Information for Patients
Your family history includes health information about you and your close relatives. Families have many factors in common, including their genes, environment, and lifestyle. Looking at these factors can help you figure out whether you have a higher risk for certain health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
Having a family member with a disease raises your risk, but it does not mean that you will definitely get it. Knowing that you are at risk gives you a chance to reduce that risk by following a healthier lifestyle and getting tested as needed.
You can get started by talking to your relatives about their health. Draw a family tree and add the health information. Having copies of medical records and death certificates is also helpful.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It harms your immune system by destroying the white blood cells that fight infection. This puts you at risk for serious infections and certain cancers. AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. It is the final stage of infection with HIV. Not everyone with HIV develops AIDS.
HIV most often spreads through unprotected sex with a person who has HIV. It may also spread by sharing drug needles or through contact with the blood of a person who has HIV. Women can give it to their babies during pregnancy or childbirth.
The first signs of HIV infection may be swollen glands and flu-like symptoms. These may come and go within two to four weeks. Severe symptoms may not appear until months or years later.
A blood test can tell if you have HIV infection. Your health care provider can do the test, or you can use a home testing kit. Or to find free testing sites, call the national referral hotline at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636 in English and en español; 1-888-232-6348 - TTY).
There is no cure, but there are many medicines that fight HIV infection and lower the risk of infecting others. People who get early treatment can live with the disease for a long time.
Strategies to reduce the risk of HIV infection include not having sex, limiting your number of sexual partners, never sharing needles, and using condoms the right way every time you have sex. People who are at high risk may take HIV prevention medicines.