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What you need to know about HIV

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HARTFORD — Charlie Sheen announced Tuesday morning that he is HIV positive.

The announcement by Charlie Sheen may have people examining their own health and behavior.

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus breaks down the body’s ability to fight off infection. The virus is passed from person to person by unprotected vaginal or anal sex, sharing of hypodermic needles, or blood to blood contact.

One in eight people in the United States who have HIV do not know they are infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Treatments in the U.S. and other developed countries have dramatically increased the life span of people who have HIV, and greatly limit the ability to pass it along to a partner.

Experts say the most important thing you can do is know your own HIV status. There are many places around the state where you can get tested. The test results are confidential. Testing can be done by the traditional drawing of blood and or a swab test.

Who should get tested? The CDC says everyone between  the age of 13 and 64 should be tested at least once as part of routine health care.

You can be at risk of contracting HIV if you are having vaginal or anal sex without a condom or without being on medicines that prevent or treat HIV like PrEP, or sharing injection drug equipment with someone who has HIV.

The CDC says you should get an HIV test if you answer yes to any one of the following :

If you have been infected with HIV, within the first several weeks after the infection a person will likely develop flu like symptoms, and the risk of infecting a partner is very high. After that, the virus becomes latent, and this when, by consistently using HIV medicines (called antiretroviral therapy or ART), the possibility of HIV transmission is reduced. If treatment is delayed, an HIV infection can progress to AIDS. Since the body can’t fight off other infections because the immune system is compromised, a person can die from an illness that would probably be fought off in someone without the virus.

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