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What is HIV/AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome)?
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is the advanced phase of infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). A person develops HIV infection if the virus gets into his or her bloodstream and begins reproducing itself.
People living with HIV may have no symptoms for ten or more years and may not even know they’re living with the virus. An HIV test is the only way to find out if a person is living with HIV.
Without treatment, most people living with HIV become unable to fight off germs and other viruses because HIV attacks the body’s immune system.
A person of any age, sex, race, ethnic group, economic background, or sexual orientation can become infected with HIV. Those who are most at risk are:
- People who have unprotected sex (vaginal, anal, or oral sex without using a condom) with someone who has untreated HIV.
- People who share needles, syringes, or other equipment to inject drugs, steroids, or vitamins or medicine with someone who has HIV.
- Babies during pregnancy, delivery, immediately after birth, or through breastfeeding if the mother has HIV.
- Healthcare and maintenance workers who may be exposed to blood and/or body fluids.
Symptoms of HIV/AIDS
The signs of HIV can begin two to four weeks after exposure. About 80% of people will develop symptoms similar to the flu or mononucleosis, though there are key differences such as a rash or mouth sores.
Symptoms can be mild or more severe and typically last for just a few days or weeks. After that, the person may feel and look fine for some time. Testing is the only way to know if a person has HIV.
If HIV is left untreated, over time it will seriously damage the person’s immune system and leave him or her open to life-threatening infections, cancers and even death. But with treatment, people living with HIV can stay healthy and live life fully.
UR Medicine's Treatments for HIV Infection/AIDS
Thanks to medical advances, people living with HIV are living almost as long as those who do not have HIV. However, there can be other HIV-related health problems associated with the aging process. So it's important to seek treatment for HIV as early as possible.
HIV is treated by taking a combination of medications, with different medications fighting the virus in different ways. A blood test called a genotype test or resistance test can determine the most effective course of treatment for the patient.
Different medications are often combined into one pill taken daily. Or a recently developed form of long-acting treatment can be taken by intravenous injection every two months.
The pills available today have no side effects or manageable side effects. The ultimate goal is viral suppression, or “being undetectable,” meaning the amount of virus in the person’s blood is below the level the test can identify.
If a person’s viral load is undetectable, it is nearly impossible to transmit the infection to others.
A relatively new treatment can prevent HIV infection in the first place. Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) consists of taking a pill a day, or an intravenous injection every two months—a similar approach used to prevent infection of newborn babies by mothers who are living with HIV.
What Sets Us Apart?
Rochester’s first HIV clinic was established at the University of Rochester Medical Center in 1987 and is the largest HIV clinic in the region.
The UR Medicine AIDS Center is dedicated to providing high-quality, comprehensive, multidisciplinary care to people living with HIV and their families, offering support systems in both inpatient and outpatient settings.
Confidential HIV counseling and testing is available for any patient who requests it, including pregnant women. Victims of sexual assault and other HIV exposures can be referred for counseling and testing.
The HIV clinic team includes social workers who help patients connect with community resources necessary for maintaining good health and eliminating barriers to effective treatment. Social workers help patients obtain health insurance coverage and coordinate with other team members of the Infectious Diseases Clinic.
Our Clinical Trials Unit, also known as Rochester Victory Alliance, is one of the clinical research sites of the National Institutes of Health. Advances in treatment and prevention of HIV infection have been possible only through studies conducted at Rochester and similar research sites around the world, and thanks to the thousands of people who have participated. But there is still a lot of work to do to find ways for people living with HIV to live longer and healthier lives and ultimately find a preventive vaccine that can contain the spread of the virus on a global scale. See information on clinical trials, below.
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Since 1987, we have been funded to conduct HIV/AIDS treatment and preventive vaccine trials. If you would like to participate in a clinical trail, call our Research Team.(585) 756-2329