Frequently Asked Questions
There is no better way to make an informed decision than to be armed with the right knowledge and resources. It is essential to learn more about HIV, HIV prevention, and HIV treatment. Below, you can find some important HIV basics everyone should know. Together, we can Stop the Clock on HIV.
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Contracting and treating HIV varies from person to person. Because of the nature of HIV and the stigma surrounding an HIV diagnosis, learning some HIV basics can help guide those in our communities who may be at risk. Knowing facts, available treatments, and how to protect yourself and others from HIV is essential to a living a healthy and safe lifestyle.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that targets the immune system’s T-cells or CD4 cells. These specific cells are essential components of the body’s immune system that help fight off illness. HIV attacks these cells and can ultimately destroy so many of them that the body can no longer fight off infections and diseases. If HIV progresses to this point, the person will be diagnosed with AIDS.
Not everyone who contracts HIV develops AIDS. With the treatment, someone HIV-positive can combat the virus. Anyone actively on antiretroviral (ARV) medication and receiving regular medical care can manage their HIV to live a long, healthy life. They can even have children without the risk of transmitting the virus to them. ARVs function as an HIV preventative in addition to their use in HIV treatment.
Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a medical diagnosis of an advanced stage of HIV. A person with HIV gets an AIDS diagnosis if the number of healthy T-cells or CD4 cells present in the bloodstream drops to a low level (below 200) or if they are diagnosed with one of the many opportunistic infections/diseases associated with AIDS.
Common opportunistic infections include tuberculosis, pneumonia, and a variety of cancers, lymphoma, tuberculosis, and Kaposi’s sarcoma. Only a health care provider can provide an AIDS diagnosis.
HIV is most commonly transmitted through vaginal and anal sex with someone unaware of their HIV-positive status or who does not actively take antiretrovirals (ARVs) to treat HIV. There are no documented cases of someone becoming HIV-positive through oral sex only; however, you may contract other STDs through oral sex without the use of barrier contraceptive methods.
Beyond sexual transmission, HIV can spread through sharing needles, syringes, and other various drug preparation devices with an HIV-positive person who is not properly treating their HIV at the time.
HIV cannot spread through sharing food, utensils, plates, or glasses with someone who has the virus. You cannot contract HIV from holding hands with someone with HIV or through any other form of casual contact. Saliva does not transmit HIV from one individual to the next.
Symptoms manifest differently for every person who has contracted HIV. Often, there are no apparent symptoms of HIV. Getting tested is the best way to prevent HIV from spreading. Once diagnosed, folks can speak to a health care professional to obtain the treatment necessary to treat HIV.
Below are some of the most effective ways to prevent HIV:
PrEP: Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a prevention method that involves taking prescription medication once a day to help reduce the risk of passing HIV through sex. Taking this daily medication results in the most effective protection against the virus. It is only an effective form of preventative medicine if taken every day before possible exposure to HIV.
Treatment as Prevention: Antiretrovirals (ARVs) are not only used as a treatment for HIV but can also be used to prevent HIV transmission. Sex, needle sharing, and perinatal transmission are prevented by taking ARVs as prescribed.
Avoid Needle Sharing: Avoiding needles and syringes that others have used is essential in preventing HIV transmission. Free, sanitary syringes are offered at health care centers across the greater Atlanta metropolitan area.
Condoms: Condoms, when used consistently and correctly, are highly effective at protecting against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV.
There is no known vaccine or cure for HIV or AIDS, but there are effective forms of treatment. A healthy life is possible for those with HIV through highly-effective treatment with antiretrovirals (ARVs). These treatments additionally help control the transmission of HIV to others. To prevent transmission and maintain a healthy lifestyle, individuals with HIV must stick to the medical regimen given by their health care provider.
Whether or not to disclose your HIV status is a very personal decision. Yet, it is essential to consider how your HIV diagnosis may affect the individuals in your life. By considering how your diagnosis may affect those around you, you ensure that informing others of your diagnosis will result in safe outcomes. Knowing facts about HIV and how it affects your life can assist you in the process of disclosing your diagnosis and help you answer the questions others may have about it.
Do not let HIV stand in the way of living a healthy life and having fulfilling relationships, including intimate ones. You can live fully by knowing what resources and information are available to help you.
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