What Is HIV?
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that damages the immune system. The immune system protects the body from diseases and harmful foreign bodies. A healthy immune system is able to attack and clear out infections; however, untreated HIV prevents the immune system from fighting off infections and diseases.
What Is AIDS?
AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) is the final stage of HIV infection. It occurs when the HIV virus has severely damaged the body’s immune system. When this happens, certain infections are able to enter the body without resistance. Without treatment, AIDS can be fatal; with treatment, HIV may never advance to its final stage of becoming AIDS.
Can HIV Spread Through Casual Contact?
HIV is not spread through casual contact, like shaking hands, hugging, or sharing public facilities, like water fountains or bathrooms. HIV is not spread by saliva, tears, urine or sweat, nor is it spread by air, water, or insects.
How Do You Get HIV?
HIV is found in the blood, semen, breast milk, or vaginal fluids of someone with the infection. HIV can be transmitted by the following:
- sexual contact
- shared needles
- pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding
Can You Get HIV Through Oral Sex?
The risk of getting HIV through oral sex is very low, but still possible. That is why using a barrier method is recommended to protect yourself.
Can You Reduce the Risk of Getting HIV After Having Unprotected Sex or Sharing a Needle with Someone Who Has HIV?
Yes. There are medications available for those who find they have been potentially exposed to HIV. The medications are the same types of antiretrovirals that are used to treat HIV, and are usually given in combinations of 3 medicines for 1 month. To work best, these medications should be taken as soon as possible after the exposure, and not later than 72 hours after the exposure.
How Do You Get AIDS?
AIDS occurs in the final stage of an HIV infection. Once the HIV virus has severely damaged the immune system, the body becomes too weak to fight off other opportunistic infections. If one acquires an opportunistic infection, certain cancers, or has a very low number of CD4 cells, then HIV infection is referred to as AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).
Is It Possible to Know You’re Infected with HIV Before Getting Tested?
Getting tested is the only way to know if you are infected with HIV. Some people experience flu-like symptoms around the time they are infected by HIV, but many people do not. Some people who do have symptoms related to HIV exposure may think they simply have the flu.
How Soon After Risky Behavior Can You Be Accurately Tested for HIV?
We recommend that you get tested 2-4 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months after a possible exposure to HIV. In many cases, a person will test positive 1 month after contracting HIV; almost all people will test positive at 3 months if they contracted the virus. Testing negative beyond the 6 month time frame is a good indicator that you are uninfected. Still, there is no single correct answer to this question.
How Accurate Is a Rapid HIV Test?
The Rapid HIV Test is just as reliable as standard testing done in labs. There is a 0.4% chance (4 out of 1,000) that the Rapid HIV Test will produce a falsely positive or “reactive” result. There is a 0% chance of getting a falsely negative or “non-reactive” result. This means that if your test is non-reactive (negative), then no HIV antibodies are detectable in your body at the time. However, if you have had a recent exposure (within the past 3 months), you should be tested again once you are out of the window period (up to six months after exposure).