HIV is the Human Immunodeficiency Virus that can lead to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, or AIDS.
HIV damages a person’s body by destroying specific blood cells, called CD4+ T cells, which are crucial to helping the body fight diseases.
Within a few weeks of being infected with HIV, some people develop flu-like symptoms that last for a week or two, but others have no symptoms at all. People living with HIV may appear and feel healthy for several years. However, even if they feel healthy, HIV is still affecting their bodies. All people with HIV should be seen on a regular basis by a health care provider experienced with treating HIV infection. Many people with HIV, including those who feel healthy, can benefit greatly from current medications used to treat HIV infection. These medications can limit or slow down the destruction of the immune system, improve the health of people living with HIV, and may reduce their ability to transmit HIV.
Untreated early HIV infection is also associated with many diseases including cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, liver disease, and cancer. Support services are also available to many people with HIV. These services can help people cope with their diagnosis, reduce risk behavior, and find needed services.
AIDS is the late stage of HIV infection, when a person’s immune system is severely damaged and has difficulty fighting diseases and certain cancers. Before the development of certain medications, people with HIV could progress to AIDS in just a few years. Currently, people can live much longer – even decades – with HIV before they develop AIDS. This is because of “highly active” combinations of medications that were introduced in the mid 1990s.
No one should become complacent about HIV and AIDS. While current medications can dramatically improve the health of people living with HIV and slow progression from HIV infection to AIDS, existing treatments need to be taken daily for the rest of a person’s life, need to be carefully monitored, and come with costs and potential side effects. At this time, there is no cure for HIV infection. Despite major advances in diagnosing and treating HIV infection, in 2012, more than 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV infection, and almost one in six (15.8 percent) are unaware of their infection. The estimated incidence of HIV has remained stable overall in recent years, at about 50,000 new HIV infections per year. An estimated 15,529 people with an AIDS diagnosis died in 2010, and approximately 636,000 people in the United States with an AIDS diagnosis have died since the beginning of the epidemic.
If you would like to partner with Cobb and Douglas Public Health’s HIV prevention team to offer free HIV testing, and/or distribute educational materials at a health event, please call (770) 514-2432.
For more information on HIV/AIDS, please visit one of the following websites:
Cobb & Douglas Public Health offers $20 walk-in opt-out testing for HIV in the Adult Health Clinic, Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Please call 770-514-2380 for more information.
Cobb & Douglas Public Health also sponsors special free HIV testing events throughout the year at various public health centers and locations. You can check our website, Facebook page, Twitter or call 770-514-2815 for more information on HIV Prevention outreach and testing events.