What are HIV and AIDS?
Is there a person who has not heard HIV (which stands for Human immunodeficiency Virus)? We highly doubt this fact. HIV has been first discovered in 1981, and it is assumed that as of January 2006, it has killed more than 25 million people. Infection with HIV can occur through several different ways, all involving some sort of transfer of bodily fluid (which can be blood, semen and breast milk, to name but a few).
Most people who contract HIV eventually develop AIDS (which is almost synonymous with HIV, even though it is not the same thing). AIDS stands for acquired immune deficiency syndrome, and basically means that at this point, the HIV patient's immune gradually becomes weaker over time, to the point where the individual is extremely susceptible to illness and tumors. This can manifest in a variety of ways including pulmonary infections, gastrointestinal infections and even have neurological and psychiatric effects. It is very likely to eventually lead to the individual's death.
Is there a cure?
Although there is no vaccine or cure for AIDS or HIV, there has been a lot of progress made in the decades since HIV's discovery. Consequently, there are effective antiretroviral methods which can slow down its progress, as well as reduce its mortality rates.
Since a person who has contracted HIV may unwittingly transfer it to another person which most commonly happens during sexual intercourse, it is very important for individuals who suspect they may have HIV to get themselves checked. There are multiple types of tests, including ELISA, western blot, and rapid or point of care tests.
That being said, it is important to remember that HIV tests are not perfect, and at times may produce false positives, meaning, the person is actually healthy but the test reports he has HIV, as well as false negatives, meaning, the person is infected with HIV but according to the test he is healthy.
However, the accuracy of HIV testing is getting increasingly better. In 2005, using a western blot HIV test, the chance of a false-positive is roughly 1 in 250,000.
There are several organizations that provide this anonymous and confidential HIV testing. These tests can be done using urine samples, blood samples or even saliva samples. Furthermore, there are also home testing kits which can be used at home.
In conclusion, if you suspect you may have contracted HIV, get yourself checked. It is crucial, not only so you could obtain treatment for yourself, but also so you do not infect your partner or family accidentally.