Protect yourself with knowledge.
Q: What is HIV?
A: HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. The human body can’t get rid of HIV completely, so once you have HIV you have it for life. HIV attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the CD4 cells (T cells), which help the immune system fight off infections. If left untreated, HIV reduces the number of CD4 cells (T cells) in the body, making the person more likely to get infections or infection-related cancers. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infections and disease. These opportunistic infections or cancers take advantage of a very weak immune system and signal that the person has AIDS, the last state of HIV infection.
Q: How is HIV spread?
A: Through certain body fluids like blood, semen, vaginal fluids, anal fluids, and breast milk. HIV can be spread through sexual activity (anal, vaginal, or oral), sharing needles (or “works”), through transfusion of infected blood or blood products, from mother to child during pregnancy or during birth, and through breast feeding. HIV is not like a cold or the flu. You cannot get it from mosquito bites, coughing or sneezing, sharing household items, or swimming in the same pool as someone with HIV.
Q: If you can test for HIV orally, is HIV spread through saliva?
A: No. There have been no documented cases of HIV from saliva, sweat, or tears. The most common way to get HIV is through blood, semen, vaginal fluids, anal fluids, and breast milk. However, if you have HIV and have cuts or sores in your mouth, it is important to take precaution and not engage in activities which may transfer blood from the mouth to another human. For women who are planning on getting or are pregnant, if you are treated with HIV drugs early in the pregnancy, the risk of passing the virus to your baby can be 2% or less (CDC). Studies have found that even if you don't receive the HIV drugs until you are in labor, the chances of transmission are much lower than if you aren't treated at all. However, HIV can be spread through breast milk. Mothers with HIV should not breastfeed their babies.
Q: Is there a connection between HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)?
A: Yes. If you become infected with another STD (such as syphilis, gonorrhea, or herpes), you are three to five times more likely to pass HIV to someone else than if you don't have another STD.
Q: How does HIV cause AIDS?
A: HIV destroys CD4 cells (T cells) that are important to your immune system. Your immune system is what protects your body from diseases, viruses, and bad bacteria. If HIV is left untreated, or treatment isn’t followed as directed, more damage is caused to your body’s immune system. AIDS occurs in the late stage of HIV infection, when your body’s immune system is severely damaged. At this point, your immune system has difficulty fighting diseases and certain cancers, and therefore catches other ailments which can be fatal.
The above information courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control.
Getting tested make you worry? Worry is a normal reaction - but getting tested is one of the best things you can do for your health.
The test is quick, confidential, and free at Chase Brexton Health Care. And, we’re here to help you the whole way. Here's how it goes:
1. Before the test, our POWER team testers will talk with you about your sexual health, why you’re getting tested, and any risks that may increase your chances of infection. Be honest with your tester - she or he isn’t going to judge you. And, you probably aren’t saying anything they haven’t heard before!
2. Ask questions - as many questions as you want and talk as freely about your experiences.
3. The test itself: Chase Brexton sometimes uses a blood sample for testing. This involves taking a small sample of blood from your finger. Sometimes we use an oral swab. How it works: These tests are rapid tests - the results will be given to you within 20 minutes. Rapid tests look for HIV antibodies. The rapid test is very accurate, but laboratory testing is required to confirm the test if you receive a positive result.
4. If the test comes back positive: If you receive a positive result, our next step is to get you into care. We know that dealing with HIV/AIDS can be hard. So we partner with you to help you maintain good health. Your care is very important so we begin with an intial lab test to confirm results and get you into an appointment with a care team of providers within 5 days.
Your care will include:
► Physical exams, diagnostic tests, and on-going care and treatment
► Support from a peer advisor and your care team
► Social work support to help with financial and insurance issues, as well as everyday life issues
► Treatment for coinfections such as Hepatitis B or C
► Nutritional assessments and consultations
► Education and medication support through ongoing classes and support teams
► On-site pharmacy with pharmacists specifically trained and experienced in HIV medications
To get into care today, call 410-837-2050 x8813.
What is PEP? PEP, Post-Exposure Prophylaxis, is an HIV prevention method that involves taking anti-HIV medications as soon as possible after being exposed to HIV to try to reduce the risk of becoming infected with HIV.
How do I use PEP? Within 72 hours of exposure, come to Chase Brexton Health Care Mt. Vernon Center during walk-in hours or call 410-837-2050 X8829. You will be prescribed two to three anti-HIV drugs. You must take the prescribed medicines for 28 days.
What can I expect with PEP? PEP side effects make the medicines hard to take but the side effects are treatable and are not life threatening. PEP is not 100% effective. But, in urgent cases, it is a valuable way to reduce your risk of HIV infection.
How do I pay for PEP? If you are uninsured or your insurance doesn't cover PEP, we will work with you to find a way to cover the cost of the medicine.
What is PrEP? Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, is a new HIV prevention method in which people who do not have HIV infection take a pill daily to reduce their risk of becoming infected.
How does it work? The pill contains two of the many medications that can be used to treat people who already have HIV. These medications prevent HIV from making copies of itself and turning into an infection that’s spread throughout your body. In this way PrEP medicines can help keep the virus from establishing a permanent infection.
Who should consider taking PrEP? PrEP is a way for people who are at risk of getting HIV to lower their risk by taking a daily pill. PrEP is meant for people at risk of getting HIV because they may often be exposed to the virus—for example, someone who is HIV-negative but has an HIV-positive partner and doesn’t consistently use condoms.
How do I get PrEP? Talk with your Chase Brexton provider today, ask about it at your next HIV test, or come during our POWER Clinics to learn about your risks and to see if PrEP might work for you.
IMPORTANT: Throughout the world wide web, there is a ton of information about health care - some true, some not so true, some just plain wrong. Any information about your health is best to get from your health care provider. The information contained here is just guidance and should not replace any advice from your provider. It's important that if you have a health concern, that you talk to your provider.