What is HIV?

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the virus that causes AIDS. HIV makes you sick by damaging your immune system. The immune system is what protects your body from germs. When your immune system isn't working, germs can make you sick more easily.

What is AIDS?

AIDS is caused by infection with a virus called human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). People with HIV have what is called as HIV infection. Some of these people will develop AIDS as a result of their HIV infection. AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. It is the sickness that sets in after HIV has made your immune system weak. The immune system gets impaired and cannot fight off illness or infection.

How can I know if someone is infected with HIV?

You can't. Many people who are HIV positive look and feel healthy. They themselves might not even know that they are infected. But they can still pass the virus on to others.

Is there a vaccine for HIV?

No, Because there is not yet a vaccine, everybody is responsible for protecting not only themselves but also their sexual partners from the risk of HIV.

How can I tell if I'm infected with HIV? / What are the symptoms?

The following may be warning signs of infection with HIV:

  • Rapid weight loss
  • Dry cough
  • Recurring fever or profuse night sweats
  • Profound and unexplained fatigue
  • Swollen lymph glands in the armpits, groin, or neck
  • Diarrhea that lasts for more than a week
  • White spots or unusual blemishes on the tongue, in the mouth, or in the throat
  • Pneumonia
  • Red, brown, pink, or purplish blotches on or under the skin or inside the mouth, nose, or eyelids
  • Memory loss, depression, and other neurological disorders

NOTE: However, no one should assume they are infected if they have any of these symptoms. Each of these symptoms can be related to other illnesses.

How can I find out if I have come in contact with HIV?

You can have a special blood test. You have to ask your doctor for this test as it is not automatically performed.

How long after a possible exposure should I wait to get tested for HIV?

The tests commonly used to detect HIV infection are actually looking for antibodies produced by an individual’s immune system when they are exposed to HIV. Most people will develop detectable antibodies within two to eight weeks (the average is 25 days). Ninety seven percent will develop antibodies in the first three months following the time of their infection. In very rare cases, it can take up to six months to develop antibodies to HIV.

Where can I get tested for HIV infection?

Many places provide testing for HIV infection. Common testing locations include local health departments, clinics, offices of private doctors, hospitals, and sites specifically set up to provide HIV testing.

Between the time of a possible exposure and the receipt of test results, individuals should consider abstaining from sexual contact with others or use condoms and/or dental dams during all sexual encounters.

If I test HIV negative, does that mean that my partner is HIV negative also?

No. Your HIV test result reveals only your HIV status. Your negative test result does not indicate whether or not your partner has HIV. HIV is not necessarily transmitted every time there is an exposure. Therefore, your taking an HIV test should not be seen as a method to find out if your partner is infected.

What if I test positive for HIV?

If you test positive for HIV, the sooner you take steps to protect your health, the better. Early medical treatment and a healthy lifestyle can help you stay well. Prompt medical care may delay the onset of AIDS and prevent some life-threatening conditions.

I'm HIV positive. Where can I get information about treatments?

We recommend that you be in the care of a licensed doctor, preferably one with experience treating people living with HIV. Your doctor can assist you with treatment information and guidance.

How do I get tested?

A good way to get tested is to go to your doctor. In the most common type of test, a small amount of blood is taken. This blood sample is sent to a lab and you can find out the result in a few days.

Who else will know about my HIV status?

TEST RESULTS are strictly confidential. Results are kept secret from everyone except medical professionals.

How should I react to people who are HIV-positive or who have AIDS?

With compassion. Be reassured that everyday contact with someone who is HIV-positive does not pose a risk to you. Remember that people who are HIV-positive or have AIDS are going through pain and fear like anyone who has a life-threatening illness. They will appreciate your kindness, care and support.

How can I protect myself from HIV infection?
  • hoose one partner for life
  • Always practice safer sex
  • Never share needles or syringes
  • Take preventive measures while getting a tattoo or ear-piercing
How is HIV passed from one person to another?

