Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) weakens the immune system by destroying the white blood cells that combat infection, increasing the risk of cancer and opportunistic infections. The most serious stage of HIV is stage 3, also known as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Without any treatment, the average survival time of HIV is eight to 10 years, with a mortality rate of 90%. When a person is first infected, a prolonged period with no or minor flu-like symptoms may be experienced. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no cure for HIV, but many antiretroviral HIV drug class treatments are available to slow the progression, reduce transmission, and extend life for many years.
Post-exposure prophylaxis treatment within 72 hours after potential exposure to HIV can prevent infection. Often used in emergency situations, such as accidental needle sticks to medical professionals, sexual assault, and shared needles, treatment is effective in most exposure situations. The sooner the treatment is administered after exposure the more effective it is.
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