Get answers to some common questions on line; call us for greater detail.
What are HIV and AIDS?
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). HIV kills off your body’s CD4 cells, the cells that help the body fight off infection. As HIV slowly ravages a person’s immune system, HIV disease progresses. AIDS is the final stage of the disease.
An HIV positive (HIV+) person receives a diagnosis of AIDS after developing one of the serious infections connected with HIV and one that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines as AIDS indicator or when their CD4 count goes below 200.
HIV is the virus, AIDS the disease, and “HIV disease” the most appropriate way to describe the continuum of HIV and AIDS.
It usually takes many years before HIV breaks down a person’s immune system and causes AIDS. Most people have few, if any, symptoms for several years after they are infected. But once HIV gets into the body, it can do serious damage to the immune system.
Who can get HIV?
Anyone can get HIV – young and old, men and women, straight, gay and bisexual, rich and poor, and all racial and ethnic groups – but not everyone faces the same risk. Your risk comes from what you do, and who you do it with – that is, how likely it is that the person you have sex or share needles with is infected. But even if you are part of a community with a high infection rate, you can avoid getting HIV. Staying uninfected takes thinking, planning and follow-through. Often it means talking about things that may make you uncomfortable. It can help to “practice” talking with people you can trust or who are going through the same thing.
Are even people over age 50 at risk for HIV?
Yes, people over age 50 are very much at risk for HIV. HIV was never a part of their earlier dating life. These days, people are living longer and dating again after the death or divorce of a spouse. Since people do not outgrow their need for a loving relationship and may feel that the protection of a condom is no longer necessary to prevent pregnancy, people over age 50 can engage in risky behaviors. Also, medical professionals are uncomfortable raising sexual topics with this group of people. Some of the earliest signs of HIV — forgetfulness, dizziness, poor balance, loss of appetite — can mirror normal age-related concerns and HIV does not enter the medical professional’s diagnosis. People over age 50 should routinely be tested for HIV and practice safer sex habits if they are in a sexual relationship or are considering a sexual relationship. The growth of HIV in the age group is about 16% per year.
How do I get HIV?
HIV can be passed when it comes in contact with a person in one of these ways:
- Having unprotected sex (sex without a condom) that involves anal, vaginal or oral penetration with a man or woman who is HIV+;
- Sharing “works” (needles, cookers, cotton and water), and/or a syringe with an HIV+ person;
- Through any blood-to-blood contact with an HIV+ person, generally through open sores or cuts.
- Babies born to HIV+ women can also become infected during pregnancy, birth or breast-feeding; if a woman knows she is HIV+ at the time she becomes pregnant, there are advances in the field which can protect her unborn child.
- By coming in direct contact with an infected person’s semen, blood, vaginal secretions or breast milk.
How can I know for sure if I have HIV?
The only sure way to know if you have HIV is to get tested! To schedule an appointment for a FREE and CONFIDENTIAL HIV test, call us at 302.652.6776
Can I get HIV from casual contact?
HIV is a fragile virus. You DO NOT get HIV from:
- Working or being around someone who is HIV+ (positive);
- Sneezing or coughing, touching, hugging, kissing, public restrooms, sweat, spit, tears, drinking fountains, phones, pools, saunas or showers, insect bites or stings or by sharing a meal or being friends with an HIV+ person;
- Donating blood.