This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Donate Now

FAQ about HIV/AIDS

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 mucous membranes. In addition, infected pregnant women can pass HIV to their baby during pregnancy or delivery, as well as through breast-feeding. People with HIV have what is called HIV infection. Some of these people will develop AIDS as a result of their HIV infection.

HOW IS HIV TRANSMITTED?

HIV is a fragile virus. It cannot live for very long outside the body. HIV is transmitted in 3 main ways:

  • Having sex (anal, vaginal, or oral) with someone infected with HIV
  • Sharing needles and syringes with someone infected with HIV
  • Being exposed (fetus or infant) to HIV before or during birth or through breast feeding

HIV also can be transmitted through blood infected with HIV. However, since 1985, all donated blood in the United States has been tested for HIV. Therefore, the risk for HIV infection through the transfusion of blood or blood products is extremely low.  

HOW IS HIV NOT TRANSMITTED?

The virus is not transmitted through day-to-day activities such as shaking hands, hugging, or a casual kiss. You cannot become infected from a toilet seat, drinking fountain, doorknob, dishes, drinking glasses, food, or pets. You also cannot get HIV from mosquitoes.


Basic HIV/AIDS Information

What is HIV?

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This is the virus that can cause AIDS if left untreated. The virus is passed by contact with certain body fluids, including blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk.

What is AIDS?

AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome and is a condition in which the body’s immune system is so badly damaged by HIV that it is left vulnerable to infection and certain types of cancers.

How is HIV passed from one person to another?

People get HIV from coming in contact with infected body fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal fluids, or breast milk. Most of the time, people are infected with HIV through unprotected sexual contact, injection drug use, or mother-to-child transmission.

How does HIV cause AIDS?

HIV infects specific cells, called T-cells or CD4 cells, in the immune system. It uses these cells to make more copies of itself, and then destroys them. If enough of these cells are destroyed, the body becomes highly vulnerable to infections and certain types of cancers. AIDS is usually diagnosed when a person has specific types of infections or cancer, or when the number of infection-fighting cells in the body drops below a certain level.
 

Testing
 

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 mucous membranes. In addition, infected pregnant women can pass HIV to their baby during pregnancy or delivery, as well as through breast-feeding. People with HIV have what is called HIV infection. Some of these people will develop AIDS as a result of their HIV infection.

HOW IS HIV TRANSMITTED?

HIV is a fragile virus. It cannot live for very long outside the body. HIV is transmitted in 3 main ways:

  •     Having sex (anal, vaginal, or oral) with someone infected with HIV
  •     Sharing needles and syringes with someone infected with HIV
  •     Being exposed (fetus or infant) to HIV before or during birth or through breast feeding


HIV also can be transmitted through blood infected with HIV. However, since 1985, all donated blood in the United States has been tested for HIV. Therefore, the risk for HIV infection through the transfusion of blood or blood products is extremely low.  

How can I tell if I'm infected with HIV?

The only way to be sure about your HIV status is to take an HIV test. This test will determine whether you are producing antibodies to HIV. If you are, you will be diagnosed as “HIV-positive.” If not, you will be diagnosed as “HIV-negative.”

HIV tests are very accurate—but you may need to be tested more than once. It takes time for your body to begin producing HIV antibodies after you have been infected. If you take a test soon after you are infected, you might test negative for HIV when you are actually HIV-positive. If you aren’t sure when you might have been exposed to HIV, be sure to discuss the option of re-testing with your healthcare provider or an HIV testing counselor.

Should I get tested?

The CDC recommends that all Americans between the ages of 13-64 be routinely tested for HIV in healthcare settings. (In other words, you should take an HIV test in the same way you have routine blood testing done during your annual physical exam.)

But most of the time, people are tested based on their risk factors. You are considered at risk for HIV if:

  •     You have had unprotected sexual contact (oral, anal, or vaginal)
  •     You have had multiple sexual partners
  •     You have had another sexually transmitted infection
  •     You have used injection drugs


There are some other risk factors, but these are the major ones. Talk to your primary care provider or an HIV testing counselor to determine your risk level and whether or not you may need an HIV test.

How do HIV tests work?

