HIV BASICS

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HIV TRANSMISSION

The Most Common Ways to Transmit HIV

• Unprotected Sex
• Sharing Needles or Syringes
• Mother to Child – transmission before, during or after vaginal delivery and/or during breast feeding
• There is potential risk for infection anytime HIV infected fluids come in contact with open wounds, sores or mucous membranes.

Common HIV Misconceptions

• HIV is NOT an airborne virus nor is it transmitted through food, water, or bloodsucking insects.
• HIV is NOT transmitted through casual or social contact such as touching hugging, holding, hands, or kissing.
• HIV is NOT spread through sharing food utensils, plates, cups, glasses or silverware.

HIV PREVENTION

There is currently no vaccine for HIV. You can reduce your risk from contracting or spreading HIV by:
• Abstaining from sex or use condoms or other barrier protections
• Limiting your number of partners and always knowing your HIV status
• Avoid sharing personal items; i.e., razors, toothbrushes, needles, etc.
• The less HIV virus you have in your body the less likely it is you can transmit HIV to your partners though transmission may still occur at any level of the virus.

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HIV101 / INTRODUCTION TO HIV/AIDS

FIRST THINGS FIRST

HIV is not AIDS. HIV is a virus that if left untreated, can cause AIDS. Because of advancements in treatment and testing, it is a rare case that HIV progresses to AIDS at all. It is okay to combine the two words (i.e. HIV/AIDS) but you should never use the word “AIDS” to mean HIV. Now what exactly is HIV?

​​WHAT IS HIV?

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the virus that causes HIV infection. When infected, the virus replicates and can attack the infection-fighting T-cells ¹ of the body’s immune system. Loss of T-cells makes it difficult for the immune system to fight infections. If left untreated, HIV can progress and cause Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), the most advanced stage of infection.

HOW DOES ONE GET IT?

You can contract HIV through mutual blood or semen contact. This most often occurs during unprotected sex or by sharing needles during injection drug use. There are also cases where a mother passes the virus on to her newborn or transmits the virus via breastfeeding.

WHO GETS IT?

Anybody can get HIV. HIV is a virus; it can enter the body if you are rich or poor; young or old; black or white; gay or straight; married or single. It’s what you do, not who you are, that puts you at risk.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO FEEL THE SYMPTOMS?

People can have HIV for 10 years or more and never show any symptoms. Other people can get symptoms within a short time after being infected. The only way you can truly tell if you have HIV is to get tested.

HOW LONG DOES ONE LIVE WITH HIV?

If you keep your T-cell count up and keep your viral load ² down by taking your HIV medication consistently and properly, there’s no reason to think that your life will be any shorter with HIV than it would have been without it. The latest information on life expectancy for people with HIV shows that those who are on treatment can expect to live well beyond their 60s, and the estimates keep getting closer to those of HIV-negative people as HIV medications become more and more effective.

WHAT SHOULD ONE DO AFTER TESTING POSITIVE?

If you’ve already tested positive for HIV, then you should meet with an HIV Specialist as soon as possible. There are tests they can do to see if your HIV is progressing, get you started on an effective anti-HIV medication regimen, and start working towards an undetectable ³ viral load. If you’re newly diagnosed, it can also be incredibly beneficial if you seek out support from a local HIV organization and connect with other people living with HIV.

WHAT IS THE TREATMENT FOR HIV?

Anti-retro-viral therapy (ART) is the recommended treatment for HIV infection. ART involves taking a combination of two or more anti-HIV medications daily. ART prevents HIV from multiplying and destroying T-cells. ART doesn’t cure HIV, but the anti-HIV medications help people infected with the virus live long, healthy lives.

WHERE DID HIV COME FROM?

The origin of HIV is not entirely known. Currently, experts assume that early in the 20th century in Africa, an ancestor virus of HIV transmitted from a primate to a human through blood contact while hunting and evolved into what HIV is today. The history of the global epidemic is more recent, however: The world only began to realize the existence of the virus in the early 1980s, when gay men in New York City and San Francisco began to die of a mysterious illness. AIDS wasn’t officially “discovered” until 1982, and the virus now known as HIV was identified as the cause of AIDS in 1984.