FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is HIV?
HIV is the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is a virus that gets into a person’s cells. HIV affects the immune system, specifically the T-Cells or CD4 cells which fight infection. Simply put, the virus destroys the T-cells so that the immune system of a person with untreated HIV infection is not able to fight off diseases and infections.
What is AIDS?
AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS is caused by HIV and is a late stage of infection. A person can live many years with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus in his or her system without experiencing any symptoms. When enough T-cells have been destroyed to severely compromise the body’s ability to fight infection and disease, a person’s diagnosis progresses to AIDS.
How to prevent infection
There is no cure or vaccine for HIV. However, HIV is treatable and preventable.
Here’s how you can minimize your risk for infection:
- Use condoms: If you are sexually active, always use a condom during vaginal and anal intercourse. Condoms are highly effective in preventing HIV transmission.
- Use clean needles: If you inject drugs, use new, sterile needles.
- Discuss sexual histories: Knowing the HIV status of your partner or partners will enable you to take steps to prevent transmission, like using condoms.
- Have sober sex: If you are drinking or taking drugs, you are less likely to practice safer sex and use condoms. If you feel like you may have a drug or alcohol, seek help.
- Get tested for other STDs: Having a sexually-transmitted disease (STD)—such as Chlamydia, gonorrhea or syphilis—can increase your risk of getting infected with HIV. Many STDs do not have obvious symptoms. Get tested for free through an AIDS Healthcare Foundation Wellness Center.
- Abstain or have fewer partners: Having fewer sexual partners will decrease your risk for contracting HIV or other STDs.
How is the virus transmitted?
HIV is transmitted sexually, by contact with blood or it can also be transmitted from a mother to her child.
- It is transmitted sexually by oral, vaginal or anal penetration, without the correct use of the condom.
- By sharing needles to inject drugs, pockets, metal pipes or by using sharp sharp elements that have not been properly sterilized.
- A woman with HIV can transmit the virus to her child during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. However, this type of transmission can be prevented through medical attention and timely treatment.
How is the virus NOT transmitted?
- There is no risk of HIV transmission through saliva, sweat, tears, cough or sneezing.
- It is not transmitted through daily contact or contact that involves sharing social, work or school spaces.
- Nor is there any risk when shaking hands, hugging or kissing; nor, for taking mates or sharing gyms, showers, toilets, cutlery, glasses or clothes, among others.
- Insect bites do not transmit HIV.
Many people with HIV do not experience any systems until the late stages of the disease. In fact, the virus can live in your body for as many as 10 years – or more – without causing any obvious symptoms. Extreme fatigue, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, fever and wasting syndrome can be some of the symptoms experienced at the late stages –when the disease has progressed to AIDS. These symptoms are most often caused by the opportunistic infections that a weakened immune system has been unable to fight off.
In the first 2 weeks to 30 days after infection—when higher levels of the virus are in a person’s system and he or she is most infectious (or, able to pass the virus on to others)—some may experience severe flu-like symptoms. It’s important to remember that not everyone who gets infected experiences these symptoms.
Is it possible at first sight to know that someone lives with HIV?
About the test
Why should I get tested?
Where can I get tested for HIV?
How long will the test take?
How long will I have to wait for my results?
How much will HIV testing cost?
Getting an HIV test is free at all of our sites and at the sites of all of our partner organizations.
Who will give me the test?
Will I have to answer a lot of personal questions?
What is the ideal time to get tested for HIV?
Today is the right time. Get tested and you will know your result in minutes. It is a confidential and free service.
About the result
What if my test results show that I am HIV-positive?
If you receive an HIV-positive test result, our trained and certified counselors will walk you through the next steps. HIV is not curable, but it is treatable and the treatments are highly effective.Caring for those living with HIV is our mission. If you test positive, our knowledgeable staff of counselors and medical providers will be with you to support you every step of the way.
What is the difference between living with HIV and having AIDS?
Living with HIV means that the virus lives in your body, while having AIDS is when the immune system (body’s defenses) is already very weak and the person is exposed without protection, to infectious diseases that take advantage of this opportunity (opportunistic infections) .
Does having HIV mean that I am going to die?
No. As long as you have proper medical treatment and take antiretroviral medications with proper medical control, you increase your quality of life.
What are antiretrovirals and why are they important?
Antiretrovirals are medications that prevent the multiplication of HIV in the body. Therefore, they help maintain and restore the immune system.
If I have HIV, when can I start using antiretrovirals?
As soon as you have the results of the necessary laboratory tests, and under the control of qualified health personnel, you can start antiretroviral treatment.
Can I take other medications (such as naturopathic medications) at the same time I am taking my antiretroviral treatment?
Before taking any type of medication – even if they are naturists – you should consult the attending physician.
If I already know my diagnosis and have improved my health, can I stop taking antiretrovirals?
No. Antiretrovirals should be taken for life, according to the indications of the medical professional in charge of your treatment. No interruption should occur, unless directed by the doctor. Discontinuing treatment may cause current antiretrovirals to stop working and the virus will begin to multiply again, compromising your health.