HIV/AIDS Q&A

HIV/AIDS

What is the difference between HIV and AIDS?
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV infection attacks your CD4 cells which are in your immune system to fight off infections and diseases. HIV progresses to AIDS, which stands for Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS is the final stage of HIV where the number of your CD4 cells is so low that your body cannot fight infections or diseases anymore. Typically, when your CD4 count falls below 200 cells per millimeter of blood, you are considered to have progressed to AIDS.
What is Acute HIV infection?
Acute HIV infection is the period of time immediately following infection with HIV and lasts about 2-4 weeks. During this period, some people experience flu-like symptoms, including fever, swollen glands, sore throat, fatigue, or headache.  In the days immediately following infection, HIV replication is rapid, resulting in extremely high levels of HIV in the blood, the viral load. During Acute HIV infection, you are at a particularly high risk of transmitting HIV to another person because of your high viral load.
How is HIV transmitted?
HIV is transmitted through certain body fluids. These body fluids are blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk.  HIV is mainly spread through anal sex, vaginal sex, having multiple sex partner, sharing needles or syringes, or being born to an infected mother. In order to become infected, you must be exposed to one the bodily fluids AND the virus must get into your blood stream directly from one person to another.  HIV cannot be spread by air or water, insects, saliva, tears or sweat, casual contact like shaking hands, drinking fountains, or toilet seats.
Who is at risk for getting HIV?
A person of any age, sex, race, ethnic group, religion, economic background, or sexual orientation can get HIV. Those who are at an increased risk include people who have unprotected sex, people who share needles, people who have an STD, babies born to infected mothers, and health care and maintenance workers who are exposed to blood or body fluids at work.
What is the connection between HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases?
Having a sexually transmitted disease (STD) can increase a person’s risk of becoming infected with HIV, regardless of if the STD causes lesions or breaks in the skin. If the STD infection causes irritation of the skin, breaks, or sore make the transmission of HIV easier. If the STD does not cause breaks or sore, the STD still can stimulate an immune response in the genital area which makes the transmission of HIV more likely.
How long can people live with HIV or AIDS?
Medicines that fight HIV have helped many people live close to normal live spans.  The earlier you are diagnosed with HIV, the more effective the treatment. HIV treatments are meant to extend the lives of people infected, but they are not a cure.
How can I tell if I'm infected with HIV?
Many people with HIV do not display symptoms for 10 years or more following the initial infection. If you think you are infected with HIV, the only way to know is to get tested.
If I think I have been exposed to HIV, how soon can I get tested?
HIV tests look for your body’s response to HIV infection (antibodies). While most people develop an antibody response to HIV within the first 3-6 weeks after infection, some people may take as long as three months or longer. During the time between possible exposure and the test, it is important to avoid any behavior that might result in exposure to blood, semen, or vaginal secretions. If your exposure happened in the last 3 days (72 hours) or less, contact your doctors immediately or go to your nearest urgent care center. You may be eligible for Post-Exposure Prophylaxis which can prevent an HIV infection from happening.

 

 

HIV Testing

What is opt-out testing?
In contrast to opt-in testing, opt-out testing is when a physician or other healthcare provider tests the patient for a disease or condition unless the patient specifically refuses the test.  At UI Health, HIV testing is performed on every patient that is between 13-65 years old and gets blood drawn for medical care in the Emergency Department unless he or she refuses to be tested.
Why test in the ED?
42,000 patients visit the UI Health Emergency Department annually. For many patients, the Emergency Department is the only point of contact with the health system, making this an unique opportunity to capture undiagnosed cases. Research shows that the ED is the most common site of missed opportunities for diagnosing HIV infection.
Why should everyone know their status?
Approximately 180,900 people in the US have HIV and don’t know it. Identifying people with HIV will help them start treatment and prevent transmission of the virus.  Unsafe sexual behavior is reduced substantially after people become aware they are HIV positive.
Why does the CDC recommend routine, opt-out HIV screening start with 13 year olds?
Research shows that a substantial percentage of teens are sexually active, which automatically puts them at risk for contracting HIV. A 2007 CDC survey found that 47% of students in grades 9-12 reported having sexual intercourse at least once, and 37%” of those sexually active did not use a condom, putting them at great risk for contracting HIV.
Why we need routine HIV testing in Chicago?
21,555 individuals are living with HIV/AIDS in Chicago. Approximately 3,600 of those are not aware of having HIV. Only 33% of all adults in Chicago have ever tested for HIV compared to the national average of 40%.
Who pays for the test?
Under the Affordable Care Act Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance plans are required to cover the costs for routine HIV testing as part of annual preventive health services. To learn more, visit the Affordable Care Act and HIV/AIDS