im 20. i've had unprotected sex 3-4 times over the course of 1 year. i was wondering, my gf said that all she has done was kiss her ex-bf once and all i have done is kiss my ex-gf two or three times. We are basically each other's first. If we are 'virgins' orally, vaginally, and anally whenever we first have sex, is it possible to pass the hiv virus to one another? how could we be hiv-positive in this situation? (we haven't done drugs or shared needles, either, nor do our families have a history of the virus.)
You are wondering if two HIV-negative virgins can transmit HIV to one another via sex. Unfortunately, this is a QTND (question that never dies) and a direct consequence of a shameful lack of age-appropriate, science-based basic sex education in our schools. (See below.)
STD/HIV (QTND: HIV TRANSMISSION BETWEEN TWO HIV NEGATIVES, 2008)
Sep 27, 2008
Yes, my name is Marklyn and after viewing this site & looking around i couldn't seem to find my answer if full so I figure i would write you Dr. Robert. I just wanted to ask a couple questions, 1. Can two people who DON'T have ANY STD/HIV infections have intercourse (anal or oral) without risk of being infected? 2. If both of us are Negative do we still need to use protection for oral sex acts?
Response from Dr. Frascino
Apparently you didn't look very hard! See below for a small sampling of what is in the archives.
can you get hiv/aids if you.. (QTND: HIV TRANSMISSION BETWEEN TWO HIV NEGATIVES, 2008) Jun 2, 2008
me and my partner have been curious about trying anal sex. we are both hiv/aids free and free of any other std's. we were curious, can we get aids from anal sex even if you both are disease free?
Response from Dr. Frascino
Gosh, and folks wonder why we need age-appropriate, science-based sex education back in our schools!?!?!?
Your's, my friend, is a QTND (Question That Never Dies) and has a common sense ATNC (Answer That Never Changes). See below.
gay anal sex with two hiv negatives Jun 2, 2008
i am really worried because my gay friend and i had gay sex and anal! is there any way we can get HIV or any other form of STI if neither of us have them to begin with?
please help im stressing!
Response from Dr. Frascino
Once again a QTND (question that never dies) arises! Your stressing would have been short-lived if you checked the archives! See below.
How can someone contract HIV? (HIV TRANSMISSION BETWEEN TWO HIV NEGATIVES, 2008) May 13, 2008
How can someone contract HIV? I mean if you have sex with multiple HIV negative people, can you contract it? I dont understand. Can someone get it by having unprotected sex with multiple HIV negative people? I dont understand.
Response from Dr. Frascino
I absolutely agree: You certainly don't understand! Can you contract HIV from having sex with multiple negative people? No, of course not. HIV is a sexually transmitted disease in which an HIV-infected person can transmit the virus to an uninfected person (HIV negative) via unprotected sex. (See below.)
I suggest you spend some time on this site reviewing HIV basics (see below) and also the wealth of information in the archives and on related links pertaining to exactly how HIV is and is not transmitted.
Bareback possibility (HIV TRANSMISSION BETWEEN TWO HIV NEGATIVES) Aug 11, 2007
I want to have bareback sex... we are both negative, & i want to know... if we have bareback sex will we get infected because we bareback???
Response from Dr. Frascino
Here we go again . . . . Can two HIV-negative people give each other HIV??? I wish someone could explain to me why such a nonsensical question comes up so frequently! Dude, can two people who don't have a million dollars give each other a million dollars??? Just in case you're still wondering, I'll reprint some posts from the archives that address your concern. See below.
Finally, I should mention barebacking is a risk! Remember, your partner is only as negative as his last HIV test and that was taken before the cute pizza delivery guy "delivered" earlier this evening!
HIV between two hiv-negative people?(HIV TRANSMISSION BETWEEN TWO HIV NEGATIVES) Jul 2, 2007
is there a way hiv can develop through a hiv-negative person's vaginal fluid on a hiv-negative's small cut(ripped hang nail) through clothed mutual masturbation?
Response from Dr. Frascino
Here we go again! I find it shocking how often the question of "can two HIV negative people transmit HIV to each other?" comes up! And I find it disheartening to see this question now coming up in the context of mutual masturbation! Can there be any doubt that the lack of sex education in this country has reached critical proportions? Dubya's "abstinence only" sex education policy strikes again!
Rather than reiterate what I've said so many times before, I'll just repost a few questions from the archives.
Question (HIV FROM TWO HIV NEGATIVES) Jan 20, 2007
I was just wondering. Can AIDS come out of no where? Like, if two people are disease free, can an infection occur between them like AIDS assuming they haven't had any other sexual partners. (Asking this about both Hetero and SameSex couples for a paper)
Response from Dr. Frascino
Do you really think there is even a remote possibility that AIDS can come out of nowhere?????" I'm glad you are doing a paper, because you obviously have much to learn. See below.
AIDS Jan 3, 2007
can you get AIDS or HIV by having anal sex or vaginal sex with someone who does not have AIDS or HIV? Such as if semen was to make contact with blood in the body near the anus area.
Response from Dr. Frascino
That this question comes up so very often is a stark reminder of just what a shameful job our country is doing "educating" folks about HIV and STDs in general. No doubt you were home schooled or a product of an "abstinence-only" sex education program. Right? Yeah, I suspected as much.
Now please think this through rationally, OK? HIV is an STD, a sexually transmitted disease, caused by a germ, a virus called human immunodeficiency virus. If neither you nor your partner has the AIDS virus (HIV), how can you possibly transmit or catch it from each other???? "Semen coming into contact with blood in the body or near the anus" doesn't create an HIV virus out of thin air any more than it can create a million dollars. So, for instance, if your sex partner isn't already a millionaire, would you expect him to suddenly have a million dollars just because you had sex with him? Of course not! The same thing applies to germs that neither of you have as well!
See below. I'll reprint a similar question from the archives. Please spend some time reviewing the information on this site and at its related links that pertains to how HIV is and is not transmitted, OK?
Good luck. Get informed! Stay safe. Stay well.
Anal sex and aids (CAN TWO HIV NEGATIVES CONTRACT HIV FROM EACH OTHER?) Sep 20, 2006
my husband and i had unprotected anl sex neither of us have aids or HIV and i we are in a monogomus relationship. what are my chances of contacted the HIV virus
Response from Dr. Frascino
Can two HIV-negative people contract HIV/AIDS from having unprotected anal sex with each other? Astoundingly this has become another QTND (Question That Never Dies)! It dramatically points out (1) the failure of sex education, (2) the failure of HIV/AIDS-prevention efforts and (3) the lack of common sense to conquer irrational HIV fears.
I'll reprint a post from the archives that addresses your concerns. I also suggest you spend some time reading the information on this site related to how HIV is and is not transmitted.
Quick question - please help!
Sep 3, 2006
Hi Dr. Bob,
My gay partner and I are both HIV- but just now we've gone wild and we performed unprotected sex. Is there a chance to get HIV from unprotected sex if both parties are HIV-? I am really worried now. Please help. Thank you!
Response from Dr. Frascino
"Can you get HIV from unprotected sex if both parties are HIV negative?" Here we go again. Another QTND: Question That Never Dies. Dudes, think about this rationally. HIV is a germ, a virus. Right? OK, check. Germs are spread from an infected person to an uninfected person. For instance, a common cold can be transmitted through the air if the infected person coughs or sneezes on an uninfected person. Right? OK, check. Sexually transmitted diseases, like the clap or syphilis, can be transmitted when the infected person has unprotected sex with an uninfected person. Right? OK, check. Now with this very basic information (even Dubya should understand this much), do you think you can answer your own question? Hint #1: HIV is a sexually transmitted disease.
Hint #2: HIV cannot spontaneously appear just because two uninfected guys get horned up and do a horizontal mattress mambo, forgetting to dress for the occasion. (That would be about as logical as the bizarre notions of "intelligent design" and "virgin birth.") Hint #3: You can't give something away that you don't have to give. Otherwise I'd ask you for a million dollars. But if you don't have a million dollars, you can't give it to me, right? And even if we had nookie, a million dollars wouldn't appear, no matter how hot the encounter may have been. Right? OK, check.
So, what's your final answer?!?
