General knowledge about HIV has greatly improved over the decades since it was first discovered. While we have left behind the days of medical staff refusing to treat HIV and AIDS patients out of fear and most people understand the basics of the disease, there is a lot that the average person does not know. Below are some frequently asked questions about HIV and AIDS and the answers people need.

What Is HIV? What Is AIDS?

HIV is the initial virus that someone catches. It stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, and as the name suggests, it attacks and weakens the immune system. HIV invades critical cells within the body, then uses those cells to copy itself and destroys the host cells.

AIDS occurs when HIV is not treated in time. Standing for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, at this stage, the immune system is gravely compromised. Users are likely to catch most illnesses they come into contact with, and there is a significant risk of them dying as a result. However, the risk of death is much lower than it was in the past thanks to greater awareness, testing, and treatment.

How Do People Contract HIV?

HIV can be transmitted through specific bodily fluids. They are:

  • Blood
  • Semen
  • Pre-seminal fluid
  • Vaginal fluid
  • Rectal fluid
  • Breast milk

Most cases are caused by unprotected sex or intravenous drug use.

Who Is At Risk?

Anyone can contract HIV, but certain populations are at greater risk. Those engaging in unprotected sex or who share needles are most likely to contract the disease.

What Are Signs of Having HIV?

HIV can be hard to identify at first. The initial symptoms mimic the flu, and as the immune system weakens, the person infected will get sick more and more often. Because it can take a while to realize what is going on, anyone who has multiple sexual partners, has unprotected sex, or uses needles should be tested regularly.

What Steps Protect Against Contracting HIV?

Some ways people can reduce their likelihood of contracting HIV include:

  • Use barrier methods during sex
  • Use lube to prevent vaginal and anal tears, which increase the risk of contraction
  • Get yourself and your partner tested before having unprotected sex
  • Talk openly about safe sex with partners
  • Never reuse or share needles

How Long Does It Take for HIV to Become AIDS?

Without medication, people with HIV will develop AIDS within 10 years. With modern therapies, someone who is HIV positive can prevent AIDS from ever developing and keep their HIV at undetectable and untransmitable levels.

How Is HIV Tested For?

There are multiple ways HIV can be tested for, including blood, oral fluid (not saliva), and urine. Blood tests offer the best detection. These tests can detect presence of the virus as soon as three weeks after HIV exposure.

Individuals can get these tests done at health clinics. However, these are not always easy to access. As an alternative, they can use an at-home testing kit. For the best levels of detection, and at-home kit that offers blood sample collection through finger pricks is best.

To learn more about at-home testing, browse our website.