AIDS, which stands for Acquired Immunodefficiency Syndrome, is a serious illness for which there is presently no cure. AIDS is caused by a virus known as HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). HIV leaves the body defenseless against illnesses that are usually rare or mild in people who are not infected with the virus. These illnesses may kill people with HIV. Many people feel that only certain “high risk groups” are infected with HIV. This is untrue. It is not who you are that puts you at risk for HIV disease, it’s what you do. People have died of AIDS regardless of gender, age, race, economic status, or sexual orientation.

HIV is not spread through casual contact, which is non-sexual, everyday activities such as shaking hands, sharing equipment, eating together, coughing or sneezing, using restrooms, or working together. Another misconception is that a person may contact HIV from an insect bite. This is not true. HIV is not spread to humans by animals or insects, including mosquitoes. HIV can be transmitted in three ways: 1) blood to blood contact, 2) sexual contact, and 3) prenatal contact. Infectious body fluids include blood, semen, vaginal/cervical secretions, and breast milk. The HIV virus must be an insufficient concentration in infectious body fluid for transmission to occur. The infectious body fluid must then get into the body and into the bloodstream for an individual to become infected. People may become infected with HIV if they Have sexual intercourse with someone infected with HIV (oral, anal, &/or vaginal) Use a needle or syringe that has previously been used by someone infected with HIV (Such as unsafe tattooing or body piercing) Are born to a woman who is infected with HIV Many people are concerned about saliva as an infectious body fluid. Saliva is not considered to be infectious because it is not sufficiently concentrated for transmission. In addition, there are enzymes in saliva that can break down the virus, and the ph of the mouth is detrimental to the survival of the virus. HIV does not survive well outside the human body. It can be easily killed (deactivated) by using heat, hand soap, hydrogen peroxide or anything with 25% alcohol, bleach, Lysol, and other disinfectants.

A negative test result means that you are not infected with HIV or you have recently been infected with HIV and can infect others, but the test did not yet detect enough HIV antibodies to provide accurate test results. Consider getting a retest six months from your last exposure. A positive test result means you are infected with HIV, you will always have HIV, and you can infect others. If you have engaged in risky behavior or had sexual intercourse with someone who has, speak frankly to a health care provider who understands HIV disease.