Hint #4: Dubya probably thinks you can indeed get HIV this way. So considering Dubya has been and continues to be wrong about absolutely everything from the war in Iraq to WMD to Mission Accomplished to Katrina to the economy to the environment to evolution/intelligent design to stem cell research, etc., etc., etc., does this help sway your answer?
OK, if you're still confused, write back and I'll provide more hints.
19 yr old & You said: If your partner were confirmed to be HIV-positive, the risk would be 0.1 to 0.2 percent per episode Sep 28, 2003
Hello Doctor. All I'd like to tell you is that you are doing a great job with your service. Not to take much of your time, based on your statement "if your partner were confirmed to be HIV-positive, the risk would be 0.1 to 0.2 percent per episode." Based on this statement, you are saying that only so much get infected based on one episode. I am just have difficulties in understanding this statement. That really means, if you are lucky based on one episode, you will not be positive, if you are not lucky, then you are positive. So do you think you and many others who are positive, are just having bad luck!! I think this statement is not really accurate. Do you still abide with this statement? My other question is that, how does a guy who is negative turns out positive if he sleeps with someone who is negative. In other words, two negative how, can someone turn positive? How does someone become positive if the couple is both negative. But then, how does someone come positive from the first place, if someone was negative?? Am I making sense?
Thanks so much.
Response from Dr. Frascino
"Are you making sense?" No, not a bit. Two negatives never make a positive. For HIV to be transmitted, one of the partners needs to be HIV-positive. That's not all that difficult to understand, is it?
"How does someone become positive in the first place?" He (or she) must be exposed to someone who is positive (has the virus). Different types of exposures carry different levels of risk. Yes, the 0.1 to 0.2 percent statistical risk per episode is correct. This risk applies to unprotected receptive vaginal intercourse with a partner who is confirmed to be HIV positive. So this virus isn't all that easy to catch; -- however, is it possible for someone to contract the virus with a single exposure (say unprotected sex)? Absolutely.
Does every exposure lead to viral transmission? Absolutely NOT!
So, are those of us who did contract the virus "just having bad luck?" Yes, that's one way of looking at it. I don't think any of us would consider the day we became infected a particularly "good luck" kind of a day. Somehow, this all seems rather intuitive to me, but I do hope it clarifies things a bit for you.
anal sex (Apr 21, 2006)
Hi, I will start out by I don't really know much about HIV or AIDS but I have been married for almost 5 years my husband and I are very sexually active. Before him I was also sexually active and I have had several test done and been neg. I have had 2 children by my husband and was tested then and was neg. My question is we have anal sex and vaginal intercourse. I was told if you have anal sex you can get HIV even when both partners do not have HIV. Is this true? Thank You.
Response from Dr. Frascino
I find it shocking that sexually active adults could know so little about HIV/AIDS. Where have you been living for the past 25 years??? Kansas??? Oh! OK! That explains it. I guess all the time you spent learning about myths like "intelligent design" didn't leave much time for basic science topics, like sexually transmitted diseases.
So you were "told" that if you have anal sex, you can get HIV even when both partners do not have HIV???!!! Hmmm . . . who told you this? The Vatican? Fox News? Karl Rove? No, sweetie, this is not true. Exactly how did you think two completely HIV-negative people could create an HIV virus? I strongly suggest you spend some time reading about HIV/AIDS and other STDs. This Web site is an excellent source for accurate information. Once you've learned the basics, do go back to whoever told you that nonsense about "two negatives plus backdoor action equals HIV positive" and enlighten them with some basic scientific facts and common sense.
HIV positive friend Jul 29, 2006 (HIV BASICS)
Hi Doctor I was going to meet a friend for a coffee at his place and he wanted more than a coffee, he told me that he's HIV positive. How does HIV spread, and what can i do.
Response from Dr. Frascino
So apparently your buddy wanted both coffee and dessert, eh? (Perhaps coffee and hot-crossed buns?)
