HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) infection & AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were an estimated 1,170,298 people living with HIV by the end of 2017. Of these individuals, only 35% had received a diagnosis and knew their status; this means that most people who have contracted HIV do not know they have it. 

What Is HIV? 

HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system, making it harder for your body to fight off infections. The virus attacks specific cells in the body called CD4 T lymphocytes (pronounced “tee lymphocytes”). These cells normally help fight off infections by producing antibodies that attach themselves to foreign invaders like bacteria or viruses. When HIV invades these cells, it destroys them along with their ability to produce antibodies against other viruses and bacteria that enter your body 

Most people with HIV don’t experience symptoms for many years after infection. 


HIV is a virus that lives in the blood of an infected person. If you have HIV, it means your immune system has been damaged and you cannot fight off infections like other people who do not have this illness.  

It is transmitted through blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and breast milk.  

  • When someone with HIV has unprotected sex with an uninfected person, they can pass on the virus during sex.  
  • The virus also spreads from mother to baby during pregnancy or childbirth; breastfeeding can also spread it from mother to child. 

Other common ways to contract the virus include: 

  • Sharing needles with someone who has HIV 
  • Sexual activity with a partner who doesn’t know they’re infected or takes medication to prevent infection  
  • Sex between partners whose viral load is undetectable because they are on treatment 

It cannot be transmitted by casual contact such as shaking hands or hugging (unless you have cuts on your skin). 

Risk factors for HIV Infection 

Risky behaviors are any activities that put you at risk of getting HIV or AIDS. They include: 

  • Having unprotected sex (without a condom or other barrier methods of birth control such as a dental dam). 
  • Sharing needles and syringes (such as those used for injecting drugs). This includes using somebody else’s needle, even if it was only once before. If you share needles or syringes with someone who is HIV-positive and doesn’t use clean equipment every time, you can get infected with the virus through an accidental cut or puncture wound to your body as well. 
  • Having sex with someone who has multiple sexual partners (called “casual” sex). Someone might have several sexual partners at one time and not know they’re infected with HIV/AIDS because they don’t have symptoms yet or because they may not know they have the virus in their bloodstream while they’re having sex with other people. 


Primary HIV Infection: 

Within 2 to 4 weeks of the virus entering the body, some HIV-infected people develop a flu-like illness. This condition, known as primary (acute) HIV infection, can last for several weeks. The possible signs and symptoms are: 

  • Fever 
  • Headache 
  • Aches and pains in the muscles and joints 
  • Rash 
  • Sore throat and sores in the mouth 
  • Lymph glands are swollen (primarily in the neck) 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Loss of weight 
  • Cough 
  • Sweating at night 

These symptoms may be so mild that you are unaware of them. The amount of virus in your bloodstream (viral load) is, however, quite high at this time. As a result, the infection spreads more easily during the primary stage than it does during the subsequent stage. 

Latent/Chronic HIV infection: 

HIV is still present in the body and white blood cells at this stage of infection. As the virus multiplies and destroys your immune cells (the cells in your body that fight germs), you may develop mild infections or chronic signs and symptoms such as: 

  • Fever 
  • Fatigue 
  • Swollen lymph nodes (one of the first symptoms of HIV infection) 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Loss of weight 
  • Pneumonia 
  • Yeast infection in the mouth (thrush) 
  • Shingles (herpes zoster) 

Many people, however, may not experience any symptoms or infections during this stage of infection. If you do not receive antiretroviral therapy, this stage can last for many years (ART). Some people experience much more severe diseases much sooner.  


HIV infection initially causes flu-like symptoms and then progresses to AIDS. Most people with HIV don’t experience symptoms for many years after infection. The time between initial HIV exposure and the development of AIDS varies, but it has been reported to be as short as five years or as long as 20 years. The average time between infection and the appearance of symptoms is 10 years. 

Severe illness occurs in about 25% of people within six months after infection with HIV. This severe illness can lead to opportunistic infections such as pneumonia and toxoplasmosis (a disease caused by a parasite). It also increases the risk for cancer, heart disease, and AIDS dementia complex. 


People with HIV who are treated with antiretroviral therapy (ART) have a lower risk of death and other serious health problems, compared to people who don’t get treated. 

There is currently no cure for AIDS or a vaccine to prevent HIV infection. However, HIV is treated using a combination of medications called antiretroviral therapy (ART) that can suppress the amount of virus in your body (viral load), keeping you healthy for many years. 

A person’s viral load is decreased when antiretroviral therapy (ART) is taken consistently as prescribed by their doctor. ART also helps slow down the progression from HIV infection to AIDS and reduces the risk of transmitting HIV to others through sexual contact with an infected partner who has an undetectable viral load (less than 200 copies/mL).  

ART is a lifelong treatment, but it’s not a cure. If you stop taking your medications, HIV will start to grow again, so it’s important to stay on them every day for as long as possible. 

When to see a doctor? 

Seek medical help if you have any of the symptoms that accompany a positive HIV test. 

Seek medical help if you have any of the symptoms that accompany a positive HIV test. The symptoms of HIV can be like those of other common illnesses. They include fever, headache, muscle aches, sore throat, and fatigue. 

There is no cure for HIV, but treatment can help stop it from getting worse and keep people healthy for as long as possible. Treatment does not make you immune to HIV, but it does stop the virus from replicating itself (making copies of itself). This reduces the amount of virus in your body and stops new infections from being passed on by people with HIV. If you are infected with HIV, you can live a long and healthy life if you take your medication as prescribed by your doctor. 

If you have any questions or comments about HIV/AIDS, please feel free to contact us. At Doral Health and Wellness, we have doctors that can help you manage your condition. For more information, you can visit us at 1797 Pitkin Avenue, Brooklyn, New York, 11212, or call us at 1-347-384-5690. You can also visit our website at or contact us at if you have any queries.