AIDS stands for Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome, which is a disease caused by the HIV virus which attacks the immune system. In Québec, it is estimated that 20 000 individuals have contracted HIV.
In the weeks after contracting HIV, approximately 30% of individuals will experience flu like symptoms. These symptoms will resolve spontaneously. The majority of infected individuals will develop antibodies against HIV 3 weeks to 3 months after the initial contact and will become seropositive. The best window to have HIV testing done is 3 months after unprotected sexual contact.
New HIV testing also measures the level of the p24 protein which increases 1 to 3 weeks after contracting the infection. This test permits an increased probability of early detection but does not replace regular antibody testing.
The HIV virus may be present in the organism of an affected individual for many years before symptoms of AIDS develop. Screening of HIV combined with early treatment has greatly decreased rates of opportunistic infections and increased life expectancy in affected individuals.