AIDS(Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is a medical condition. A person is diagnosed with AIDS when their immune system is too weak to fight off infections. HIV, stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It kills or damages the body's immune system cells.
HIV most often spreads through unprotected sex with an infected person. It may also spread by sharing drug needles or through contact with the blood of an infected person. Women can give it to their babies during pregnancy or childbirth.
There is no cure, but there are many medicines to fight both HIV infection and the infections and cancers that come with it. Although there is no cure for HIV, treatments are now very effective, people living with HIV can live long and healthy lives, can now protect their partners from becoming infected with the virus, and can keep their children free from HIV.
If you answer yes to any of the following questions, you are at increased risk for HIV infection and should definitely get an HIV test:
- Have you had sex with someone who is HIV-positive or a person whose HIV status you didn't know since your last HIV test?
- Have you injected drugs (including steroids, hormones, or silicone) and shared equipment (or “works,” such as needles or syringes) with others?
- Have you exchanged sex for food, shelter, drugs, or money?
- Have you been diagnosed with, or sought treatment for a sexually transmitted disease, like syphilis?
- Have you been diagnosed with or sought treatment for hepatitis or tuberculosis (TB)?
- Have you had sex with anyone who has any of the risk factors listed above or whose history you don’t know?
If you continue having unsafe sex or sharing injection drug equipment, you should get tested at least once a year. Sexually active gay and bisexual men may benefit from more frequent testing (e.g. every 3 to 6 months).
You should also get tested if:
- You have been sexually assaulted
- You are a woman who is planning to get pregnant or is pregnant.
You can get an HIV test from your doctor or healthcare provider, community health center, Veteran’s health center, Title X family planning clinic, and other locations.
Did you Know?, HIV cannot be transmitted by:
- Surfaces - HIV cannot be transmitted by contact with toilet seats, eating utensils, musical instruments, hugs or handshakes.
- Air – Breathing the same air as someone living with HIV does not transmit HIV.
- Coughing, sneezing or spitting cannot transmit HIV either.
- Kissing - Saliva contains very small amounts of HIV. The risk is negligible unless both partners have large open sores in their mouth or bleeding gums.
- Insect bites - Insects such as mosquitoes don't transmit HIV because they do not inject blood when they bite.
- Sterile needles - Sterilized or new needles and syringes are safe from HIV transmission. Do not share used needles.
- Water - HIV cannot survive in water, so you are free from HIV transmission in swimming pools, baths or shower areas.
HIV can be transmitted by:
- Vaginal sex - HIV can be transmitted from woman to man or vice versa. Open cuts and sores increase the risk.
- Anal sex - Higher risk than vaginal sex because the lining of the anus is more likely to tear, creating an entry point for HIV.
- Oral sex - Has a very small risk, but only if there are sores in/around the mouth or on the receiving partner’s genitals.
- Injecting drugs - Shared sterilized equipment can carry infected blood. Needles used for tattooing and body piercing can also carry a small risk.
- Blood transfusions - All donated blood should be tested for HIV; any untested blood carries a risk of HIV transmission to the patient receiving the blood transfusion.
- Mother-to-child - Transmission can occur during pregnancy, labour, delivery or breastfeeding if HIV treatment is not taken routinely.
The best way to prevent HIV is to use a condom for sex and to never share needles or other injecting equipment (including syringes, spoons and swabs). Knowing your HIV status and that of your partner is also important.