Having HIV Means You Have AIDS

Having HIV Means You Have AIDS

Myth. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that destroys the body’s CD4 immune cells, which help fight disease. With the right medications, you can have HIV for years or decades without HIV progressing to AIDS. AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is diagnosed when you have HIV as well as certain opportunistic infections or your CD4 cell count drops below 200.



It’s Difficult to Get HIV From Casual Contact

Fact. You can’t catch or spread HIV from hugging someone, using the same towel, or sharing the same glass. It’s very rare to get HIV from a blood transfusion — the U.S. blood supply is carefully tested. However, you can get the disease from having unprotected sex, sharing needles, or getting a tattoo from unsterilized equipment.


unprotected sex, sharing needles, or getting a tattoo from unsterilized equipment.


You Have Just a Few Years to Live

Myth. Because of the HIV drugs that are now available, the truth is that many people can live for decades with HIV and have a normal or near-normal life span. You can help prevent HIV from progressing to AIDS by seeing your doctor regularly, taking your medicines, and following your doctor’s guidance.



You’ll Know You Have HIV Because of Your Symptoms

Myth. Some people don’t show signs of HIV for years after being infected. However, many can have some symptoms within 10 days to a few weeks after infection. These first symptoms are similar to the flu or mononucleosis and may include fever, swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, rash, and muscle aches. They usually disappear after a few weeks and you may not have symptoms again for several years. The only way to tell you have HIV is to get tested.



HIV Can Be Cured

Myth. There is no cure for HIV at the present time, but treatment can control virus levels and help maintain your immune system. Some drugs interfere with proteins HIV needs to copy itself; others block the virus from entering or inserting its genetic material into your immune cells. All HIV-infected people should start treatment. These medicines are called antiretroviral therapy. Your doctor can say what drug combination is best for you.



Anyone Can Get HIV

Fact. About 38,700 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with HIV each year, and more than 15,000 people who have HIV die each year. Anyone can get HIV — men, women, children, and people who are gay or straight. Men who have sex with men make up about 25,700 new diagnosed HIV cases each year. Women account for about 6,100 new diagnoses. African-Americans continue to have the most severe burden of HIV, compared with other races and ethnicities.



Sex Is Safe When Both Partners Have HIV

Myth. Just because you and your partner both have HIV, it doesn’t mean you should forget about protection when having sex. Using a condom or other latex barrier can help protect you from other sexually transmitted diseases as well as other strains of HIV, which may be resistant to anti-HIV medication. Even if you are being treated and feel well, you might still be able to infect others.




You Can Have a Healthy Baby if You Are HIV-Positive

Fact. Infected mothers can pass HIV to their babies during pregnancy or delivery. But you can lower the risk by working with your doctor and getting the right care and medication. Pregnant women with HIV can take medications to treat their infection and to help protect their babies against the virus.



You Can’t Avoid Other HIV-Related Infections

Myth. People with HIV can get infections like pneumonia, tuberculosis, candidiasis, cytomegalovirus, and toxoplasmosis. The best way to cut the risk is to take HIV medications. People with advanced HIV infection (AIDS) can prevent some of these infections with specific drugs in addition to antiretroviral therapy. You can lessen exposure to some germs by avoiding undercooked meat, litter boxes, and contaminated water.



You Can’t Get Lifesaving Drugs Without Insurance

Myth. There are government programs, nonprofit groups, and some pharmaceutical companies that may help cover the cost of drugs that treat HIV and AIDS. But be aware: These drug “cocktails” can cost $10,000 a year or more. Talk to your local HIV and AIDS service organization to learn about financial help.



What Is Uveitis?

It’s a catch-all term for a group of inflammatory diseases that affect mostly the middle part of your eye, called the uvea. The main symptom is swelling, but you may have redness and pain, too. Uveitis can destroy eye tissue, so it’s important to see your eye doctor at the first sign of a problem.


What Causes It?

Uveitis may be caused by a bruise or diseases like AIDS, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, syphilis, and tuberculosis. In many cases, the cause isn’t known. 


It’s Serious

If not treated, uveitis can lead to severe eye problems, including blindness. It’s one of the leading causes of loss of sight among working-age people. Uveitis can also lead to things like cataracts, glaucoma, damage to the optic nerve, and detachment of the retina, a thin tissue that lines the back of your eye.


What Is the Uvea?

The uvea is the colored “inner tube” of the eye. It includes:

  • The choroid. It’s a group of blood vessels underneath the retina.
  • The ciliary body. This makes your eye fluid. (Your eye doctor might call it “aqueous.”)
  • The iris. It surrounds the pupil and controls how much light goes into your eye.


What Does It Feel Like?

Your vision could get blurry. You might have redness and pain. It could come on slowly, or you could just wake up with it one morning. It could be in one or both eyes. It usually affects your uvea, but it can hit any part of your eye, including the cornea (the clear covering in the front of your eye), or the white part, called the sclera.


What Else to Look For

You may have:

  • Sensitivity to light
  • “Floaters” in your vision 
  • A whitish spot called a hypopyon on the lower part of your eye 

If light bothers you, or you have eye pain or any change in vision, see your eye doctor right away.


Who Gets It?

People of all ages can have it. It’s slightly more common among women. It does crop up more as you age, and it’s more likely to affect more parts of your eyes as you get older.


There’s More Than One Kind

  • Anterior uveitis is in the front of your eye. 
  • Intermediate uveitis is in the middle.
  • Posterior uveitis is in the back.
  • Panuveitis affects the whole eye.

The last three are more serious.


Is It the Same as Pinkeye?

Your eye could be pink if you have uveitis. But pinkeye, also called conjunctivitis, isn’t the same thing. Pinkeye is a common condition you get in the lining and white of your eye. It’s often brought on by allergies, viruses, or bacteria. Uveitis is rare and happens inside your eye. Only about 38 of every 100,000 people have it.


Can I Prevent It?

Some medicines seem to be able to stop some types of uveitis from coming back (for example, methotrexate works for some people who have anterior uveitis). Prevention, though, is tricky. No one knows exactly what causes it.  An eye exam and your medical history can help your doctor find other diseases you may have that could be the cause. Treating that disease may help your uveitis.


Is It Contagious?

No. But some of the diseases that are associated with it can be spread. So you don’t have to worry about catching uveitis from someone. But you need to be careful about some of the conditions that might lead to it.


How Do I Find Out If I Have It?

An eye exam will happen first. Your eye doctor will also ask about your medical history. Next, they may:

  • Have you look at an eye chart
  • Order blood tests
  • Dilate your eyes so they can look inside
  • Take an ocular pressure reading. It looks for another eye condition called glaucoma.
  • Give you a slit lamp exam. This will give them a 3D look at different parts of your eye. It’ll help them spot signs of inflammation.


How Is It Treated?

Anti-inflammatory medicines are often the first step. They’re usually eye drops or ointment. You may also get pills or injections because neither drops nor ointment will reach the middle or back of the eye.

The goal is to treat the inflammation. After that’s taken care of, you’ll need to get your eyes checked regularly to prevent damage and loss of vision.



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