Location Map FAQ
St. Maarten Medical Center
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus, which is the virus that causes
HIV infection. The abbreviation
“HIV” can refer to the virus or to HIV infection.
HIV attacks and destroys the infection-fighting CD4 cells of the immune system. The loss of CD4 cells makes
it difficult for the body to fight infections and certain cancers. Without treatment, HIV can gradually
destroy the immune system and advance to acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).
HIV is spread through contact with certain body fluids from a person with HIV.
These body fluids include:
The spread of HIV from person to person is called HIV transmission. The spread of HIV from a woman with
HIV to her child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding is called mother-to-child transmission
of HIV, also called vertical transmission.
The most common way HIV is spread is by:
Within 2 to 4 weeks after infection with HIV, some people may have flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills,
or rash. The symptoms may last for a few days to several weeks.
After this earliest stage of HIV infection, HIV continues to multiply but at very low levels. More severe
symptoms of HIV infection, such as signs of opportunistic infections, generally don’t appear for many years.
Opportunistic infections are infections and infection-related cancers that occur more frequently or are more
severe in people with weakened immune systems than in people with healthy immune systems.
Without treatment with HIV medicines, HIV infection usually advances to AIDS in 10 years or longer, though it
may advance faster in some people.
HIV transmission is possible at any stage of HIV infection—even if a person with HIV has no symptoms of HIV.
HIV is most commonly diagnosed by testing your blood (or saliva) for antibodies to the virus. Unfortunately, it takes time for your body to develop these antibodies — usually up to 12 weeks.
A quicker test checks for HIV antigen, a protein produced by the virus immediately after infection. It can confirm a diagnosis soon after infection and allow the person to take swifter steps to prevent the spread of the virus to others.
If you receive a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS, several tests can help your doctor determine the stage of your disease and the best treatment. These tests include:
There's no cure for HIV, but many different drugs are available to control the virus. Such treatment
called antiretroviral therapy, or c-ART. Each class of drug blocks the virus in different ways.
now recommended for everyone, regardless of CD4 T cell counts. It's recommended to combine three
from two classes to avoid creating drug-resistant strains of HIV.
The classes of anti-HIV drugs include:
It is very important to continue taking the prescribed drugs at all times as interruption/dose skipping
can cause resistance of the virus, necessitating prescription of more drugs or drugs with less