HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus and it weakens the body's immune system (your defense against infections). It is the virus that causes AIDS.
The virus may be passed from one person to another when infected blood, semen or vaginal secretions come in contact with an uninfected person's broken skin or mucous membranes. (A mucous membrane is wet, thin tissue found in certain openings to the human body, including the mouth, eyes, nose, vagina, rectum, and the opening of the penis.)
Additionally, an infected pregnant woman can pass HIV to her unborn baby during pregnancy, delivery or through breast-feeding.
What is AIDS?
AIDS stands for acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Acquired means you can get infected with it; Immune Deficiency means a weakness in the body's system that fights diseases; and Syndrome means a group of health problems that make up a condition.
A diagnosis of AIDS is made by a physician using specific clinical or laboratory tests.
How does HIV cause AIDS?
HIV destroys a certain kind of blood cell (CD4+ T cells), which is crucial to the normal function of the human immune system. Most people infected with HIV carry the virus for years before enough damage is done to the immune system for AIDS to develop.
HIV & You
HIV, Pregnancy & You
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Is there a cure for AIDS?
There is no cure for AIDS. There are only medications that can slow down the progress of the HIV virus and the damage to the immune system. HIV medications are more effective in some people, but may not work for all. If you are HIV positive, check with your health care provider to see if these medications are appropriate for you.
How is HIV passed from one person to another?
HIV transmission can occur when fluids (shown to contain high concentrations of HIV) from an infected person enter the body of an uninfected person.
Other body fluids containing blood
HIV has been found in saliva and tears of some persons living with HIV, but in very low quantities.
Finding a small amount of HIV in a body fluid does not necessarily mean that HIV can be transmitted by that body fluid. HIV has not been recovered from the sweat of HIV-infected persons. Contact with saliva, tears, or sweat has never been shown to result in transmission of HIV.
HIV can enter the body through:
A vein (during injection drug use)
The lining of the anus or rectum
The lining of the vagina and/or cervix
The opening of the penis
Other mucous membranes (i.e., eyes, nose)
Cuts and sores
Intact, healthy skin is an excellent barrier against HIV and other viruses and bacteria.
The most common ways HIV is transmitted from one person to another are:
Exchanging blood, semen, and vaginal secretions through vaginal, oral or anal intercourse with someone who has HIV
Sharing needles or syringes used for injecting drugs, medicines, tattooing or body piercing with someone who has HIV
A pregnant woman who is HIV positive can pass HIV to her unborn baby through the umbilical cord during birth, contact with vaginal fluids and blood during birth or breast milk after the child is born
Can I get HIV through casual contact?
HIV is not transmitted by casual contact including:
Touching, talking, or sharing a home with a person who is HIV positive or has AIDS
Sharing utensils, such as forks, knives, or spoons
Using swimming pools, hot tubs, drinking fountains, toilet seats, tanning beds, doorknobs, gym equipment, or telephones used by people with HIV/AIDS
Having someone with HIV/AIDS hug, kiss, sneeze, cough, breathe, sweat, or cry on you
Being bitten by mosquitoes
How long after a possible exposure should I wait to get tested for HIV?
The tests commonly used to detect HIV infection are actually looking for antibodies produced by your immune system when you are exposed to HIV. Most people will develop detectable antibodies within two to eight weeks (the average is 25 days). Ninety-seven percent will develop antibodies in the first three months following the time of their infection. In very rare cases, it can take up to six months to develop antibodies to HIV.
How can I tell if I'm infected with HIV?
The only way to know if you are infected is to be tested for HIV infection. You cannot rely on symptoms to know whether or not you are infected with HIV. Many people who are infected with HIV do not have any symptoms at all for many years.
How can I get tested for HIV?
HIV antibody testing is a simple oral or blood test performed by a trained professional. This procedure is strictly confidential. Counseling regarding the meaning of the test and its result takes place before the actual testing to ensure you understand HIV infection and the testing procedure.
The Office of AIDS offers the following HIV tests:
Blood Test - Blood drawn from a vein is tested for HIV antibodies.
Rapid HIV Antibody Tests - Same day results are available with this tests. This test is $25. For more information on testing days and times, call (702) 759-0702.
Blood tests, and rapid tests look for the presence of antibodies to HIV.
Blood draw test results are available within 7 days. Rapid tests offer same day results. All positive HIV test results must be confirmed with a follow-up confirmatory test before a final diagnosis of infection can be made.
Testing is available at several locations throughout Clark County. Results are not given on Fridays. Testing is confidential, and no appointment is necessary. Visit the Sexual Health Clinic webpage for more information.
The Office of AIDS is committed to keeping the public informed of HIV testing options and keeping people living with HIV well and informed.
What if I test positive for HIV?
If you test positive for HIV, the sooner you take steps to protect your health, the better. Early medical treatment and a healthy lifestyle can help you stay well. Prompt medical care may delay the onset of AIDS and prevent some life-threatening conditions.
The Office of AIDS offers an Adult Evaluation Clinic to help answer your questions and provide the following services:
Viral load and T-cell testing
Consultation with a physician
TB and syphilis testing
Immunizations for flu and pneumonia
Hepatitis testing/hepatitis A and B vaccination
Appropriate referrals/resources, if needed
For more information about the services offered at the Adult Evaluation Clinic, call (702) 759-0743.
Not having sex is the most effective way to avoid transmitting HIV to others. If you choose to have sex, use a latex condom to help protect your partner from HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). If either you or your partner is allergic to latex, plastic (polyurethane) condoms for either the male or female can be used.
Is there a connection between HIV and other STDs?
Yes. Having a STD can increase a person's risk of becoming infected with HIV.
If the STD infection causes irritation of the skin, breaks or sores may make it easier for HIV to enter the body during sexual contact. Even when the STD causes no breaks or open sores, the infection can stimulate an immune response in the genital area that can make HIV transmission more likely.
Additionally, if an HIV-infected person is also infected with another STD, that person is three to five times more likely than other HIV-infected persons to transmit HIV through sexual contact.
Not having sex is the most effective way to avoid all STDs, including HIV. For those who choose to be sexually active, the following HIV prevention activities are highly effective:
Engaging in behaviors that do not involve vaginal or anal intercourse or oral sex
Having sex with only one uninfected partner
Using latex condoms every time you have sex
Why is injecting drugs a risk for HIV?
At the start of every intravenous injection, blood enters the needle and syringe. HIV can be found in the blood of a person infected with the virus. The reuse of a blood-contaminated needle or syringe by another drug injector carries a high risk of HIV transmission because infected blood can be injected directly into the bloodstream.
Sharing drug equipment (or "works") can be a risk for spreading HIV. Infected blood can be introduced into drug solutions by:
Using blood-contaminated syringes to prepare drugs
Reusing bottle caps, spoons, or other containers ("spoons" and "cookers") used to dissolve drugs in water and to heat drug solutions
Reusing small pieces of cotton or cigarette filters ("cottons") used to filter out particles that could block the needle.
"Street sellers" of syringes may repackage used syringes and sell them as sterile syringes. For this reason, people who continue to inject drugs should obtain syringes from reliable sources, such as pharmacies.
It is important to know that sharing a needle or syringe for any use, including skin popping and injecting steroids, can put one at risk for HIV and other blood-borne infections.