HIV the only way to find out

HIV which stands for human immunodeficiency virus attacks
cells of your body’s immune system and when left untreated can lead to AIDS.
Unlike other viruses, the body is unable to get rid of HIV completely meaning
you will have the virus for the rest of your life. This virus attacks the CD4
cells or T cells which help the immune system fight off infections resulting in
the individual becoming more prone to infections or infection-related cancers.
These infections or cancers take advantage of the already weak immune system
thus signaling that the individual now has AIDS, the final stage of HIV. AIDS
stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome and occurs when the immune system
becomes badly damaged making the individual more vulnerable to opportunistic
infections (infections caused by pathogens that take advantage of the weakened
immune system). Individuals with AIDS typically live about 3 years without

The one thing to remember regarding HIV and AIDS is that the
only way to find out you have the disease is to get tested. When someone is
diagnosed with HIV they have received positive test results from a preliminary
test and confirmatory test. This means they have been infected with the Human
Immunodeficiency Virus, however, it does not necessarily mean that they have
AIDS. One thing that someone newly diagnosed should know is that being
HIV-positive means they are able to pass the virus along to others, including
their sexual partners. For females, they can pass it along to their unborn

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Women who are newly diagnosed should know that they may have
gynecological conditions because of the HIV infection such as yeast infections,
pelvic inflammatory disease, and an increased chance of cervical cancer. It is
also important for women who are newly diagnosed to have a Pap smear and pelvic
exam as soon as possible along with a follow-up Pap smear six months later.

When children are newly diagnosed, it is important to
remember it typically takes 2-3 months for an accurate diagnosis of HIV in an
infant. Children with HIV not reach developmental milestones as quickly as
other children and will suffer from childhood infections more frequently. These
infections can lead to reoccurring colds, diarrhea, diaper rash, and seizures
which can result in extended hospital stays. It’s also important to understand
that children who are newly diagnosed may also face other issues such as family
issues, bullying, and medication adherence.

As you can see, once someone is diagnosed with HIV their life
immediately changes. When someone is diagnosed with HIV, the clinic or testing
site must report the results to the state health department. This is done so
that public health officials can monitor the HIV epidemic within your city and
state. Your information is then removed from your test results and the results
are then sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
which is the federal agency responsible for tracking national public health
trends. There are also some states and cities that legally obligate you to advise
your sexual or needle-sharing partners if you test positive for HIV. In some
states, you can be charged with a crime if you are HIV-positive and don’t
disclose that information to your partners. Under duty to warn, certain states
have laws requiring clinic staff to notify a “third-party” if they know a
person has a significant risk for exposure to HIV from a patient the staff
member knows is infected with HIV.

HIV and AIDS are autoimmune diseases that, at this point,
have no cure. These are very infectious disease and therefore certain
precautions must be taken when encountering someone diagnosed with HIV or AIDS.
As MA, it is our duty to protect ourselves as well as other patients from
contracting the disease. At the same time, it is important to be the patient’s
advocate and not to show any discrimination towards them because of their
diagnosis. If we can manage to accomplish both tasks, we can succeed as a
medical assistant.