Standard HIV tests use samples of blood, oral fluid, or urine to check antibodies that your body produces when it encounters HIV, rather than looking for the virus itself. There are some HIV tests that look for the presence of the virus itself, but they are not commonly used.

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

It can take some time before antibodies show up on an HIV test. This process of seroconversion can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 3 months—the average is 25 days. In rare instances, this process can take up to 6 months to complete.

If you believe you have been exposed to HIV very recently, you may be able to get treatment that could protect you from HIV infection. Post-Exposure Prophylaxis, or PEP, is treatment designed to protect you from infection after you have been exposed to HIV. PEP was developed for healthcare workers who are exposed to HIV in the workplace, but it is also available for exposure due to unprotected sexual activity, condom breakage, or sexual assault.

In order for PEP to be most effective, treatment should begin immediately, but no later than 72 hours after exposure. Call your healthcare provider or your local health department if you think you might be a candidate for PEP.

What if I test positive for HIV?

All positive HIV tests must be followed up by another test to confirm the positive result. Results of this confirmatory test can take a few days to a few weeks.

If you are HIV-positive, the sooner you take steps to protect your health, the better. 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.

Where can I get tested for HIV?

Many places provide testing for HIV infection. Common testing locations include local health departments, public health clinics, offices of private doctors, hospitals, and other sites set up specifically to provide HIV testing. You can also ask your healthcare provider about getting tested. For more information on where to find an HIV testing site, visit HIVtest.org.

You can also use your cell phone to text your ZIP code to KNOWIT (566948). Within seconds, you will receive a text message with the address of the nearest HIV testing center in your area.

Prevention and Education

Am I at risk for HIV?

You are at risk for HIV if you:

  •     Have ever had sexual contact without a condom with someone who was HIV-positive
  •     Have ever had a sexually transmitted disease, like chlamydia, syphilis, or gonorrhea
  •     Have ever shared injection drug needles, syringes, or "works"
  •     Received a blood transfusion or a blood-clotting factor between 1978 and 1985
  •     Have ever had sex with someone who has done any of these things


If you’ve done any of these things, you should get tested for HIV.

 

Treatment and Care

What treatments are available for HIV?

The recommended treatment for HIV is called Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART). HAART is a combination of three or more medications that work to prevent HIV from destroying your immune system.

How will I know if my HIV treatment regimen is working?

In general, your viral load is the most important indicator of how well your regimen is working. Your viral load should decrease if your anti-HIV medications are effective. Other factors that can tell you and your doctor how well your regimen is working are:

  •     Your CD4 count. This should remain stable or go up if your medications are working.
  •     Your recent health and the results of physical examinations. Your treatment regimen should help keep you healthy.


What is treatment adherence?

Treatment adherence refers to how closely you follow a prescribed treatment regimen. It includes your willingness to start treatment and your ability to take medications exactly as directed.

Adherence to treatment is important because it affects how well the HIV treatment will work. Skipping any part of a treatment regimen, even just a single dose, can allow the virus to reproduce more rapidly and develop drug resistance.

 

Research


What is an HIV/AIDS clinical trial?

HIV/AIDS clinical trials are research studies in which new therapies and prevention strategies are tested in humans. These studies are conducted by physicians and other healthcare professionals and can help determine the usefulness of experimental drugs and vaccines in treating or preventing HIV infection.

There are benefits and risks to being involved in a clinical trial. If you are interested in participating in a clinical trial, talk to your healthcare provider to discuss the options available. For a list of ongoing clinical trials, click here.
 

Court One Office:

248 W. 24th Street
Norfolk, VA 23517
757-640-0929
Providing: Care Management, Housing Services, Administrative Support, Outreach, Resource & Development & the Meals Program, HIV Testing

 

 

Granby Office:

3309 Granby Street
Norfolk, VA 23504
757-625-6992
Providing: HIV Education, Transportation, HIV Testing & Outreach

Hampton / Newport News:

For services, please call 
(757) 722-5511

LGBT Center:

247 W. 25th Street
Norfolk, VA 23517
757-200-9198

Providing: Community Meeting Space, Individual & Family Counseling, Resource Center, Adult & Youth Services, Social & Educational Events & FREE HIV Testing

 

top