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HIV and AIDS transmission, symptoms and screening

What are HIV and AIDS?

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is responsible for the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). The virus attacks the immune system, which is weakened and then no longer able to fight infections and viruses. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS, but proper medical care can control the virus and limit the severity of the infection.

How is HIV transmitted?

HIV is transmitted through contact with contaminated body fluids (semen, pre-ejaculatory fluid, vaginal secretions, anal secretions, blood or breast milk).

Its main modes of transmission are by:

  • Unprotected sexual intercourse (anal or vaginal)
  • Sharing needles and other drug injection equipment
  • Sharing sex toys
  • Sharing needles (tattooing or acupuncture), ink (tattooing) or jewelry (piercing)
  • Oral sex without a condom or dental dam
  • An infected and untreated mother to her child during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding

It is important to note that HIV cannot be transmitted by:

  • Simple contact (cuddles, caresses, massages, kisses)
  • Sharing utensils or food
  • Sneezing or coughing
  • Drinking from water fountains
  • Sitting on toilet seats
  • Having contact with an insect or animal

What are the symptoms of HIV?

Infected people may have no symptoms and remain healthy for many years. Some, however, will develop symptoms such as:

  • Fever or night sweats
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Swollen lymph nodes (groin, neck or underarm)
  • Oral candidiasis (whitish, thick and persistent granules on the tongue or in the mouth
  • Chronic vaginal yeast infections

What are the symptoms of AIDS?

AIDS is the most critical stage of HIV infection. People with AIDS are at risk of contracting serious diseases such as:

  • Pneumocystis pneumonia (lung infection with severe cough and severe shortness of breath)
  • Brain infection and direct damage to brain cells (effects: confusion, disorientation and loss of concentration)
  • Kaposi's sarcoma (skin cancer)
  • Invasive cervical cancer

How to get tested

The immune system of newly HIV-positive people begins to produce antibodies, the presence of which can be detected by means of a blood test. HIV antibodies are found in the blood within 12 weeks of exposure to the virus.

There are various detection methods available. The 4th generation proofs used by Biron reduce the minimum time between exposure and the test to 14 days. Laboratories using 3rd generation tests can only detect HIV 6 to 12 weeks after probable exposure.

How are HIV and AIDS treated?

There is no definitive treatment or vaccine for AIDS. Treatments are based on the use of drugs that block or considerably slow HIV multiplication. These antivirals can be used at different stages:

  • Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP): Two antiviral medications are taken daily by individuals at risk.
  • Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP): Two or three antivirals are taken for 28 days following possible exposure to HIV. Treatment should be started as soon as possible, ideally within 72 hours of exposure to the virus.
  • Treatment of an established infection: There are several drug combinations that can be used over the long term in HIV-positive individuals, and new approaches are regularly proposed. Treatments are tailored to each patient’s particular condition and aim to minimize the viral load present in the blood. When rigorously followed, these treatments can considerably reduce the risk of infecting a sexual partner or developing the more severe forms of AIDS.

For professional support, we’re here for you. 

We offer STBBI screening without a prescription. Simply fill out a free, confidential questionnaire to determine which tests are appropriate, then make an appointment.

Non-prescription STBBI Screening Form

Do you have symptoms? You will need a doctor’s note to be tested. Once you have one, make an appointment online or contact Biron Health Group customer service at 1 833-590-2712.

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