HIV infection is transmitted when a virus is passed from one person to another during sexual contact (oral, anal, or vaginal), blood transmission (needle sharing, transfusions, and accidental injuries in health care), and prenatal transmission (gestation, birth, and breast feeding). Early symptoms of HIV infection are similar to those of common minor illnesses, such as the flu, except symptoms last longer and are more severe. Persistent tiredness, unexplained fevers, recurring night sweats, prolonged enlargement of the lymph nodes (glands), and weight loss are all common. The virus attacks the body’s immune system, leaving it unable to fight off infection. New infections can lead to chronic serious illness and possibly death. While treatment with anti-retroviral therapies can dramatically improve the health of persons living with HIV, over time many will develop AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) and become quite ill.
People can be infected with HIV for years and can infect others without showing any signs of illness. When HIV does begin to present symptoms, it can appear in different forms. A simple blood test can be used to test for HIV.