Understanding the risks and dangers of HIV is critical to shielding yourself from infection and effectively coping if you do contract it – just like with other viruses or sexually transmitted diseases. Gain control over your wellness and be equipped to handle any circumstance by expanding your understanding of HIV. In this post, we’ll answer some frequently asked questions about the virus.
What is HIV?
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a potentially dangerous virus that affects a person’s immune system. Something particularly concerning about this virus is that there is no cure, meaning those infected with HIV will likely be impacted by it for the rest of their life. HIV can also lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), which is considered the more severe stage of HIV.
Are HIV infections common?
In the 1980s and 1990s, HIV was much more prevalent, but advances in modern treatment have helped lessen the spread of the virus significantly. However, while HIV is not as widespread as it once was, there are still many cases of people infected with the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 1.1 million people aged 13 and older in the United States are living with HIV and that over 30,000 new cases of HIV infection occur annually.
What are the ways that HIV can be transmitted??
HIV is spread through contact with certain body fluids, including blood, semen, and vaginal secretions. It is typically spread during sexual interactions, particularly anal or vaginal intercourse, but can also be spread when drug injection equipment, such as needles and syringes, are shared between users.
HIV can also be transmitted from a mother to her baby during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding. This type of transmission, called perinatal transmission, is the most common way that children become infected with HIV. Advances in prevention and treatment options have provided medical professionals with a means to lessen the risk of perinatal transmission, which is why it is important for pregnant women to get tested and seek proper treatment if they have HIV or suspect that they may have the virus.
It’s important to note that HIV cannot reproduce outside of a human host, and therefore cannot be spread through contact with saliva, tears or sweat. This means that things like mouth-to-mouth kissing, hugging, shared toilet usage, or sharing utensils/dishes will not spread the virus. It also cannot be spread by mosquitoes, ticks, or other insects, as is sometimes falsely assumed.
What are the symptoms of HIV?
The symptoms of HIV vary from person to person and can be difficult to detect, as they are often mistaken as symptoms of the flu or other illnesses. Some individuals may even be asymptomatic, meaning they will not experience any noticeable symptoms at all but are still capable of spreading the virus.
According to the CDC, possible symptoms of HIV include:
- Fever and chills.
- Night sweats.
- Muscle aches.
- Sore throat and mouth ulcers.
- Swollen lymph nodes.
Are there different kinds of HIV?
HIV is typically separated into 3 stages: Acute HIV Infection, Chronic HIV Infection, and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). It’s important to note that these stages are progressive, meaning they can be difficult to contain and reverse. For this reason, it is essential for those living with HIV to seek proper medical treatment as soon as possible in order to maintain their health and well-being.
- Acute HIV Infection is the initial stage of HIV and is characterized by flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, and rash. This is typically the most contagious period of the virus as well.
- Chronic HIV Infection is the second stage and can be described as a period of “latency” during which time the virus is still present in the body, but the person does not have any symptoms. The infected individual can still spread the virus, even if the symptoms have gone away. This stage can last for months or even years if left untreated.
- Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is the most advanced stage of HIV and is characterized by a weakened immune system that makes it difficult to fight off infection or illness. This stage is typically the most dangerous, as those affected by it are more likely to suffer from serious illness or even death. Infected individuals are also very infectious during this stage and must be extremely careful not to spread the virus.
What can I do to safeguard myself against HIV?
The best way to protect yourself from HIV is to practice safe sex. This means using condoms or other preventive methods (such as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP) during all sexual encounters in order to reduce the risk of transmission. It’s also important to avoid sharing needles, syringes, and other drug injection materials, as these can spread the virus.
What is the treatment for HIV?
While there is no cure for the virus, there are ways to control it. When someone is diagnosed with HIV, it’s important that they begin treatment as soon as possible in order to prevent the virus from progressing. Delaying treatment can make it more difficult to control the virus and can put the infected person at risk of developing more serious health issues.
Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) is a combination of medications used to suppress the amount of HIV in the body and reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to others. ART is highly effective and can even allow those with HIV to live a normal, healthy life.
Does Medi-Cal cover testing and treatment for HIV?
Absolutely! At RealOptions Obria Medical Clinics, Medi-Cal is accepted for HIV testing services provided by our lab partner, Quest Diagnostics. If your test results suggest a positive outcome, our medical team will provide you with support and information to get the specialized treatment you need from your county health department. Moreover, no matter what your results are – we’re here to offer care and assistance throughout the process!
Not familiar with Medi-Cal? It is low-cost or no-cost health insurance for those living in California that meet certain eligibility requirements. If you have a Medi-Cal plan, you can get tested at RealOptions for HIV and other STDs/STIs at no cost or low cost to you.
If you are unsure if you qualify for Medi-Cal coverage, don’t worry! There are a few simple ways to find out if you can enroll:
- Contact MCAP at (800) 433-2611.
- Call Covered California at (800) 300-1506.
- Apply online at CoveredCA.com. via email with a confirmation or notification for the best available time.
I’m ready to get tested. How do I do that?
Schedule an appointment for testing at one of our locations today or call:
400 30th St #401
Oakland, CA 94609
801 Brewster Ave Unit 21
Redwood City, CA 94063
1671 The Alameda #101
San Jose, CA
12 N White Rd
San Jose, CA
33523 Western Ave.
Union City, CA 94857
Medical information provided by the CDC: