HIV Facts

What is HIV?

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the virus that causes AIDS. This virus may be passed from one person to another when infected blood, semen, or vaginal secretions come in contact with an uninfected person’s broken skin or mouth, eyes, nose, vagina, rectum, and opening of the penis.


How common is HIV?

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in the US the estimated number of people with HIV/AIDS is about 1,185,000 with approximately 23% of them unaware of their infection. The estimated number of new cases of HIV is 42,000 each year. A person gets HIV when an infected person’s body fluids (blood, semen, fluids from the vagina or breast milk) enter his or her bloodstream.

Anybody can get HIV. HIV is a virus; once it gets into your body, it can make you sick. It does so if you are rich or poor; 17 years old or 70; black or white; gay or straight; married or single.


How do people get HIV?

Anyone can get HIV if they engage in certain activities. You may have a higher risk of getting HIV if you:

Have unprotected sex. This means vaginal or anal intercourse without a condom or oral sex without a latex barrier with a person infected with HIV. Share needles to inject drugs or steroids with an infected person. The disease can also be transmitted by dirty needles used to make a tattoo or in body piercing. Receive a blood transfusion from an infected person. This is very unlikely in the U.S. and Western Europe, where all blood is tested for HIV infection. Are born to a mother with HIV infection. A baby can also get HIV from the breast milk of an infected woman.


What are the signs and symptoms of HIV?

People can have HIV for 10 years or more and never show any symptoms. Other people can get symptoms with a short time after being infected and can include:

Fever Headache Tiredness Nausea Diarrhea Enlarged lymph nodes (neck, armpits, and groin)

As you can see, the signs and symptoms are similar to many different viral infections and diseases. The only way to know if you are inflected with HIV is to be tested. Many people with HIV do not have any signs and symptoms for many years.


What are the complications of HIV?

HIV destroys white blood cells that are required to fight infection. As the white cell count falls to dangerous levels, infections and diseases emerge. It is at this point that a person is said to have AIDS, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.


How is HIV diagnosed?

The ELISA / Western Blot: This screening test for HIV is a blood test known as the enzyme immunoassay (EIA) or ELISA for short. This HIV testing requires a small sample of blood from the person being tested. Typically, the test requires two visits; one to receive pretest counseling and have your blood drawn, and the second to receive HIV testing results. Rapid HIV Testing: This type of HIV testing makes it possible for the patient to get pre-test and post-test counseling, their test results, and any medical referrals they may need all in one visit and in a very short amount of time.


What is the treatment for HIV?

There are multiple new anti-viral treatment medication used to combat the HIV virus. The latest information on life expectancy for HIV-positive persons show that people who are on treatment can expect to live well into their 60’s and beyond.


What is Rapid HIV Testing?

Rapid HIV testing differs from conventional HIV testing in that it allows:

results of the test to be ready in 20 minutes HIV testing, counseling, and referrals can be done in one visit