How is HIV spread??? Either you are very young (too young to be drinking coffee) or you just recently arrived from a distant galaxy or you've been home schooled and subjected to an abstinence-only sex education course. Well whatever the reason, it's time you learned about HIV, how it is and is not transmitted and how you can protect yourself from becoming infected while enjoying hot, satisfying sex (with or without the Starbucks). I would suggest you begin with a basic pamphlet on HIV/AIDS. I'll reprint one below ("Facts for Life: What You and the People You Care about Need to Know about HIV/AIDS"). I would then suggest you review more detailed information that can be easily accessed on this site and related links and in the archives of this forum.
Get informed. Stay safe. Stay well.
Facts for Life: What you and the people you care about need to know about HIV/AIDS
amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, is one of the world's leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to the support of AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education, and the advocacy of sound AIDS-related public policy. Since 1985, amfAR has invested nearly $250 million in its programs and has awarded grants to more than 2,000 research teams worldwide. FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
What is HIV What is AIDS?
How quickly do people infected with HIV develop AIDS?
How many people are affected by HIV/AIDS?
How is HIV transmitted?
How is HIV not transmitted?
How can I reduce my risk of becoming infected with HIV through sexual contact?
Are there other ways to avoid getting HIV through sex?
Is there a link between HIV and other sexually transmitted infections?
How can I avoid acquiring HIV from a contaminated syringe?
Are some people at greater risk of HIV infection than others?
Are women especially vulnerable to HIV?
Are young people at significant risk of HIV infection?
Are there treatments for HIV/AIDS?
Is there a cure for AIDS?
Is there a vaccine to prevent HIV infection?
Can you tell whether someone has HIV or AIDS?
How can I know if I'm infected?
Should I get tested?
How can I get tested?
Where can I get more information about HIV and AIDS?
How can I help fight HIV/AIDS?
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that causes AIDS. A member of a group of viruses called retroviruses, HIV infects human cells and uses the energy and nutrients provided by those cells to grow and reproduce. AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. It is a disease in which the body's immune system breaks down and is unable to fight off infections, known as "opportunistic infections," and other illnesses that take advantage of a weakened immune system. When a person is infected with HIV, the virus enters the body and lives and multiplies primarily in the white blood cells. These are immune cells that normally protect us from disease. The hallmark of HIV infection is the progressive loss of a specific type of immune cell called T-helper, or CD4, cells. As the virus grows, it damages or kills these and other cells, weakening the immune system and leaving the person vulnerable to various opportunistic infections and other illnesses ranging from pneumonia to cancer. A person can receive a clinical diagnosis of AIDS, as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if he or she has tested positive for HIV and meets one or both of theses conditions: The presence of one or more AIDS-related infections or illnesses; A CD4 count that has reached or fallen below 200 cells per cubic millimeter of blood. Also called the T-cell count, the CD4 count ranges from 450 to 1200 in healthy individuals. In some people, the T-cell decline and opportunistic infections that signal AIDS develop soon after infection with HIV. But most people do not develop symptoms for 10 to 12 years, and a few remain symptom-free for much longer. As with most diseases, early medical care can help prolong a person's life.
