The human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, can wreck havoc on the immune system, leading to life-threatening infections. HIV can eventually cause Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, more commonly known as AIDS. HIV typically enters the body through unprotected sexual intercourse or blood to blood contacts such as sharing needles. It is important to remember that someone can live with HIV for a very long time before they develop AIDS – and some people with HIV might never develop AIDS at all.
The definition of an incubation period is the time elapsed between being exposed and seeing the first symptoms. There are three noted stages of HIV infection.
This stage occurs within two to six weeks after the actual exposure and infection. This is when the body recognizes a foreign invader and mounts a fight against it. At this point it’s important to consider that HIV might be in your body, and take steps to talk to your doctor about testing.
During this stage, all symptoms tend to go away, but it is in your body, working away at destroying the immune system. Even so, it’s possible that you could get the flu, a cold, or other illnesses and recover just fine thanks to the parts of your immune system that are still intact.
By this time, the HIV has ravaged your immune system, damaging it to the point where it is vulnerable to almost any infection that might occur. Doctors determine the progression of HIV infection to AIDS based on the CD4 cells in your body. When you drop below 200 CD4 cells per cubic millimeter of blood, then you are considered to have AIDS. However, those who are taking aggressive medications might never progress to this point.
There are numerous ways to spread the HIV infection. This is especially easy to do during the HIV incubation period. It can be transferred through unprotected anal or vaginal sex, needle sharing, oral sex, from a mother to the baby during pregnancy or childbirth, or in some rare cases, even through breastfeeding. Unclean equipment used to pierce or tattoo might also be a way of getting HIV, though this is exceedingly rare.
It is very important to remember that even during the incubation period, the virus cannot be passed to another by drinking from the same cup, shaking hands, insects, animals hugging, coughing, swimming together or sharing the same food. Remember that bodily fluids have to be exchanged, especially blood and sexual fluids, in order to pass the infection to others.
To learn more, check out this video.