What Is HIV?

This is the virus that causes AIDS.

  • People who have HIV in their bodies have HIV infection or HIV
  • You may not know you have it
  • HIV is a disease with many stages
  • There may be no symptoms
    • There may be a few symptoms
    • There may be many serious symptoms
  • You may have HIV for many years without feeling or looking sick
    • You may not know you have HIV
    • You can still pass the virus on to others

What HIV Does to Your Body:

  • Over time, HIV damages the body’s immune system
  • The immune system protects the body from disease
  • When the immune system gets very weak other diseases and infections can enter the body

This stage of HIV is called AIDS

  • HIV lives in semen, vaginal fluids, blood and breast milk of a person with HIV
  • It can be passed from person to person through these infected fluids
    • During vaginal, oral or anal sex
    • Sharing needles and equipment to inject drugs
    • Needles used for tattoos and piercing or to inject vitamins or steroids
    • From a mother to her baby during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding
    • From needle-stick injuries to health workers caring for people with HIV

HIV Is Not Passed By

  • Donating blood
  • Hugging, dry kissing, or sharing food
  • Telephones, toilet seats, towels, or eating utensils
  • Tears, saliva, sweat, or urine
  • Mosquitoes or other insects

How to be Protected

  • Use a new latex condom and water-based lubricant every time for vaginal or anal sex
  • Don’t use oil-based lubricants. Hand creams, massage oils, Vaseline, etc., can cause condom breakage.
  • For oral sex on a man, use a new latex condom every time.
  • For oral sex on a woman or oral/anal sex on a man or woman, use a barrier such as a dental dam, a latex condom cut and rolled out flat, or plastic food wrap. Use a new barrier each time.
  • People who are allergic to latex can use plastic (polyurethane) condoms. These come in both male and female styles.
  • Don’t have sex when you’re drunk or high. Using alcohol or other drugs affects judgment and can lead to unsafe sex.

Test Results
If you test positive:

  • A confirmed positive test means you have HIV. Positive results are almost 100% accurate.
  • If you test HIV positive, find a health care provider who knows about HIV right away. Early treatment can help you stay healthy longer.
  • Services for people with HIV include help with health care, income, food and legal services.

If you test negative:

  • A negative test means no HIV antibodies were in your body at the time of the test.
  • This MAY mean you don’t have HIV.
  • A negative test might also mean you have HIV, but your body hasn’t made HIV antibodies yet.
  • Get tested again at least 3 months after any risky behavior.

Who will know your results

Most test centers offer confidential testing.

  • Your rest result is told only to you but it is also put into your medical file. Ask who has access to this file.

Some test centers offer anonymous testing.

  • You are the only one who sees your test result. You use a code name or number to get your result.

Home testing is anonymous.

  • HIV antibody home testing kits can be purchased at a pharmacy.
    • You mail a blood sample for testing along with a code name or number
    • Results are given by phone when you call and give your code.