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HIV/AIDS FAQs

I tested HIV positive. Does that mean I have AIDS?

No. Testing positive for HIV means that HIV antibodies were found in your blood, and that you are infected with HIV. A helper T-cell count (CD4 cell) lower than 200 and/or the presence of an opportunistic infection is required to determine if a person's HIV infection has progressed to AIDS.

What is the difference between HIV and AIDS?

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is the virus which causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). In order to have AIDS, you must be infected with HIV. Further medical tests can determine whether your HIV infection has progressed to the stage of AIDS, which includes a helper T-cell count below 200 and/or the presence of an AIDS defining opportunistic infection. When HIV weakens your immune system, you become more susceptible to infections, and there are specific infections that indicate a person infected with HIV as having moved into the stage of AIDS. Most of these infections are treatable and there are HIV medications available help keep your immune system at levels high enough to fight off these infections, even after an AIDS diagnosis.

If I test positive for HIV, am I going to die?

People diagnosed with HIV are living longer with the advances in treatment options for HIV. Early diagnosis, treatment adherence (taking your regimen as directed), and adopting healthier choices are some other factors which may improve your health and longevity.

Can HIV be cured?

No. However, there are medications available to people living with HIV/AIDS that are effective in the treatment of HIV. The available treatments for HIV try to keep viral loads (levels of the virus in your body) down, so your immune system can remain at levels high enough to fight off infections. Programs are available to help you obtain HIV treatment and services.

Can I get HIV from an insect bite?

No. The only fluids that transmit HIV are blood, semen, vaginal fluid, and breast milk. HIV does not reproduce inside of an insect or survive long enough inside an insect to transmit it. For more detailed information on this subject visit the Centers for Disease Control

What should I use to lubricate a condom?

There are many water-based and silicone based lubes on the market made specifically for condom use, always read the directions on the packaging. Never use oil-based lubricants such as Vaseline or baby oil. Oil-based lubricants break down the latex which can cause the condom to break.

Is spermicidal jelly/film/foam an acceptable method of HIV prevention?

No. Spermicidal products may help to prevent pregnancy, but they will not protect you from HIV or other sexually transmitted infections.

Will all gay people get HIV?

No. A person's sexual orientation is no guarantee that they will or will not get HIV. A person's risk for HIV is about behaviors that put you at risk, not who you are.

What bodily fluids transmit HIV?

Blood, semen, vaginal fluid, and breast milk

What are the behaviors that put me at the highest risk for HIV?

Sharing needles, unprotected anal intercourse and unprotected vaginal intercourse with a person who is infected with HIV.

How do I know if I am infected with HIV?

The only way to know if you are infected with HIV is to have an antibody test for HIV.

I live with someone who is HIV positive. Should I be concerned about getting HIV from them?

HIV is not a casual contact disease. You will not get HIV from using the same restroom, holding hands, kissing, hugging, sharing drinking or eating utensils with someone who is HIV infected. The behaviors that put you at risk for HIV are unprotected anal and vaginal intercourse, sharing needles and blood to blood contact with an infected person.

My partners say he/she is clean. Do I still need to be tested?

Yes. Your HIV status should never be based on the word of someone else. Your own HIV status does not reflect your partner's status. The only way to know your HIV status is for both of you to be tested for HIV. Please keep in mind that the window period for HIV antibodies is up to six months, meaning that you may not test positive for up to six months after infection.

How accurate is the HIV antibody test? When should I retest?

The HIV antibody test is over 99% accurate. Please remember that the test is looking specifically for HIV antibodies, a protein that your immune system makes when you are infected with HIV. Also known as the "window period", the majority of people make these antibodies within three months after infection, but some people may take as long as six months. If you have been at risk for HIV, a test six months after your risk behavior will give you an accurate result. If you engage in high-risk behaviors continually, then you may need to test every six months.

While having unprotected sex with my partner he did not ejaculate inside me. Am I still at risk for HIV?

Yes. HIV is transmitted in semen and is also found in pre-ejaculatory fluid (pre-cum). It is possible for a man to emit pre-ejaculatory fluid without knowing and most men do not have control over this emission anyway.
 
Contact Us

Riverside County Department of Public Health
HIV/STD Program
P.O. Box 7600
Riverside, CA 92513-7600

(951) 358-5307 Voice
(951) 358-5407 Fax
(800) 243-7275 Hotline
(800) STD-FACTS