If you suspect you’ve been infected by HIV, it’s important to get tested so you can prevent the virus from becoming fatal. At Hospice and Palliative Care of California, Sabri Malek, MD, FIPP, provides comprehensive care and treatments for HIV disease, and can address any questions or concerns. To schedule an appointment, call the office in Pasadena, California, or book online.
HIV Disease Q&A
What is HIV?
Human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, is an incurable disease that’s spread through bodily fluids and leads to the development of AIDS.
Every day, your immune system is working hard to fight infections and disease. When you contract HIV, your body begins to attack the cells in charge of fighting these infections and your immune system becomes weak, leaving your body vulnerable to a dangerous illness or cancer.
What are the stages of HIV?
There are three stages of HIV. Acute HIV is the first stage, during which flu-like symptoms often occur. Since large amounts of the virus are being produced in your body during the acute HIV stage, it’s extremely beneficial to begin treatment. Your risk for transmitting the disease during the acute stage is very high.
The second stage of HIV is called clinical latency. During this stage, the virus is living inside you, but you experience few symptoms, if any. Although you may feel better, you’re still at a high risk of transmitting the disease.
When your immune system is very weak and damaged, you’ve reached the final stage. During this stage, you have what’s called autoimmune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS, which makes you extremely susceptible to disease or cancer.
The life expectancy for someone who’s progressed to AIDS is approximately three years. However, current treatments significantly reduce the chance of developing AIDS.
Fortunately, in the United States, most people do not progress to this stage and have a life expectancy similar to people who do not have HIV.
Are there treatments available for HIV?
There currently is no cure for HIV. However, there are ways to manage the virus to prevent it from progressing into AIDS.
Antiretroviral therapy, or ART, refers to a series of medications used to treat HIV and each attacks the virus in a different way. Their primary job is to prevent the virus from growing, thus slowing the progression of HIV. Not only does ART help manage the virus, but it also reduces the risk of spreading the infection to another person.
There are also medications you can take to prevent infection. If you choose to have multiple sexual partners, have unprotected sex or share drug needles, the team at Hospice and Palliative Care of California may prescribe a daily medication called PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) to proactively prevent infection.
If you fear you’ve already been exposed to the virus, PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) can be prescribed. In order for it to work, PEP needs to be prescribed within three days of contracting HIV.
Hospice and Palliative Care of California offers support and care during every step of your illness. To learn more about HIV and schedule an evaluation at Hospice and Palliative Care of California, book an appointment online or call their office directly.