What is HIV?

HIV Fast Facts

What Is HIV? HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks cells that help the body fight infection, making a person more vulnerable to other infections and diseases. It is spread by contact with certain bodily fluids of a person with HIV, most commonly during unprotected sex (sex without a condom or HIV medicine to prevent or treat HIV), or through sharing injection drug equipment. First identified in 1981, HIV is the cause of one of humanity’s deadliest and most persistent epidemics.

What Is AIDS? AIDS is the late stage of HIV infection that occurs when the body’s immune system is badly damaged because of the virus. A person with HIV is considered to have progressed to AIDS when their CD4 cells fall below 200 cells per cubic millimeter of blood. (Healthy immune system CD4 counts are 500-1,600), or they develop one or more opportunistic infections regardless of their CD4 count.

How Do I Know If I Have HIV? The only way to know for sure is to get tested.

HIV Basics
© Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

How Do You Get or Transmit HIV? You can only get HIV by coming into direct contact with certain body fluids from a person with HIV who has a detectable viral load. These fluids are:

  • Blood

  • Semen (cum) and pre-seminal fluid

  • Rectal fluids

  • Vaginal fluids

  • Breast milk

HIV is not spread by:

  • Air or water

  • Mosquitoes, ticks or other insects

  • Saliva, tears, or sweat that is not mixed with the blood of a person with HIV

  • Shaking hands; hugging; sharing toilets; sharing dishes, silverware, or drinking glasses; or engaging in closed-mouth or “social” kissing with a person with HIV

  • Drinking fountains

  • Other sexual activities that don’t involve the exchange of body fluids (for example, touching).

HIV can’t be passed through healthy, unbroken skin.

What Are the Symptoms of HIV? Not everyone will have the same symptoms. It depends on the person and what stage of the disease they are in. Within 2 to 4 weeks after infection with HIV, about two-thirds of people will have a flu-like illness. This is the body’s natural response to HIV infection.

Flu-like symptoms can include:

  • Fever

  • Chills

  • Rash

  • Night sweats

  • Muscle aches

  • Sore throat

  • Fatigue

  • Swollen lymph nodes

  • Mouth ulcers

These symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks. But some people do not have any symptoms at all during this early stage of HIV.

To schedule your free HIV test, please click below to make an appointment or call 916-427-4653.