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HIV and Women

How does human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection…
How is HIV infection spread?
What happens after a person becomes infected with…
How can I be tested for HIV?
Who should be tested for HIV infection?
Is there treatment for HIV infection?
What can I do to prevent HIV infection?

How does human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection…

  • The virus (HIV) enters the bloodstream through certain body fluids?in most cases, blood or semen
    • Once in the blood, the virus invades and kills cells of the immune system
    • When these cells are destroyed, the body is less able to fight disease
    • The number of these white blood cells often decreases in patients with advanced HIV infection
    • These white blood cells are called CD4 cells

How is HIV infection spread?

  • HIV infection is spread through contact with some types of body fluids of an infected person
    • This contact can happen during sex or by sharing needles used to inject drugs
  • An infected woman who is pregnant can pass the virus to her baby
    • Women with HIV who breastfeed also can pass the virus to their babies
  • Once someone is infected, he or she always will carry the virus and can pass it to others
  • HIV cannot be spread by casual contact with people and objects
  • The virus cannot get through skin that is not broken

What happens after a person becomes infected with…

  • HIV causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)
    • A person infected with HIV does not get sick with AIDS right away
    • The virus attacks the immune system over time
    • Shortly after infection, some people have a brief illness like the flu
    • As the immune system becomes weaker, people infected with HIV may have:
      • Weight loss
      • Fatigue
      • Fever
  • The infection is called AIDS when a person has certain conditions or symptoms that result from a weakened immune system
    • It also is called AIDS when the number of a person?s CD4 cells decreases below a certain level

How can I be tested for HIV?

  • A simple blood test can tell you whether you have been infected with HIV
    • It looks for HIV antibodies in the blood
    • This test is not an AIDS test
    • It does not tell you if you have AIDS or if you will get sick
  • There are several types of HIV tests:
    • A rapid screening test produces very quick results (in about 20 minutes)
    • It often takes about 2 weeks to get results from the other types of screening tests
  • No matter what type of test is taken, if the test result is positive, another test is used to confirm the results

Who should be tested for HIV infection?

  • Women and men aged 19?64 years should be tested for HIV
    • People in other age groups also may need to be tested depending on their risk factors
    • It is especially important for pregnant women to be tested for HIV as part of their prenatal care ? even if they do not think they may be infected
  • Counseling may be given before the test, after getting the results, or both

Is there treatment for HIV infection?

  • There is no vaccine to prevent HIV infection, and there is no cure for AIDS
    • There are some medications that fight HIV-related infections and help protect the immune system
    • In most cases, many medications are used together
    • Your health care provider will work with you to determine what medicines you should take, when you should take them, and how much you should take of each
    • It is important to take these drugs exactly as your doctor prescribes
    • Taking the drugs correctly can help you live a longer, healthier life

What can I do to prevent HIV infection?

  • Make sure to use latex condoms
    • Condoms made from natural skin or lambskin do not prevent infection
    • When used properly, latex condoms can reduce the chances that one partner will infect the other
    • For best protection, condoms should be worn every time you have sex
  • Ask about your partner?s sexual history and whether he or she has ever used intravenous drugs
  • You and your partner may want to be tested before you begin having sex
  • If you are using IV drugs, get help and try to stop
    • If you cannot stop, do not share needles
    • If you share needles, the HIV infected blood left in the needles after injecting can get into you or your needle-sharing partner
    • Make sure that the needle is clean
      • Needles should be cleaned after every use with both laundry bleach and water

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