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) estimates that there are now 40 million people living with HIV or AIDS worldwide. Most of them do not know they carry HIV and may be spreading the virus to others. In the U.S., approximately one million people have HIV or AIDS, and 40,000 Americans become newly infected with HIV each year. According to the CDC, it is estimated that a quarter of all people with HIV in the U.S. do not know they are carrying the virus. Since the beginning of the epidemic, AIDS has killed more than 25 million people worldwide, including more than 500,000 Americans. AIDS has replaced malaria and tuberculosis as the world's deadliest infectious disease among adults and is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide. Fifteen million children have been orphaned by the epidemic. A person who has HIV carries the virus in certain body fluids, including blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and breast milk. The virus can be transmitted only if such HIV-infected fluids enter the bloodstream of another person. This kind of direct entry can occur (1) through the linings of the vagina, rectum, mouth, and the opening at the tip of the penis; (2) through intravenous injection with a syringe; or (3) through a break in the skin, such as a cut or sore. Usually, HIV is transmitted through: Unprotected sexual intercourse (either vaginal or anal) with someone who has HIV. Women are at greater risk of HIV infection through vaginal sex than men, although the virus can also be transmitted from women to men. Anal sex (whether malemale or malefemale) poses a high risk mainly to the receptive partner, because the lining of the anus and rectum is extremely thin and is filled with small blood vessels that can be easily injured during intercourse. Unprotected oral sex with someone who has HIV. There are far fewer cases of HIV transmission attributed to oral sex than to either vaginal or anal intercourse, but oralgenital contact poses a clear risk of HIV infection, particularly when ejaculation occurs in the mouth. This risk goes up when either partner has cuts or sores, such as those caused by sexually transmitted infections (STIs), recent tooth-brushing, or canker sores, which can allow the virus to enter the bloodstream. Sharing needles or syringes with someone who is HIV infected. Laboratory studies show that infectious HIV can survive in used syringes for a month or more. That's why people who inject drugs should never reuse or share syringes, water, or drug preparation equipment. This includes needles or syringes used to inject illegal drugs such as heroin, as well as steroids. Other types of needles, such as those used for body piercing and tattoos, can also carry HIV. Infection during pregnancy, childbirth, or breast-feeding (mother-to-infant transmission). Any woman who is pregnant or considering becoming pregnant and thinks she may have been exposed to HIVeven if the exposure occurred years agoshould seek testing and counseling. In the U.S., mother-to-infant transmission has dropped to just a few cases each year because pregnant women are routinely tested for HIV. Those who test positive can get drugs to prevent HIV from being passed on to a fetus or infant, and they are counseled not to breast-feed. HIV is not an easy virus to pass from one person to another. It is not transmitted through food or air (for instance, by coughing or sneezing). There has never been a case where a person was infected by a household member, relative, coworker, or friend through casual or everyday contact such as sharing eating utensils or bathroom facilities, or through hugging or kissing. (Most scientists agree that while HIV transmission through deep or prolonged "French" kissing may be possible, it would be extremely unlikely.) Here in the U.S., screening the blood supply for HIV has virtually eliminated the risk of infection through blood transfusions (and you cannot get HIV from giving blood at a blood bank or other established blood collection center). Sweat, tears, vomit, feces, and urine do contain HIV, but have not been reported to transmit the disease (apart from two cases involving transmission from fecal matter via cut skin). Mosquitoes, fleas, and other insects do not transmit HIV.
If you are sexually active, protect yourself against HIV by practicing safer sex. Whenever you have sex, use a condom or "dental dam" (a square of latex recommended for use during oralgenital and oralanal sex). When used properly and consistently, condoms are extremely effective. But remember: Use only latex condoms (or dental dams). Lambskin products provide little protection against HIV. Use only water-based lubricants. Latex condoms are virtually useless when combined with oil- or petroleum-based lubricants such as Vaseline® or hand lotion. (People with latex allergies can use polyethylene condoms with oil-based lubricants). Use protection each and every time you have sex. If necessary, consult a nurse, doctor, or health educator for guidance on the proper use of latex barriers. The male condom is the only widely available barrier against sexual transmission of HIV. Female condoms are fairly unpopular in the U.S. and still relatively expensive, but they are gaining acceptance in some developing countries. Efforts are also under way to develop topical creams or gels called "microbicides," which could be applied prior to sexual intercourse to kill HIV and prevent other STIs that facilitate HIV infection. Having a sexually transmitted infection (STI) can increase your risk of acquiring and transmitting HIV. This is true whether you have open sores or breaks in the skin (as with syphilis, herpes, and chancroid) or not (as with chlamydia and gonorrhea).
