HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the virus that causes AIDS. The virus acts by attacking and breaking down the body’s immune system. The body, as a result, loses its internal defense force and has a tougher time fighting infection and disease. People can contract the virus and not even know, since symptoms may not show up for several years. Once in the body, HIV can do severe damage to the immune system. People may appear completely healthy but still carry HIV and pass it unknowingly to others. HIV testing is the only way to discover if you have been infected with HIV.
How do I know if I should get HIV Testing?
Individuals who engage is risky behaviour, such as sharing needles, having unprotected sex, or engaging in any sexual activities with high risk individuals, are encouraged to get HIV testing.
How is HIV spread?
Most commonly, HIV spreads through sex with a partner who is already infected with the virus. The virus enters the body via the vaginal lining, penis, mouth, or rectum.
HIV can also be spread by directly coming in contact with HIV infected blood such as sharing needles with an infected individual.
Women may spread HIV to their babies while pregnant or through delivery. Around one-quarter to one-third of HIV-infected women will pass the infection to their babies if they do not receive treatment for the virus.
What test is recommended to detect HIV?
HIV status is assessed by the EIA (enzyme immunoassay). This test looks for antibodies produced by the immune system when someone is infected with HIV. EIA is not 100% effective immediately after coming in contact with HIV. The HIV antibody takes time to reach levels the EIA test can detect. For this reason, contact our STD counselor to find out if you are within the EIA “window period”.
HIV PCR by DNA
HIV produces genetic material which can be detected by the HIV PCR by DNA test. A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) process takes small amounts of the virus’ DNA and multiplies them exponentially. This allows for the monitoring of the viral load shortly after initial infection.
HIV infection warning signs. If you are exhibiting any of these symptoms, please call 1-888-837-8823.
- Dry cough
- Weight loss
- Diarrhea lasting more than one week
- Extreme fatigue
- Odd blemishes or white spots on your tongue, throat or mouth
- Lymph glands in your armpits, groin or neck that are swollen
- Brown, purple, pink or red blotches located on or under skin, inner eyelids, mouth or nose.
- Depression, memory loss, or any other neurological disorders
It is hard to say definitively the time length HIV takes to progress to AIDS. It depends on aspects of each individual’s lifestyle, age, and immunity to other diseases. Also, improved antiretroviral drugs have increased the time it takes HIV to develop into AIDS.