These are the most common ways that HIV is transmitted from one person to another:

  • by having sex (anal, vaginal, or oral) with an HIV-infected person;
  • by sharing needles or injection equipment with an injection drug user who is infected with HIV
  • HIV-infected women to their babies before or during birth
  • through breast-feeding after birth.
  • HIV also can be transmitted through receipt of infected blood or blood clotting factors.
  • Sharing needles, syringes or other equipments for injecting drugs.
  • Equipments used for tattoos, ear-piercing and acupuncture, if the instruments used are not sterilized properly
  • Blood Transfusion.

Which body fluids transmit HIV?

These body fluids have been shown to contain high concentrations of HIV:

  • Blood
  • Semen
  • Vaginal fluid
  • Breast milk
  • Other body fluids containing blood

Will I get infected with HIV if I share the same room/house with an HIV-infected person?

No, you will not get infected with HIV by sharing room/House with an HIV infected person. HIV is not transmitted through

  • Shaking hands
  • Hugging
  • Casual kiss
  • Toilet seat
  • A drinking fountain
  • A door knob
  • Dishes
  • Drinking glasses
  • Food
  • Pets
  • Sweat
  • Swimming pool
HIV is not an airborne or food-borne virus, and it does not live long outside the body.

Is there a connection between HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases?

Yes. Having a sexually transmitted disease (STD) can increase a person's risk of becoming infected with HIV. If the STD infection causes irritation of the skin, breaks or sores may make it easier for HIV to enter the body during sexual contact. Even when the STD causes no breaks or open sores, the infection can stimulate an immune response in the genital area that can make HIV transmission more likely.

Are health care workers at risk of getting HIV on the job?

For health care workers on the job, the main risk of HIV transmission is through accidental injuries from needles and other sharp instruments that may be contaminated with the virus; however even this risk is small.

Can I get HIV from getting a tattoo or through body piercing?

A risk of HIV transmission does exist if instruments contaminated with blood are either not sterilized or disinfected or are used inappropriately between clients. It is recommended that instruments that are intended to penetrate the skin be used once, then disposed of or thoroughly cleaned and sterilized between clients.

Can I get HIV from a bite?

Human Bite: Biting is not a common way of transmitting HIV. Non-Human Bite: HIV is a virus that infects humans and thus cannot be transmitted to or carried by non-human animals.

Can I get HIV from mosquitoes?

No, HIV is not spread by insects. The virus cannot reproduce inside the insect, so even the insect that draws blood cannot pass on the infection.

Can I get infected with HIV if someone with AIDS sneezes on me?

No. HIV, the AIDS virus, does not live in mucus in your nose. It's just not there. And experts agree that any virus that may be present in the saliva would not be enough to cause infection.

Can I get infected with HIV by donating blood?

No. You cannot get infected by donating blood. When you give blood, the blood is going out of your body, into a bag. The blood is not going into your body and you are not exposed to anyone else's blood. The needle used is always new and sterile. Then it's destroyed and cannot be used again for any purpose.

Is injecting drugs a risk for HIV?

The reuse of a blood-contaminated needle or syringe by another drug injector (sometimes called "direct syringe sharing") carries a high risk of HIV transmission because infected blood can be injected directly into the bloodstream.

We recommend that people who inject drugs should be regularly counseled to:

  • Stop using and injecting drugs
  • Enter and complete substance abuse treatment

Are women at risk?

Women remain the fastest growing group to be infected with HIV.. The number of AIDS cases among women increases steadily each year. Studies conducted by Centers of Disease Control and Prevention reveals that 36% of the women get HIV from sex with men, 14% from shared needles and 50% of the cases the cause is unknown.

Why we recommend that all pregnant women be tested for HIV?

HIV testing and counseling provides an opportunity for infected women to find out if they are infected and to gain access to medical treatment that may help to delay disease progression. It also allows them to make informed choices during delivery that can prevent transmission to their infant.

Can I get infected with HIV even if I am on the birth control pill?

