Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the virus that causes HIV infection.
What is HIV?
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the virus that causes HIV infection. HIV affects the immune system by attacking and destroying CD4 cells. The CD4 cells are part of your immune system that help in fighting infections. Without CD4 cells, it hard for your body to fight serious infections and certain cancers, making those infected more susceptible to getting sick.

If left untreated, HIV can destroy the immune system and can lead to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), which is the most advanced stage of HIV infection. These genotypes share some common gene sequences (or traits) with other HCV genotypes, but differ in others.
How common is HIV ?
In 2019, it was estimated that there were 29,045 people with HIV in Australia. Of these 29,045 people, an estimated 90% were diagnosed by the end of 2019. The research also shows that 91% of people diagnosed were receiving HIV treatment, and of those on treatment, 97% had an undetectable viral load.

In 2019, 59% of HIV notifications were attributed to sexual contact between men. 23% of cases were attributed to heterosexual sex, 7% to a combination of sexual contact between men and injecting drug use, 3% to injecting drug use alone, and 8% to other/unspecified.
How is HIV transmitted?
HIV is transmitted through contact with HIV-infected body fluids, including blood, semen, pre-seminal fluids, vaginal fluids, rectal fluids, and breast milk. HIV is mainly spread by:

  • Anal or vaginal sex with an HIV infected person without using a condom or taking medications to prevent or treat HIV
  • Sharing injection drug equipment, such as needles, with an HIV infected person
  • Mother-to-child transmission can occur from a woman with HIV to her child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding
HIV cannot be transmitted by:
  • Shaking hands or hugging a person who has HIV
  • Sharing objects such as dishes, toilet seats, or doorknobs used by a person with HIV
  • HIV is not spread through the air or in water or by mosquitoes, ticks, or other blood-sucking insects
Can I reduce my risk of getting HIV?
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is also an option for people who are at high risk of becoming infected. PrEP entails taking a medication daily to prevent HIV infection and requires your health care provider to determine if you are a candidate.
What are the symptoms of HIV infection?

At about 2-4 weeks after infection with HIV, the virus multiplies rapidly and some people develop flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, and rash. After this stage, the virus continues to multiple, but at very low levels. People may not have any symptoms at this point. It can take several years before signs of severe infection and opportunistic infections* develop. Without treatment, HIV advances to AIDS in about 10 years (can be more or less in some people). At this point, the immune system is typically severely damaged. HIV transmission can occur at any stage after infection, even if the person has no symptoms.

*Opportunistic infections are infections that occur more frequently and are more severe in people with weakened immune systems, including people with HIV.
How is it diagnosed?
The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 13 to 64 years old get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care. Annual testing is recommended for individuals with higher risk for HIV. Sexually active gay and bisexual men may want to get tested more often. Discuss with your health care provider your risk for HIV and how often you should get tested.
There is no cure for HIV, but there are effective treatments options that help control the virus and keep the immune system strong. The medications used to treat HIV are called "antiretroviral.” There are different types of antiretroviral medicines that work in different ways. Treatment involves taking a combination of usually 3 different medicines daily. These different medicines are sometimes available as a combination into 1 or 2 single pills. This reduces the need to take as multiple pills each day.

It is important to not skip doses or stop taking these medicines. When doses are skipped or missed, these medicines could stop working.

The following specialty medications are available at Ace, a specialty pharmacy for HIV.

emtricitabine + tenofovir alafenamide + bictegravir
lamivudine + zidovudine
emtricitabine + tenofovir alafenamide
lamivudine + dolutegravir
atazanavir + cobicistat
emtricitabine + tenofovir alafenamide + elvitegravir + cobicistat
rilpivirine + dolutegravir
lopinavir + ritonavir
abacavir + lamivudine
emtricitabine + tenofovir alafenamide + rilpivirine
darunavir + cobicistat
emtricitabine + tenofovir alafenamide + darunavir + cobicistat
abacavir + lamivudine + dolutegravir
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