Here are 8 Questions that are most frequently asked:
- What is HIV? – HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that causes AIDS. When a person is infected with HIV, the virus enters the body and then lives and multiplies primarily in the white blood cells—the immune cells that normally protect us from disease.
- What is AIDS? AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. As HIV grows in an infected person, it damages or kills specific immune cells, weakening the immune system and leaving the person vulnerable to infections and illnesses ranging from pneumonia to cancer. Only when someone with HIV begins to experience one or more of these conditions or loses a significant amount of immune cells are they diagnosed with AIDS.
- How do I know if I’m infected? Immediately after infection, some people may develop mild, temporary flu-like symptoms or persistently swollen glands. Even if you look and feel healthy, you may be infected. The only way to know your HIV status for sure is to be tested for HIV.
- Can I tell whether someone has HIV or AIDS? You cannot tell by looking at someone whether he or she is infected with HIV or has AIDS. An infected person can appear completely healthy. But anyone infected with HIV can infect other people, even if they have no symptoms.
- How quickly do people infected with HIV develop AIDS? In some people, AIDS develops soon after infection with HIV. But many people do not develop symptoms for 10 to 12 years, and a few remain symptom-free for much longer. Early detection and treatment plays an important role in slowing the progression to AIDS and helps many people with HIV lead relatively normal lives.
- How many people are living with HIV/AIDS? There are now roughly 34 million people living with HIV or AIDS worldwide. Most of them do not know they are infected and may be spreading the virus to others. In the U.S., more than one million people are living with HIV/AIDS, and approximately 50,000 Americans become newly infected with HIV each year. It is estimated that one-fifth of all people with HIV in the U.S. do not know they are infected.
- How is HIV not transmitted? HIV is not transmitted through food or air (for instance, by coughing or sneezing). There has never been a case where a person was infected by a household member, relative, coworker, or friend through casual or everyday contact such as sharing eating utensils or bathroom facilities, or through hugging or kissing. In the U.S., screening the blood supply for HIV has virtually eliminated the risk of infection through blood transfusions. And because of strict medical precautions, you cannot get HIV from giving blood at a blood bank or other established blood collection center. There have been no documented cases of HIV transmission through other body fluids such as sweat, tears, vomit, and urine. Mosquitoes, fleas, and other insects do not transmit HIV.
- How can I get tested? You can be tested by your physician, at a local health clinic, or on your own at home.Conventional HIV tests, including one of the home test kits, the Access HIV-1 Test System, are sent to a laboratory for testing. It can take a week or two before the test results are available. Today, many facilities use rapid HIV tests that can give accurate results in as little as 20 minutes. Similarly, the OraQuick test, which can be purchased at drugstores and used at home, requires only a mouth swab and gives results in about 20 to 40 minutes. Many states offer anonymous HIV testing. In most testing sites, counselors are available to help you understand the meaning of the test results, suggest ways you can protect yourself and others, and refer you to appropriate local resources.
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