Yes. Some people make the mistake of believing the Pill works by killing sperm. That is NOT how the Pill works. The Pill contains the synthetic hormones estrogen and progesterone which suppress the natural hormone cycle. This prevents the release of the egg. If the female doesn't release the egg, there is no chance of pregnancy. The Pill doesn't kill sperm, nor does it kill HIV. Neither the diaphragm nor I.U.D. will protect you against the AIDS virus either, for the same reason.

How do babies get HIV?

If you are pregnant and have HIV or AIDS, your baby can get infected in the following three ways

  • During pregnancy
  • During delivery
  • Through breast-feeding

How do you prevent Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV ?
  • A healthy delivery: Some doctors believe planned cesarean section delivery (C-section), when combined with HIV drug treatment, can further help prevent mother-to-baby transmission of HIV. But there are risks. Only you and your doctor can decide if a C-section delivery is right for you.

  • Do not Breast Feed: If you are HIV positive, do not breast-feed, because it's dangerous for your baby. Your baby can get HIV infection or reinfection from breast milk. Bottle feeding with infant formula will help protect your baby's health.

  • If you have other children: Just because you are HIV positive doesn’t mean your children are. But they should be tested as soon as possible to make sure.

What is an HIV antibody test?

When HIV enters the body, it begins to attack certain white blood cells called T4 lymphocyte cells or CD4 cells , the immune system then produces antibodies to fight off the infection. Although these antibodies are ineffective in destroying HIV, their presence is used to confirm HIV infection. Therefore, the presence of antibodies to HIV results from HIV infection. HIV tests look for the presence of HIV antibodies; they do not test for the virus itself.

What blood tests detect the presence of HIV?

HIV testing consists of an initial screening with two types of tests commonly used to detect HIV infection. The most commonly used initial test is an enzyme immune assay (EIA) or the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). The second test known as the Western blot is more specific (and more expensive) test can tell the difference between HIV antibodies and other antibodies that can react to the EIA and cause false positive results. A person is considered infected following a repeatedly reactive result from the EIA, confirmed by the Western blot test.

In addition to the EIA or ELISA and Western blot, other tests now available include:

  • Radioimmunoprecipitation assay (RIPA): A confirmatory blood test that may be used when antibody levels are very low or difficult to detect, or when Western blot test results are uncertain. An expensive test, the RIPA requires time and expertise to perform.
  • Dot-blot immunobinding assay: A rapid-screening blood test that is cost-effective and that may become an alternative to standard EIA and Western blot testing.
  • Immunoflourescence assay: A less commonly used confirmatory blood test used on reactive ELISA samples or when Western blot test results are uncertain.
  • Nucleic acid testing (e.g., viral RNA or proviral DNA amplification method): A less available blood test that can be used to resolve an initial indeterminate Western blot result in certain situations.
  • Polymerase chain reaction (PCR): A specialized blood test that looks for HIV genetic information. Although expensive and labor-intensive, the test can detect the virus even in someone only recently infected.

Do all HIV tests involve drawing blood?

No. Urine and oral-fluid HIV tests offer alternatives for anyone reluctant to have blood drawn. Urine testing for HIV antibodies is not as sensitive or specific as blood testing. Available urine tests include an EIA and a Western blot test that can confirm EIA results.

What are rapid HIV tests?

A rapid HIV test is a test that usually produces results in up to 107 minutes. In comparison, results from the commonly used HIV-antibody screening test, the EIA, are not available for 1-2 weeks. The availability of these tests may differ from one place to another. These rapid HIV blood tests are considered to be just as accurate as the EIA. As is true for all screening tests (including the EIA), a positive test result must be confirmed with an additional specific test before a diagnosis of infection can be given.

Do we have any home test kits?

Some home test kits approved by the FDA are there which allow consumers to interpret their own HIV test results in a few minutes. Currently only the Home Access test is approved by the FDA. The testing procedure involves pricking your finger, placing drops of blood on a specially treated card, and then mailing the card in for testing at a licenced laboratory.