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Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks your immune system. This makes it hard for your body to fight infection and disease. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). But having HIV doesn't mean that you have AIDS. AIDS is the last stage of HIV infection, and with treatment, you can avoid it.
Medicines called antiretrovirals are the main treatment for HIV. By fighting the virus, these medicines can help your immune system stay healthy and can prevent AIDS. And they can help you live about as long as someone without HIV.
HIV often causes flu-like symptoms soon after a person gets infected. These early symptoms go away in a few weeks. After that, you may not have signs of illness for many years.
But the virus is still in your body. If you don't get treated, symptoms come back and then remain. Common symptoms include fatigue, weight loss, fever, night sweats, diarrhea, swollen lymph nodes, and mouth sores. If HIV progresses to AIDS, your symptoms get worse and your body is less and less able to fight infections like pneumonia and tuberculosis.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
If you have HIV, you can take steps to avoid spreading the infection to others.
Getting treated for HIV can help you stay healthy. It also helps protect other people from getting infected.
Encourage any partners to get medicine to prevent HIV. This is called PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis). PrEP can help keep them from getting HIV.
Using a condom can help prevent the spread of HIV. So can having one sex partner and choosing activities that have a lower risk than vaginal or anal sex.
Use new, clean supplies every time.
This medicine can help prevent HIV if it's taken within 3 days of exposure to HIV.
HIV can spread through these things.
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:
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Current as of: October 31, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.
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