Where there are breaks in the skin, HIV can enter and exit the blood-stream more easily. But even when there are no breaks in the skin, STIs can cause biological changes, such as swelling of tissue, that may make HIV transmission more likely. Studies show that HIV-positive individuals who are infected with another STI are three to five times more likely to contract or transmit the virus through sexual contact. If you are injecting drugs of any type, including steroids, do not share syringes or other injection equipment with anyone else. (Disinfecting previously used needles and syringes with bleach can reduce the risk of HIV transmission). If you are planning to have any part of your body pierced or to get a tattoo, be sure to see a qualified professional who uses sterile equipment. Detailed HIV prevention information for drug users who continue to inject is available from the CDC's National Prevention Information Network at 1-800-458-5321 or online at www.cdc.gov/idu. HIV does not discriminate. It is not who you are, but what you do that determines whether you can become infected with HIV. In the U.S., roughly half of all new HIV infections are related directly or indirectly to injection drug use, i.e., using HIV-contaminated needles or having sexual contact with an HIV-infected drug user. With 40,000 Americans contracting HIV each year, there are clearly many people who are still engaging in high-risk behaviors, and infection rates remain alarmingly high among young people, women, African Americans, and Hispanics. Women are at least twice as likely to contract HIV through vaginal sex with infected males than vice versa. This biological vulnerability is worsened by social and cultural factors that often undermine women's ability to avoid sex with partners who are HIV-infected or to insist on condom use. In the U.S., the proportion of HIV/AIDS cases among women more than tripled from 8 percent in 1985 to 27% in 2004. African American and Hispanic women, who represent less than onequarter of U.S. women, account for 80% of new HIV infections among American women each year. At least half of the 40,000 Americans newly infected with HIV each year are under the age of 25. Roughly two young Americans become infected with HIV every hour of every day, and many of the people now living with HIV in the U.S. became infected when they were teenagers. Statistics show that by the 12th grade, about 60 percent of American youth are sexually active, and two-thirds of STIs affect people under age 25. Many young people also use drugs and alcohol, which can increase the likelihood that they will engage in high-risk sexual behavior. For many years, there were no effective treatments for AIDS. Today, a number of drugs are available to treat HIV infection and AIDS. Some of these are designed to treat the opportunistic infections and illnesses that affect people with HIV/AIDS. In addition, several types of drugs seek to prevent HIV itself from reproducing and destroying the body's immune system: Reverse transcriptase inhibitors attack an HIV enzyme called reverse transcriptase. They include abacavir, delavirdine, didanosine (ddl), efavirenz, emtricitabine (FTC), lamivudine (3TC), nevirapine, stavudine (d4T), tenofovir, zalcitabine (ddC), and zidovudine (AZT); Protease inhibitors attack the HIV enzyme protease and include amprenavir, atazanavir, fosamprenavir, indinavir, lopinavir, nelfinavir, ritonavir, saquinavir, tipranavir, and darunavir. Fusion inhibitors stop virus from entering cells. To date, only one fusion inhibitor, enfuvirtide, has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Are young people at significant risk of HIV infection? Are there treatments for HIV/AIDS?
Many HIV patients take these drugs in combinationa regimen known as highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). When taken as directed, anti-HIV treatment can reduce the amount of HIV in the bloodstream to very low levels and sometimes enables the body's immune cells to rebound to normal levels. Several drugs can be taken to help prevent a number of opportunistic infections including Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, toxoplasmosis, cryptococcus and cytomegalovirus infection. Once opportunistic infections occur, the same drugs can be used at higher doses to treat these infections, and chemotherapy drugs are available to treat the cancers that commonly occur in AIDS. Researchers are continuing to develop new drugs that act at critical steps in the virus's life cycle. Efforts are under way to identify new targets for anti-HIV medications and to discover ways of restoring the ability of damaged immune systems to defend against HIV and the many illnesses that affect people with HIV. Ultimately, advances in rebuilding the immune systems of HIV patients will benefit people with a number of serious illnesses, including cancer, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, and immune deficiencies associated with aging and premature birth. There is still no cure for AIDS. And while new drugs are helping some people who have HIV live longer, healthier lives, there are many problems associated with them: Anti-HIV drugs are highly toxic and can cause serious side effects, including heart damage, kidney failure, and osteoporosis. Many (perhaps even most) patients cannot tolerate long-term treatment with HAART. HIV mutates quickly. Even among those who do well on HAART, roughly half of patients experience treatment failure within a year or two, often because the virus develops resistance to existing drugs. In fact, as many as 10 to 20 percent of newly infected Americans are acquiring viral strains that may already be resistant to current drugs. Because treatment regimens are unpleasant and complex, many patients miss doses of their medication. Failure to take anti-HIV drugs on schedule and in the prescribed dosage encourages the development of new drugresistant viral strains.
