The HIV in body fluids such as blood, semen or vaginal fluids usually enters the body through very small wounds. The body’s first response is flu-like symptoms, followed after months or years by serious diseases that can lead to death. With modern therapy, however, the disease can be kept in check for life.
- Flu-like symptoms appear a few weeks after infection with the virus
- This is followed by many months or years with no or very little symptoms
- The immune system can no longer fight off the HI virus (this is known as the 'AIDS-defining stage')
Causes and treatment
- HI virus (HIV)
- Transmission through blood, semen, vaginal fluids
- Small injuries to the skin / mucous membranes
- Can be passed on to the child by the mother during birth
- The virus destroys white blood cells (immune system cells)
- Protection against infection is reduced
Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital
- Blood test
If therapy is started at an early stage and medication is used consistently, HIV patients today have an almost normal life expectancy.
What can I do myself?
Generally, the safer sex rules still apply:
- Always use a condom or femidom during sexual intercourse outside a committed partnership
- Don't get sperm or blood (including menstrual blood) in your mouth, and don’t swallow
Anonymous HIV testing can be done by the family doctor or in special centres (see “Further information”).
When to see a doctor?
- After having high-risk sex, i.e. in particular after unprotected sex outside a committed partnership (casual sex)
- If your sexual partner is known or diagnosed to have a sexually transmitted infection or disease
- Fever and signs of illness after unprotected sex