What is HIV/AIDS?

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS if not treated.

AIDS is the most severe phase of HIV infection. People with AIDS have such badly damaged immune systems that they get an increasing number of severe illnesses, called opportunistic infections.

Unlike some other viruses, the human body can’t get rid of HIV completely, even with treatment. So once you get HIV, you have it for life.

How is HIV transmitted?

You can get or transmit HIV only through specific activities. Most commonly, people get or transmit HIV through having anal or vaginal sex with someone who has HIV without using a condom or taking medicines to prevent or treat HIV. 

Either partner can get HIV through vaginal sex, though it is less risky for getting HIV than receptive anal sex.

Sharing needles or syringes, rinse water, or other equipment used to prepare drugs for injection with someone who has HIV. HIV can live in a used needle up to 42 days depending on temperature and other factors.

HIV is NOT transmitted:

  1. By hugging, shaking hands, sharing toilets, sharing dishes, or closed-mouth or “social” kissing with someone who is HIV-positive.
  2. Through saliva, tears, or sweat that is not mixed with the blood of an HIV-positive person.
  3. By mosquitoes, ticks or other blood-sucking insects.
  4. Through the air.

Who is at risk for HIV?

HIV can affect anyone regardless of sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, gender or age.

Gay and bisexual men, are most affected.accounted for 67% of all diagnoses and 83% of HIV diagnoses among males.

Heterosexuals and people who inject drugs also continue to be affected by HIV. Heterosexual contact accounted for 24% of HIV diagnoses.

Women accounted for 19% of HIV diagnoses. Diagnoses among women are primarily attributed to heterosexual contact or injection drug use.

People who inject drugs accounted for 9% of HIV diagnoses including gay and bisexual men with inject drugs.

What are the symptoms of HIV?

About 40% to 90% of people have flu-like symptoms within 2-4 weeks after HIV infection. These symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks. During this time, HIV infection may not show up on some types of HIV tests, but people who have it are highly infectious and can spread the infection to others.

Flu-like symptoms can include:

  1. Fever
  2. Chills
  3. Rash
  4. Night sweats
  5. Muscle aches
  6. Sore throat
  7. Fatigue
  8. Swollen lymph nodes
  9. Mouth ulcers

If you have HIV and you are not receiving treatment eventually the virus will weaken your body’s immune system and you will progress to AIDS  

Symptoms can include:

  1. Rapid weight loss
  2. Recurring fever or profuse night sweats
  3. Extreme and unexplained tiredness
  4. Prolonged swelling of the lymph glands in the armpits, groin, or neck
  5. Diarrhea that lasts for more than a week
  6. Sores of the mouth, anus, or genitals
  7. Pneumonia
  8. Red, brown, pink, or purplish blotches on or under the skin or inside the mouth, nose, or eyelids
  9. Memory loss, depression, and other neurological disorders

You cannot rely on symptoms to tell whether you have HIV. The only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested.

Is there prevention against HIV/AIDS?

Yes, thank to advances in HIV research there is now a once daily pill called PrEP or Truvada that when taken correctly it can lower your chances of getting HIV. Nonetheless the use of condoms is still recommended to prevent all other STIs including HIV by the only 100% effective way to not get HIV is abstinence.


It is also important to note that when person who is HIV positive reaches and undetectable viral load they are no longer able to transmit the virus to theirs sexual partners as long as they continue to properly take their medication daily. #UequalsU

Is there a cure for HIV?

There is no effective cure that currently exists for HIV, but with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled. 

What can I do to end the stigma against HIV/AIDS?
If you are a person living without HIV ending the stigma is just as easy as getting tested, knowing your status, and talking about HIV with your sexual partner.

If you are a person living with HIV/AIDS you too can end the stigma by sharing your story, not staying silent, and learning and telling others about PrEP.

Together we can all end the stigma against HIV/AIDS by creating a community built on communication, empowerment, and support for those living with and without HIV/AID.