The causative agent is the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). AIDS means acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. Typically, the AIDS stage does not occur at all with early HIV diagnosis and therapy.

How common is HIV?

In 2017, around 450 people in Switzerland newly learned that they were infected with HIV. There are approximately 18,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in Switzerland.

How is HIV transmitted?

Most often, HIV is transmitted sexually (genital, anal sex); other risks include sharing syringe equipment when using drugs or mother-to-child transmission.

What are the signs of the disease and when do they occur?

Shortly after infection, the virus multiplies very strongly. In the course of this “primary infection”, 40 to 90% of infected persons experience symptoms barely one week to several weeks after infection, which usually disappear after several weeks. Common symptoms include fever, fatigue, sore throat, rash, swelling of the lymph nodes, weight loss, headache, and/or diarrhea. Unfortunately, these symptoms are not very characteristic. In the primary infection, the amount of HI viruses in the blood is extremely high, and the individuals are highly infectious. HIV treatment started early in primo infection may have benefits. The test result for HIV is safe if the risk has been present for more than 6 weeks. If you come earlier, after detailed consultation and examination, we will recommend further tests if necessary.

This is followed, for months to years, by a symptom-free phase during which, however, the virus continues to multiply in the body and damage the immune system. The further course can be very different: even with advanced immunodeficiency, you may show few signs of illness, but characteristic AIDS-defining illnesses may occur. HIV therapy prevents these signs of the disease from occurring.

How does an HIV test work?

Tests performed in Switzerland are HIV combination tests. They look for antigens (virus components) and antibodies (defense reaction to the virus). There are two test options: Blood collection from the finger (rapid test) or blood collection from the vein. You will receive your result after 20 minutes. If the test is reactive, a venous blood draw for a confirmatory test (laboratory test) must be performed.