Signs & Symptoms: When the virus enters the bloodstream, the person will have a fever, a tired feeling, swollen glands and a sore throat. Then the virus enters the lymph nodes of the immune system and multiplies there; the person has no symptoms during this time (called the latent period). As the virus continues to multiply, cells of the immune system die and the person develops the disease, AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). With AIDS disease, the person will develop opportunistic infections (infections from microbes that don’t cause disease in normal people).
Spread: The virus is spread by sexual activity, transfusions of blood and blood products, sharing needles with IV drug use, mother-tobaby transmission during pregnancy, and by needle-stick injuries to health professionals.
Who is at risk: Anyone who shares used needles when taking drugs; doctors and nurses who get a needlestick or cut from a contaminated needle or sharp medical tool; anyone who receives a blood transfusion with HIV-contaminated blood; babies born to HIV-infected mother; anyone having sex with an HIV-infected person
Prevention: Screening blood and blood products decreases the risk of HIV. Circumcision of males and the use of condoms have both been proven to decrease the spread of HIV. Giving an HIV infected mother antiretroviral drugs before the baby is born decreases the risk of infection to the baby.