Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that is transmitted through blood and unprotected sexual contact and can settle in various tissues of the body but shows its main effects on the immune system. HIV basically destroys white blood cells called CD4+ T lymphocytes (CD4 cells for short), suppressing the immune system and leaving the body vulnerable to infections. As a result, diseases such as tuberculosis, diarrhea, meningitis, and pneumonia, which can be treated under normal conditions, cause serious damage to the body, and in some cases, cancers can be seen.

Today, drugs developed for HIV prevent the virus from multiplying in the body and its immune-suppressing effect, allowing HIV-positive people to live long and healthy life. For this, it is important to start treatment early and continue regularly under the control of a doctor.

What Is AIDS?

AIDS is an abbreviation for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS, caused by the HIV virus, is the stage in which the immune system is vulnerable to infections and cancers and is life-threatening. Contrary to misconceptions, not every HIV-positive person develops AIDS.

Thanks to antiretroviral drugs developed against the HIV virus, the immune system can fight infections without serious damage, that is, body resistance does not decrease. After being infected with HIV, AIDS may not occur depending on the living conditions and body resistance of the person, and there is a possibility that it will occur for 5-15 years or more.


HIV is a contagious infection that is prevalent all over the world today. According to the World Health Organization, 40 million people in the world are infected with HIV. An estimated 0.7% of adults aged 15–49 years worldwide are living with HIV, although the burden of the epidemic continues to vary considerably between countries and regions. remains most severely affected, with nearly 1 in every 25 adults (3.4%) living with HIV and accounting for more than two-thirds of the people living with HIV worldwide.


Common Symptoms

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Sore throat and inflammation of the throat
  • Sores in the mouth, esophagus, and genital organs
  • Enlargement of lymph nodes
  • Rash on the body, dermatitis
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Untreated diarrhea lasting more than a month
  • Nausea and vomiting

When treatment is not started, 7-10 kg of weight loss can be seen in less than two months.

Transmission Routes

HIV is transmitted from person to person (Female-Male, Male-Female, Female-Female, Male-Male). The virus is found in the blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and breast milk of HIV-positive individuals. As it can be understood from here, it can be transmitted sexually, through blood, and can also be passed from mother to baby.

HIV Is NOT Transmitted in The Following Situations

  • Being in the same social environment, room, school, workplace,
  • Breathing the same air,
  • Sneezing, coughing,
  • Through saliva, tears, sweat, urine, feces,
  • Handshake, social kissing, holding hands, hugging, skin touching, caressing, hugging,
  • Blood contact with intact skin,
  • Eating from the same bowl, consuming drinks from the same glass, using common forks, spoons, glasses, plates, telephones,
  • Using the same toilet, shower, and faucet,
  • Swimming in the same swimming pool, using common areas such as the sea, sauna, Turkish bath, and shared towels,
  • Mosquitoes and similar insect bites, animal bites,
  • Living with animals such as cats and dogs.

While false beliefs and prejudices about HIV made the lives of HIV-positive people difficult and prevented them from participating in social and business life in the past, awareness-raising studies on HIV have reduced these prejudices.

HIV Tests for Screening And Diagnosis

HIV tests are very sensitive, but no test can detect the virus immediately after infection. How early a test can detect HIV depends on the type of test used. Antibody tests look for HIV antibodies in a person’s blood or oral fluid. It can take 23 to 90 days for antibody tests to detect HIV after exposure. In general, antibody tests using blood from a vein can detect HIV earlier, after infection, than tests with blood from a finger stick or mouthwash. Antigen/antibody tests look for both HIV antibodies and antigens. Antibodies are produced by the immune system of a person exposed to viruses such as HIV. Antigens are foreign substances that cause a person’s immune system to become active. If a person has HIV, an antigen called p24 is produced before antibodies develop. An antigen/antibody test performed by the laboratory can detect HIV, usually 18 to 45 days after exposure.

Nucleic Acid Tests (i.e., PCR) look for the presence of virus in the blood. This test should be considered for individuals who have recently been exposed to HIV or have had possible exposure to early signs of HIV and have tested negative for an antibody or antigen/antibody test. A Real-Time qPCR can detect HIV as early as 10 days after exposure.


According to CDC, there is currently treatment that eliminates the virus from the body. Once people are infected with HIV, they carry it for life. However, with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled. People with HIV who receive effective HIV treatment can live long, healthy lives and protect their spouse.

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