About HIV & AIDS

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. If left untreated, HIV can lead to the disease AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).

Unlike some other viruses, the human body cannot get rid of HIV. That means that once you have HIV, you have it for life. No safe and effective cure for HIV currently exists, but with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled.

HIV affects specific cells of the immune system, called CD4 cells, or T cells. Over time, if left untreated, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infections and disease. Today, a person who diagnosed with HIV before the disease is far advanced and who gets and stays on antiretroviral therapy can live a nearly normal life span.1

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1,218,400 persons aged 13 years and older are living with HIV infection, including 156,300 (12.8%) who are unaware of their infection. Over the past decade, the number of people living with HIV has increased, while the annual number of new HIV infections has remained relatively stable. Still, the pace of new infections continues at far too high a level—particularly among certain groups.2

Medication for the prevention of HIV through the use of Pre- and Post-Exposure treatment is divided into two categories:

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)

“PrEP” stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. The word “prophylaxis” means “to prevent or control the spread of an infection or disease.” PrEP is a way for people who don’t have HIV to prevent HIV infection by taking a pill every day. If you take PrEP and are exposed to HIV through sex or injection drug use, these medicines can work to keep the virus from taking hold in your body.3

Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)

Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) involves taking anti-HIV medications as soon as possible (within 3 days) after you may have been exposed to HIV to try to reduce the chance of becoming HIV positive. PEP is a month-long course of emergency medication taken to try to keep HIV from making copies of itself and spreading through your body. PEP is used by health care workers who have been exposed to HIV-infected fluids on the job or anyone who may have been exposed through unprotected sex, needle-sharing injection drug use, or sexual assault.

PEP must begin within 72 hours of exposure, before the virus has time to make too many copies of itself in your body. PEP is not 100% effective; it does not guarantee that someone exposed to HIV will not become infected with HIV.4

Resources for Patients ReferencesRetrieved October 2015

1 https://aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/hiv-aids-101/what-is-hiv-aids/
2 http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/statistics/basics/ataglance.html
3 https://aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/prevention/reduce-your-risk/pre-exposure-prophylaxis/
4 https://aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/prevention/reduce-your-risk/post-exposure-prophylaxis/