may be resistant to anti-HIV medication.
Infected mothers can pass HIV to their babies during pregnancy or delivery. But you can lower the risk by working with your doctor and getting the right care and medication.
People with HIV can be likely to get infections like pneumonia, tuberculosis, candidiasis, cytomegalovirus, and toxoplasmosis. The best way to cut the risk is to take HIV medications.