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STI Info: HIV

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Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV is a virus that can lead to AIDS. This STI is a viral infection that weakens the immune system. The immune system is responsible for fighting off illnesses and germs that cause diseases. Once HIV is acquired, the individual will have it for life. African Americans, Caucasians, and Hispanic/Latinos make up 96% of ethnicities infected with HIV, according to the CDC.

Symptoms

Not all individuals with HIV have symptoms when they first contract the virus. If they do show symptoms, it is usually within the first 2 to 4 weeks after they have contracted the virus. Initial symptoms look similar to mononucleosis, better known as Mono, or the Flu and include symptoms such as; fever, swollen glands, poor appetite, and feeling tired. Individuals rarely contribute these symptoms to sexual behavior. These symptoms are likely to last from 2 to 14 days after which the body goes through an asymptomatic phase. At this point an individual can feel healthy, yet they still carry the HIV virus and can spread it to others. The immune system is still in operation, yet it is being attacked by the virus. Once the immune system is greatly weakened the virus has developed into the systematic phase known as the HIV disease. At this point an individual will require medical attention to handle their existing illness and to take preventative measures against other illnesses.

Individuals with HIV may develop symptoms such as:

  • Fever
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Sore throat
  • Rash

Cases

Each year about 50,000 individuals are infected with HIV. 2010 statistics report 47,500 new infections in the U.S. In 2011, 1.2 million people were living with HIV in the United States and about 14% of those people do not know they are infected based on prevalence rates.

Transmission

HIV can be spread through certain bodily fluids such as blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. In the U.S. HIV is spread mostly by having oral, anal, or vaginal fluid with someone infected with HIV. Anal sex is the most risky behavior because the thin lining of the anus, making the transmission for STIs to pass through easily. Vaginal sex and having multiple sex partners increases the chance to acquire HIV. Sharing needles, syringes, or rinse water are other ways to spread HIV. Other fluids that are NOT associated with the spread of HIV due to their low concentration of white blood cells include; saliva, sweat, tears, urine, and feces.

HIV can be spread through:

  • Sexual behaviors such as vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the virus
  • Sharing needles or syringes with someone who has the virus
  • A baby being exposed to the virus through pregnancy, birth, or breast feeding from a mother who has the virus
  • Through transfusion with HIV infected blood or blood products
  • Having multiple sex partners or other STIs

Less commonly, HIV can be spread by:

  • Receiving blood transfusions, organ transplants, or blood products infected with HIV
  • Being bit by someone with HIV
  • Eating food pre-chewed by an HIV-infected person
  • Deep kissing with an HIV infected person that has sores or bleeding gums where blood is exchanged. HIV is only spread through blood, not saliva itself.

HIV is NOT spread through:

  • Doorknobs
  • Clothes
  • Food
  • Hugging
  • Kissing
  • Toilet seats
  • Telephones
  • Handshakes
  • Sharing cigarettes
  • Beds
  • Insects including mosquitoes or ticks
  • Saliva
  • Sweat
  • Tears
  • Water fountains
  • Coughing

Diagnosis and Treatment

The most common form of testing for HIV is through a blood sample although, there are also oral swabs used to test for HIV.

Local Testing Available:

  • Testing is available through EIU Health Service.  Please visit the website for more information by clicking here.

Cure

There is no known cure for HIV. Due to this fact, the goal of treatment is to prolong an individual's time within the asymptomatic phase. Medications are used to prevent the infection of illnesses associated with HIV by lowering the viral load and increasing the Helper T cell count.

Prevention

Abstinence is the only way to ensure 100% protection from not only HIV but also other STIs. Latex condoms provide the next best protection against HIV for sexually active individuals. Receptive condoms or female condoms are made of nitrile. HIV cannot pass through nitrile barriers thus making female condoms safe to use for anal or vaginal sex. Even when using protection against HIV, there is still a chance of contracting the virus. By choosing less risky sexual behaviors, using condoms consistently and correctly, and reducing the number of sexual partners, you are taking steps in protecting yourself against HIV. By getting yourself and your partner tested for negative STI tests before engaging in sexual behaviors, the chance of contracting HIV is less severe.