Answers to some common questions about HIV:
1. By having unprotected sex (meaning vaginal, anal, or oral sex without a condom)
2. By sharing needles for intravenous drugs, tattooing, or piercing
3. As an infant of an HIV-positive mother, during birth, or through breastfeeding
A person cannot get HIV through insect bites or by coming in contact with saliva, sweat, tears, urine, or feces.
Sometimes people who catch HIV notice flu-like symptoms a few weeks after infection, but these then disappear. Most people with HIV don't experience any health problems until much later. If HIV is left untreated, a person's immune system is gradually weakened and serious health problems, like cancers and dangerous infections, develop.
No. HIV cannot be cured, but a person with HIV can take medications that slow down the virus and protect the immune system. With these drugs, people with HIV can live long, healthy lives. Additionally, HIV-positive women who receive proper treatment during pregnancy have an excellent chance of giving birth to healthy, HIV-negative babies. That's why it's so important to know your HIV status and get screened regularly. Knowing your status empowers you to keep you and your loved ones safe.
You can get screened for HIV with an oral swab or a blood test. The oral swab test for HIV is a painless test done by rubbing the inside of the mouth. If the result of this screening test is positive, you should get an HIV blood test to know for sure whether you have HIV.
That's good news! But HIV tests can't detect very recent infections. If you might have been exposed to HIV a few weeks before the test was done, it might be too early to tell if you are really negative. We recommend that you use condoms consistently (or abstain), and then get checked again three months after the last time you had sex without a condom.
If you have a positive (or reactive) HIV test, it means you may have been exposed to the HIV virus. A staff member from our Project Stay Mobile Health Team will let you know if that's the case. You will need to have a blood test done to tell you for sure whether you have HIV. This confirmatory test may take five to seven days.
Staff from the Mobile Health Team will help you make arrangements to come to the clinic for the blood test. One of our social workers will help you cope with the news and help you deal with the anxiety of waiting for the confirmatory results.
If your blood test is positive, we can connect you to our program for people with HIV. Project Stay has a team of dedicated health care providers and social workers with expertise in providing medical services, emotional support, and assistance in getting insurance and other benefits, if needed.
Yes. Today, HIV is treatable. People with HIV can live long and happy lives.
We will not discuss your health information with anyone else without your written permission. Although we encourage you to let the important people in your life know about your HIV status so they can be supportive, it is your decision.
However, in order to make sure people who may be HIV positive get the testing they need, we are required by law to notify the Department of Health about any of your sex partners who may have been exposed to HIV. The Department of Health will try to get those exposed in for care. However, your name or contact information will not be used when they contact your previous partners.
You can find more information about HIV/AIDS on these Web sites:
AIDSmeds.com, a Web site covering treatment options for people with HIV.