HIV/AIDS Information and Resources
HIV, Human Immunodeficiency Virus, is spread when infected bodily fluids from one person enter another person’s body. Pre-cum, semen, vaginal fluids, blood, and breast milk are the fluids that can transmit the virus. Unprotected sex is the most common way people get infected with HIV in the U.S., followed by sharing needles.
HIV attacks the very cells which normally defend the body against illness. Eventually, HIV weakens the immune system to such an extent that the body can no longer fight off other diseases and infections.
AIDS, or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, is the most advanced stage of HIV. There are two ways that doctors decide when a person infected with HIV is considered to have advanced to an AIDS diagnosis:
1. From other infections: When a person’s immune system is so weakened by HIV that one or more specific illnesses, called opportunistic infections, takes hold. These illnesses do not generally affect a person with a healthy immune system.
2. From certain blood tests: When the number of healthy immune system cells in an HIV positive person’s body drops to a certain low point, or when the amount of HIV in their blood reaches a certain high point (also called the “viral load”).
The key to slowing the progression of HIV to AIDS is early testing, care, and treatment.
HIV and AIDS are part of a continuum. HIV is the virus that infects the body and AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV. So, not everyone who has HIV has AIDS, but, everyone who has AIDS is infected with HIV.
How quickly someone with HIV advances to AIDS depends on many different factors. One important factor is how soon after HIV infection a person is diagnosed and gets into care. Also, just like any other health problem, different people’s bodies respond differently to HIV. So, it is important to get tested, get care if you are positive and protect yourself and your partner(s).
HIV is primarily spread through unprotected sexual contact— that is, vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Certain bodily fluids that can be shared between people during unprotected sex, such as semen, pre-cum, vaginal fluids or blood can contain the virus. The chances of getting or passing HIV from oral sex are lower than vaginal or anal sex, but there is still a risk. HIV can also be spread by sharing needles, as blood can contain the virus.
Women who are HIV positive can pass HIV to their baby before or during delivery or through breastfeeding after birth. Medications are available, however, that greatly reduce the chance of an HIV positive mother passing HIV to her baby.
Saliva, tears or sweat have never been shown to cause an HIV infection. Kissing is also safe (open mouth kissing is considered very low risk.) HIV is not spread through casual contact like holding hands or hugging, or by sharing drinks or sitting on toilet seats.
Often, people don’t think of themselves or their partners as being at risk, so they don’t worry about using protection or getting tested. But anyone who has had unprotected sex, or who has injected drugs, or has had a partner who has done either of these things, or whose partner’s other partners may have done these things, may be at risk.
People with other Sexually Transmitted Diseases, STDs, (such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes or syphilis) are at greater risk of getting HIV if they have unprotected sex with someone who is HIV positive. In addition, if someone with HIV is also infected with another STD, he or she is more likely to transmit the virus through sexual contact.
The only way to know if you have an STD, including HIV, is to get tested. Many STDs are curable, and all are treatable. Getting treated for an STD can help prevent more serious health effects and reduce your risk of contracting HIV if you are exposed.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one in five people in the U.S. who are HIV positive don’t know it. the CDC recommends HIV testing for everyone between the ages of 13 and 64. This does not mean though that testing is done automatically when you see a health care provider even if you have blood drawn. The only way to know for sure you are being tested is to ask to be tested.
HIV / AIDS in the United States (Facts by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention)
At the end of 2006, an estimated 1.1 million persons in the United States were living with diagnosed or undiagnosed HIV/AIDS.
In 2007, 42,655 new cases of HIV/AIDS in adults, adolescents, and children were diagnosed in the 33 states with long-term, confidential name-based HIV reporting.
In 2007, 74% of HIV/AIDS diagnoses among adolescents and adults were for males.In 2007, the largest estimated proportion of HIV/AIDS diagnoses among adults and adolescents were men who have sex with men (MSM). This category accounted for 53% of the overall diagnoses and 71% among men.
Blacks/African Americans accounted for over half (51%) of the estimated number of HIV/AIDS diagnoses made during 2007, followed by whites (29%) and Hispanic/Latinos (18%). These numbers do not account for individuals of unknown race/ethnicity or those who choose not to identify with any particular race/ethnicity.
In 2007, persons aged 40-49 accounted for the largest proportion of newly diagnosed HIV/AIDS cases (27%). Persons aged 30-39 were the second largest proportion (26%), followed closely by persons aged 20-29 (25%).
Beginning in the mid 1990s, advances in HIV treatments slowed the progression of HIV infection to AIDS. Better treatments also led to dramatic decreases in deaths among persons with AIDS living in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
In general, the trend in the estimated numbers of AIDS cases and deaths remained stable from 2002 through 2005. Estimates for 2007—the most recent year for which these data are available—suggest that the number of AIDS cases have remained relatively stable, and that the number of deaths decreased; however, it is too early to determine whether this trend will hold.
