Let's Talk About HIV and AIDS

What is HIV?

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the virus that causes HIV infection. HIV specifically attacks cells of the immune system that help to fight infections and disease.

What is AIDS?

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is the most advanced stage of HIV infection. A person does not have AIDS as soon as he or she becomes infected with HIV. In fact, it is possible to have HIV for many years and not have any signs of the disease. HIV may progress to AIDS.

How does someone get HIV?

HIV is spread mainly through sexual contact (anal, vaginal, oral) with someone who is infected with the virus. Using a latex or polyurethane condom can help reduce the chance of spreading the virus.

Someone can also get HIV by sharing a needle with a person who has HIV or, very rarely, through a blood transfusion with infected blood.

HIV can also be spread from a pregnant mother with HIV to her baby during pregnancy, labor, and the delivery. An infected mother can also spread HIV when she breast-feeds.

Someone cannot get HIV from simple or casual contact with a person who has the virus. For example, you cannot get HIV by shaking hands or drinking out of the same drinking glasses.

What does it mean when someone tests positive for HIV?

A confirmed positive result on an HIV test usually means that a person is infected with HIV. A person who tests positive for HIV should see a health care professional as soon as possible. If HIV goes untreated, it can damage the immune system and lead to AIDS.

Knowledge is power

It's important to partner with a health care provider. Your doctor wants to find the HIV regimen that's best for you. Make sure you talk about your work life, home life, and social life with your doctor. These are all important when finding a regimen that fits with your lifestyle.

There’s no question that living with HIV has its challenges, but you can manage them. Learn as much as you can about HIV/AIDS. Remember, knowledge is power. Join an HIV/AIDS support group so that you can express your feelings and share with others.

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