Frequently Asked Questions
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus, which is the virus that causes AIDS. If you are HIV-positive, it means you have this virus and can give it to others. It does not mean you have AIDS.
HIV kills a type of white blood cell that helps your body fight disease, including cancer. These are called CD4 cells; by counting them, doctors check whether HIV is developing into AIDS.
Once you have HIV, it never goes away, but it can be treated to help you live longer and keep you healthier.
AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. It means your body can no longer fight disease like a healthy person. This might put you at risk for infections and even types of cancer. AIDS is the last stage of HIV infection.
Having sex without a condom is one of the most common ways to become infected with HIV/AIDS. Using condoms, also called rubbers, is essential with any sex partner whose HIV test results you don’t know. Even so, condoms are not foolproof, and in many cases, the disease is passed on even while using them.
Oral sex without a condom, especially if there are sores or cuts in the mouth, can also pass along HIV in a small number of cases.
Other ways to get the virus include using the same IV drug needle as someone with HIV/AIDS and blood transfusions with blood that contains the virus.
Women, as well as men, can pass on the disease through sexual contact. It can also be passed from mother to child if the mother is infected while pregnant or breastfeeding.
You cannot get HIV/AIDS from an infected person’s tears or saliva.
Not having sex, called abstinence, prevents you from getting HIV through sexual contact. Condoms also help protect you even if you do have sex. And finally, if you are an IV drug user, always using clean needles will prevent the spread of HIV.
There are also two newer methods, PrEP and PEP, that can be effective but require a doctor.
PrEP stands for “pre-exposure prophylaxis.” If you are at high risk of HIV exposure, the doctor might recommend PrEP. PrEP is a program that includes taking the drugs used to fight HIV even though you now test negative for the virus. Unfortunately, depending on where you live, it can be hard to find a doctor familiar with PrEP.
PEP stands for “post-exposure prophylaxis.” It means going on anti-HIV drugs within 72 hours of exposure to HIV/AIDS. This contact might be through sex or a workplace injury, such as a needle stick to a healthcare worker, corrections officer, emergency personnel, etc. PEP treatment lasts 28 days.
A series of studies of 88,000 people living with HIV reported by the LANCET and conducted in 1996, 2008, and 2010 showed that with proper care and treatment adherence, people living with HIV, once they achieve immune suppression, and maintain it, can live an average life span.
The emphasis for achieving an average life expectancy is getting to treatment as early as possible and staying in treatment.
Many places provide free testing. Your local county health department will have a list of testing sites. NFAN can help too. Call us at 904-356-1612. We are here 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Fridays. You can locate testing sites near you through the following website: https://locator.aids.gov/
If your body is trying to fight HIV, your blood or saliva sample will show it in several ways. The first is your CD4 count, which measures the white blood cells that HIV destroys. If these white blood cells dip below 200, you are considered to have AIDS.
The second is your viral load, which shows how much HIV is in your blood.
Both signals give your doctor information to help your body fight HIV and stay healthier. Your proof of positivity for HIV is called the POP, and you will need it to receive most HIV/AIDS services.
No, the test will only show if you have the signs that your body has HIV. It won’t tell you how you were exposed to the disease.
The first thing to do is see a healthcare provider. Whoever gives you the test results will be able to refer you. Make an appointment as soon as possible so you can start working with the provider to keep yourself healthy and learn how to avoid passing on the infection.
Your first meeting is called a “baseline evaluation,” It will help show what stage of the disease you are in, what the best medications are for you, and answer many of the questions you will have.
NFAN can help too. Call us at 904-356-1612. We are here 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Fridays.
Never! NFAN is not allowed to provide this type of information to any immigration authority.
The most recent numbers (Feb. 2017) show this many people with HIV/AIDS:
- Duval: 7,488
- St. Johns: 418
- Clay: 338
- Nassau: 126
- Baker: 58
More people in our five counties with HIV/AIDS were male:
- Male: 72%
- Female: 28%
The most common way these people became HIV/AIDS positive was:
- Sexual contact by men with other men: 38%
- Sexual contact by men with women: 36%
- IV drug use:10%
- Blood transfusions: Less than 1%
AIDSinfo is a great website that will answer many of your questions. It has information about HIV/AIDS drugs, a glossary of the terms you hear, and much more.