is HIV infection?
HIV infection is a communicable disease caused by the human
immunodeficiency virus (HIV). HIV damages the body's immune
system, the system that fights infections. Without the immune
system's protection, the body is defenseless against serious
and potentially life-threatening diseases which can lead to
the development of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS),
the later stage of HIV infection.
is HIV transmitted?
HIV is transmitted through contact with infected body fluids
such as blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and breast milk.
It is spread by sexual contact with an infected person, and
by sharing needles and/or syringes (primarily for drug injection)
with someone who is infected. Very rarely, HIV is transmitted
through transfusions of infected blood or blood clotting factors.
Babies born to HIV-infected women may become infected before
or during birth or through breastfeeding after birth.
HIV is not transmitted by mosquitoes or through casual contact
such as shaking hands, social kissing and hugging, coughing,
sneezing, swimming in a pool; by sharing bathrooms, eating
utensils, food, office equipment or furniture; or from drinking
from a water fountain. However, sharing razors or toothbrushes
with an infected person could spread HIV.
can a person learn if they have HIV infection?
The only way for a person to learn if they have HIV infection
is through testing of blood or other body fluids such as oral
fluids or urine. Tests most commonly used to diagnose HIV
infection detect HIV antibodies produced by the body to fight
HIV. Most people develop detectable antibodies within 3 months
after infection. In rare cases, it can take up to 6 months.
Persons can be tested by their physicians or at clinics specializing
in sexually transmitted diseases, family planning services,
and agencies providing publicly funded HIV counseling and
should be tested for HIV?
who had unprotected sex (sex without a condom) with another
who shared needles for injecting drugs, tattooing, or
who had several sex partners.
who had any sexually transmitted
disease (STD), e.g. gonorrhea,
veneral warts, or any other STD.
who received a blood transfusion or blood product between
1978 and mid-1985.
who had unprotected sex with any of the persons described
who had unprotected sex with a person infected with HIV.
pregnant women as well as infants born to HIV-infected
who were significantly exposed to another person's blood
or other body fluids (e.g., someone's blood coming in
contact with open lesions on another person's hand).
are the signs and symptoms of HIV infection?
Some individuals experience an acute phase of HIV infection
with short-term (one to two weeks) flu-like symptoms (fever,
head, malaise, enlarged lymph nodes in the neck or groin)
within one or two months after becoming infected. Most individuals
do not have any symptoms for many years. Over time, however,
the body's immune system weakens and a person may become vulnerable
to other viruses and infections including certain pneumonias;
several forms of cancer; nervous system damage; and extreme
weight loss. A very small number of persons with HIV infection
remain symptom-free even though they are able to transmit
the virus to others.
how long can an infected person carry HIV?
Persons infected with HIV remain contagious for their entire
life--even after an HIV test no longer detects the virus in
a person who previously tested positive.
there treatments for HIV infection?
There several effective HIV antiviral medications. Early treatment
with antivirals and other related medications can slow the
progression of HIV disease and the development of AIDS. Persons
with HIV infection usually take a combination of two or more
HIV drugs to prevent disease progression. Because there is
no medication that rids HIV from the body, most infected persons
will need to take HIV medications their entire lives. HIV-infected
pregnant women who take HIV medications can decrease the risk
of transmitting HIV to a fetus/newborn infant during pregnancy
can the spread of HIV be prevented?
The only sure way to avoid becoming infected or infecting
others with HIV is to not have sex and to not share needles;
however persons who are sexually active should:
women who are infected with HIV can reduce the risk of transmitting
HIV to their unborn child when they take special HIV medications.
the number of sexual partners and avoid sex with people
whose sexual history is unknown.
condoms properly when having sex (vaginal, oral, or anal).
the use of alcohol and other drugs that might cloud thinking
and lead to high-risk behavior.
who inject drugs should:
share needles or works with others.
only clean needles and works.
a treatment program.
Developed by the Wisconsin Division of Public Health - Bureau
of Communicable Diseases.
you don't find the information you are looking for on this
Wisconsin HIV, STD, and Hepatitis C Information & Referral
hotline can provide information about STDs.
Please call us toll free in Wisconsin
Or call CDC INFO at