HIV / AIDS Global Statistics (by the Kaiser Family Foundation)
33 million people are currently living with HIV/AIDS in 2007, up from 29.5 million in 2001, the result of continuing new infections, people living longer with HIV, and general population growth.
Almost all of those living with HIV (96%) reside in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.
Globally HIV primarily affects those in their most productive years; more than half of new infections are amoung those under age 25.
The number of people with HIV receiving treatment in resource poor countries has increased 10-fold since 2002, reaching an estimated 3 million by 2007.
2 million people died of AIDS in 2007, up from 1.7 million in 2001, but deaths are now declining due in part to antiretroviral treatment (ART) scale-up. HIV is a leading cause of death worldwide and the number one cause of death in Africa.
Globally, an estimated 8 in 10 peole infected with HIV do not know it.
Aids.gov (U.S. Government HIV / AIDS information)
AidsInfo (a service of the US Dept. of Health & Human Services)
HIV inSite (University of California at San Francisco)
TheBody (online resource community)
Patients Like Me (online HIV community)
Q: Should I get an HIV test?
A: The following are behaviors that increase your chances of getting HIV. If you answer yes to any of them, you should definitely get an HIV test. If you continue with any of these behaviors, you should be tested every year. Talk to a health care provider about an HIV testing schedule that is right for you.
- Have you injected drugs or steroids or shared equipment (such as needles, syringes, works) with others?
- Have you had unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex with men who have sex with men, multiple partners, or anonymous partners?
- Have you exchanged sex for drugs or money?
- Have you been diagnosed with or treated for hepatitis, tuberculosis (TB), or a sexually transmitted disease (STD), like syphilis?
- Have you had unprotected sex with someone who could answer yes to any of the above questions?
If you have had sex with someone whose history of sex partners and/or drug use is unknown to you or if you or your partner has had many sex partners, then you have more of a chance of being infected with HIV. Both you and your new partner should get tested for HIV, and learn the results, before having sex for the first time.
For women who plan to become pregnant, testing is even more important. If a woman is infected with HIV, medical care and certain drugs given during pregnancy can lower the chance of passing HIV to her baby. All women who are pregnant should be tested during each pregnancy.
Q: How long after possible exposure should I wait to get tested for HIV?
a: Most HIV tests are antibody tests that measure the antibodies your body makes against HIV. It can take some time for the immune system to produce enough antibodies for the antibody test to detect and this time period can vary from person to person. This time period is commonly referred to as the “window period”. Most people will develop detectable antibodies within 2 to 8 weeks (the average is 25 days). Even so, there is a chance that some individuals will take longer to develop detectable antibodies. Therefore, if the initial negative HIV test was conducted within the first 3 months after possible exposure, repeat testing should be considered >3 months after the exposure occurred to account for the possibility of a false-negative result. Ninety seven percent will develop antibodies in the first 3 months following the time of their infection. In very rare cases, it can take up to 6 months to develop antibodies to HIV.
Q:If I test HIV negative, does that mean that my sex 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 you have sex. Therefore, your taking an HIV test should not be seen as a method to find out if your partner is infected.
Ask your partner if he or she has been tested for HIV and what risk behaviors he or she has engaged in, both currently and in the past. Think about getting tested together.
It is important to take steps to reduce your risk of getting HIV. Not having (abstaining from) sex is the most effective way to avoid HIV. If you choose to be sexually active, having sex with one person who only has sex with you and who is uninfected is also effective. If you are not sure that both you and your partner are HIV negative, use a latex condom to help protect both you and your partner from HIV and other STDs. Studies have shown that latex condoms are very effective, though not 100%, in preventing HIV transmission when used correctly and consistently. If either partner is allergic to latex, plastic (polyurethane) condoms for either the male or female can be used.
Q: What if I test positive for HIV?
A: 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. There are a number of important steps you can take immediately to protect your health:
- See a licensed health care provider, even if you do not feel sick. Try to find a health care provider who has experience treating HIV. There are now many medications to treat HIV infection and help you maintain your health. It is never too early to start thinking about treatment possibilities.
- Have a TB (tuberculosis) test. You may be infected with TB and not know it. Undetected TB can cause serious illness, but it can be successfully treated if caught early.
- Smoking cigarettes, drinking too much alcohol, or using illegal drugs (such as methamphetamines) can weaken your immune system. There are programs available that can help you stop or reduce your use of these substances.
- Get screened for other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Undetected STDs can cause serious health problems. It is also important to practice safe-sex behaviors so you can avoid getting STDs.
There is much you can do to stay healthy. Learn all that you can about maintaining good health.
Not having (abstaining from) sex is the most effective way to avoid transmitting HIV to others. If you choose to have sex, use a latex condom to help protect your partner from HIV and other STDs. Studies have shown that latex condoms are very effective, though not 100%, in preventing HIV transmission when used correctly and consistently. If either partner is allergic to latex, plastic (polyurethane) condoms for either the male or female can be used.