Q&A: HIV/AIDS The Basics

HIV/AIDS Facts

  1. What is HIV?
  2. What is AIDS?
  3. What is the difference between HIV and AIDS?
  4. How is HIV spread?
  5. Is there a cure for AIDS?
  6. How often should people get tested for HIV? Where can they get tested?
  7. How can people who are sexually active protect themselves from getting HIV?
  8. How can people who use injecting drugs protect themselves from getting HIV?
  9. What should a person do if they recently tested positive for HIV?
  10. Does The Project offer services in Rhode Island to help people who are HIV positive?
  11. What are the medications that people with HIV/AIDS have to take?
  12. What are the HIV trends in Rhode Island?
What is HIV?

HIV is the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). HIV damages the body by destroying blood cells (called T cells) that help fight infections.

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What is AIDS?

AIDS (the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is diagnosed when an individual’s immune system is too weak to fight infection. Go to AVERT website for more information.

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What is the difference between HIV and AIDS?

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that can infect people. There are many viruses that cause people to become sick (“flu”, the common cold, mono). HIV is different in that it kills your immune cells. When your immune cells become too low, you develop what is known as Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndromes (AIDS). This means your immune system no longer works and you are more likely to get other infections (that normal healthy people don’t get) that can make you very sick.

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How is HIV spread?

HIV is spread through blood, semen, vaginal secretions and breast milk. It can be spread during sex (anal, vaginal, and oral) and sharing needles.

HIV is not spread by kissing, toilet seats, hand-holding, mosquitoes, or sweat.

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Is there a cure for AIDS?

There is no cure for HIV or AIDS, but there are ways to prevent the spread of this illness, including using condoms and not sharing needles. There are medications for people with HIV and AIDS to keep the virus low and the immune system healthy.

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How often should people get tested for HIV? Where can they get tested?

Individuals should be tested for HIV as part of routine medical care based on their level of risk. An individual should get tested at least annually if he/she shares needles, has a history of sexually transmitted diseases, or has multiple sex partners and is not using condoms.

Individuals can be tested at their doctor’s office or at The Project.

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How can people who are sexually active protect themselves from getting HIV?

People who are sexually active can protect themselves from getting HIV primarily by using latex or polyurethane condoms. People who cannot afford condoms can get them from some health clinics and HIV testing sites in Rhode Island.

Hormonal birth control such as “the pill,” the NuvaRing and DepoProvera (the shot), do not prevent the spread of HIV.

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How can people who use injecting drugs protect themselves from getting HIV?

People who inject drugs should not share needles or their “works.”  Contact AIDS Care Ocean State for more information about needle exchange programs in Rhode Island.

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What should a person do if they recently tested positive for HIV?

When a person has a “reactive” result from a rapid (same day) HIV test, he/she should get a confirmatory blood test. If this test is determined to be positive, this person should seek medical care from a doctor who specializes in the treatment of HIV. In Rhode Island, contact one of the listed hospitals on this page.

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Does The Project offer services in Rhode Island to help people who are HIV positive?

Yes.  The Project offers individual and group counseling, psychiatric care, and case management related to emergency financial assistance, nutrition, health insurance, and other services.  Click here for a full listing of services.

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What are the medications that people with HIV/AIDS have to take?

A person with HIV/AIDS needs to see a specialist regarding their medications. Many people can take a single pill once a day to treat HIV. These medications must be taken every day to be effective. Sometimes these medications may have side-effects, but you can work with your doctor to find medications that have the fewest side-effects and work for you. Medical treatment for people with HIV/AIDS is often referred to as HAART (Highly Active AntriRetroviral Therapy.)

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What are the HIV trends in Rhode Island?
  1. The number of people living with HIV is increasing.
  2. The number of new HIV cases diagnosed a year is stable. (It goes up and down depending on the year).
  3. There are an increasing number of gay and bisexual men who are being diagnosed with HIV.

 

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