Even when patients respond well to treatment, HAART does not eradicate HIV. The virus continues to replicate at low levels and often remains hidden in "reservoirs" in the body, such as in the lymph nodes and brain. In the U.S., the number of AIDS-related deaths has decreased dramatically because of widely available, potent treatments. But more than 95 percent of all people with HIV/AIDS live in the developing world, and many have little or no access to treatment. Despite continued intensive research, experts believe it will be at least a decade before we have a safe, effective, and affordable AIDS vaccine. And even after a vaccine is developed, it will take many years before the millions of people at risk of HIV infection worldwide can be immunized. Until then, other HIV prevention methods, such as practicing safer sex and using sterile syringes, will remain critical. You cannot tell by looking at someone whether he or she is infected with HIV or has AIDS. An infected person can appear completely healthy. But anyone infected with HIV can infect other people, even if they have no symptoms. Immediately after infection, some people may develop mild, temporary flu-like symptoms or persistently swollen glands. Even if you look and feel healthy, you may be infected. The only way to know your HIV status for sure is to be tested for HIV antibodiesproteins the body produces in an effort to fight off infection. This usually requires a blood sample. If a person's blood has HIV antibodies, that means the person is infected.
If you think you might have been exposed to HIV, you should get tested as soon as possible. Here's why: Even in the early stages of infection, you can take concrete steps to protect your long-term health. Regular check-ups with a doctor who has experience with HIV/AIDS will enable you (and your family members or loved ones) to make the best decisions about whether and when to begin anti- HIV treatment, without waiting until you get sick. Taking an active approach to managing HIV may give you many more years of healthy life than you would otherwise have. If you are HIV positive, you will be able to take the precautions necessary to protect others from becoming infected. If you are HIV positive and pregnant, you can take medications and other precautions to significantly reduce the risk of infecting your infant, including not breast-feeding. Most people are tested by private physicians, at local health department facilities, or in hospitals. In addition, many states offer anonymous HIV testing. It is important to seek testing at a place that also provides counseling about HIV and AIDS. Counselors can answer questions about high-risk behavior and suggest ways you can protect yourself and others in the future. They can also help you understand the meaning of the test results and refer you to local AIDS-related resources. Though less readily available, there is also a viral load test that can reveal the presence of HIV in the blood within three to five days of initial exposure, as well as highly accurate saliva tests that are nearly equivalent to blood tests in determining HIV antibody status. In some clinics you can get a test called OraQuick® that gives a preliminary result in 20 minutes. You can also purchase a kit that allows you to collect your own blood sample, send it to a lab for testing, and receive the results anonymously. Only the Home Access® brand kit is approved by the Food and Drug Administration. It can be found at most drugstores.
Keep in mind that while most blood tests are able to detect HIV infection within four weeks of initial exposure, it can sometimes take as long as three to six months for HIV antibodies to reach detectable levels. The CDC currently recommends testing six months after the last possible exposure to HIV. The CDC's National AIDS Hotline can answer questions about HIV testing and refer you to testing sites in your area. Operators are available toll-free, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at: 1.800.232.4636 (English, Spanish and TTY/deaf access). There are many valuable sources of HIV/AIDS information, including the following: amfAR's website at www.amfar.org The CDC at www.cdc.gov/hiv or the phone numbers above Your state or local health department (see your local phone book) Your local AIDS service organization (see your local phone book) HIV InSite at hivinsite.ucsf.edu AEGiS (AIDS Education Global Information System) at www.aegis.com The Body: An AIDS and HIV Information Resource at www.thebody.com The Kaiser Family Foundation's HIV/AIDS information section at www.kff.org/hivaids
Everyone can play a role in confronting the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Here are just a few suggestions for how you can make a difference: Volunteer with your local AIDS service organization. Talk with the young people you know about HIV/AIDS. Sponsor an AIDS education event or fund raiser with your local school, community group, or religious organization. Urge government officials to provide adequate funding for AIDS research, prevention education, medical care, and support services. Speak out against AIDS-related discrimination. Support continued research to develop better treatments and a safe and effective AIDS vaccine by making a donation to amfAR