Over the course of the past three decades, HIV/AIDs has been on the national stage. What started out as a major health crisis in the 80s has evolved in the 2010s to be a disease that is both manageable and treatable. PrEP and PEP (Pre- and Post-Exposure Prophylaxis) antivirals have changed the landscape of HIV preventive medicine, but even with these pills, it’s still incredibly important to get tested and establish a treatment plan.

HIV screening is especially important because people with other STDs are more likely to get HIV. In fact, it is highly recommended for anyone diagnosed with an STD get screened yearly to prevent and protect against infection.1 Two tests available for HIV detection are the HIV Antibody Test and the HIV RNA test for early detection.

The HIV Antibody Test is recommended for more routine screening. This is a fourth generation combination test, intended to detect HIV antibodies and the p24 antigen by method of an ELISA. An HIV Antibody Test is most effective three weeks or more after the date of infection.

HIV Treatment

HIV does not have a cure, but there are several methods doctors use to keep the infection under control and to either slow down or stop the progression towards AIDS.

For anyone either at risk or currently infected with HIV, the current recommended recommended is Antiretroviral Therapy (ART). In a study reported on by the AidsInfo division of the National Institutes of Health revealed a decrease of 50% in the morbidity and mortality of HIV-positive individuals with CD4 (T-Cell) counts of less than 500. ART is recommended for any individual that might have been exposed to the virus or has tested positive for HIV-1. HIV-1 accounts for 95% of the HIV infections around the world. ART works to keep viral load low and to keep CD4 counts within normal range. When CD4 counts dip below 200, that is when the virus has progressed into AIDS.2

HIV Overview

Since the first instances of HIV/AIDS were discovered in San Francisco in 19813, it has evolved into a disease that today has far different prospects for testing, treatment and manageability. The diagnosis of HIV was once regarded as a death sentence, but now, when it is treated by following an approved drug therapy regimen and with the support of healthy diet and exercise, the prospects for those living with HIV have made significant progress over the past three and a half decades.

In the United States, there are an estimated 1.2 million cases of HIV, and nearly 1 in 8 infected are unaware of their HIV status.4 Those at risk, including those who have never been tested, anyone with more than one sexual partner currently or within the last year, or any at-risk populations like men who have sex with (MSM), bi-sexual or gay men should be screened for HIV at least annually to ensure they receive the proper diagnosis and treatment for the STD.

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HIV & AIDS Symptoms

HIV typically presents with the following symptoms5:

  • Muscle aches
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Mouth ulcers

Symptoms of the progression to AIDS include:

  • Genital Sores
  • Rapid Weight Loss
  • Swollen lymph glands for extended periods of time
  • Pink, purple or reddish skin lesions
  • Pneumonia
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Depression and/or memory loss

Call a physician as soon as possible if you are concerned about any symptoms that could be indicative of HIV or you’ve recently been exposed to the STI through unprotected sex. Contact your doctor or visit an urgent care facility as soon as possible to get PrEp or PEP medication.

If you experience any acute, persistent or intermittent pelvic pain, call 911 or go directly to the nearest emergency room or urgent care facility. If you experience any symptoms that are in danger of becoming life threatening, call 911.

1 STDs and HIV – CDC Fact Sheet
2 Guidelines for the Use of Antiretroviral Agents in HIV-1-Infected Adults and Adolescents
3 A Timeline of HIV/AIDS
4 CDC – HIV in the United States: At A Glance
5 Symptoms of HIV

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