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FAQ's about AIDS / HIV from our viewers

We receive hundreds of emails every day from our viewers from around the globe asking some very good (and many times "unique") questions, we've taken a few of them and asked our research team at do their best to provide answers to some of the more common questions as well as share with you some of the "unique" situations people find themselves in.

Remember, these are real questions (or comments) from real people just like you so we encourage you to read through these to see if your question might be already be answered here but if not, please send us an email  with your specific question (or comment) and we'll do our best to respond in this section of our site. In some instances, the names have been changed to protect the true identities of the sender. 

Unfortunately, because of the volume of emails we receive each day, not every email can be personally responded to, however, we'll make every effort to make sure the most common, or unique, questions are right here for you to see. 

We must caution you, however, that this section of our site contains content of a sexual nature that may not be appropriate for young children.

One last thing. We need your help in keeping alive and stocked with up-to-date information. If you can make a modest donation of any amount, we'd surely appreciate the help. Go to Support for more information. 


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And now a word From Our Viewers; 



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From: Ebony Kelley of Texarkana, AR, USA
Comment: I think its great that someone has found a way to reach our youth and adults about the AIDS virus and what we can do to prevent this disease. Our health is very important and if someone has reliable information then we should listen. responds: 
Thank you very much. We're doing the best we can with limited resources to provide the most accurate and up-to-date information available.

From: Kelebogile Digoamaje of Mmabatho, South Africa
Comments: For a South African like me facing issues like HIV and AIDS this information really helps. It is providing information that will help us deal with these issues and the facts about AIDS. To you guys I say keep up the good work and may God bless you all. responds: 
As we all know, AIDS is a global phenomenon and our information is as relevant for a South African national such as yourself as it is for a European, American and so on. We hope we've helped you in your search for information and hope you'll share this site with others in your community.

From: Lisa Corvi of South Shore, MA, USA
Comments: First let me say thank you for having a great website like this. Good information is so hard to find and I think AIDS issues and information should be more in the open then it is now. Let me also say my cousin died from AIDS in the 90s and since then I have wanted to do anything I can to help in anyway. I just wanted to let you know if there is anything I can do please let me know. I am only 18 years old but understand this world is cruel. Email if you need anything done in Massachusetts. responds:
We're sorry for the loss of your cousin and hope that one day you will be able to do something in his memory. There are lots of community based AIDS groups throughout the world and we encourage you to check our "Official Directory of AIDS sites" to locate a group in your area where you can make a difference. We wish you all the best.


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From: Conor O. of Melbourne, Australia
Question: What is the difference between HIV and AIDS? responds:
When HIV enters your body, it infects your "CD4 cells" and kills them. CD4 cells (sometimes called T-helper cells) help your body fight off infection and disease. Usually, CD4 cell counts in someone with a healthy immune system range from 500 to 1800. When you lose CD4 cells, your immune system breaks down and you can't fight infections and diseases as well. When your CD4 cell count goes under 200, doctors say you have AIDS. Doctors also say you have AIDS if you have HIV and certain diseases, such as tuberculosis or Pneumocystis Carinii [NEW-mo-SIS-tis CA-RIN-nee-eye] Pneumonia (PCP), even if your CD4 cell count is over 200.

For more detailed information, take another look at "The Facts about AIDS" provided by

From: A. W. of New York, NY, USA
Question: How long does it take for HIV to cause AIDS? responds:
Since 1992, scientists have estimated that about half the people with HIV develop AIDS within 10 years after becoming infected. This time varies greatly from person to person and can depend on many factors, including a person's health status and their health-related behaviors. Today there are medical treatments that can slow down the rate at which HIV weakens the immune system. There are other treatments that can prevent or cure some of the illnesses associated with AIDS, though the treatments do not cure AIDS. As with other diseases, early detection offers more options for treatment and preventative health care. 

From: S. R. of Plymouth, MN, USA
Question: When was the AIDS virus first detected and what is the history of AIDS? responds:
Since there isn't complete agreement from all scientists about this issue, we'll refer you to the best explanation we could find which is provided to us by the USA's National Institutes of Health Office of AIDS Research and entitled
"A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE EMERGENCE OF AIDS". We think this gives the best "short" answer to this question. 

From: Desigan P. of New Zealand
Question: Where did HIV/AIDS originally come from? responds: 
Scientists have different theories about the origin of HIV, but in a recent study (2003) of the ancestry of the virus that caused the AIDS epidemic, scientists have traced HIV to two strains of a virus found in monkeys in Africa. The viruses probably passed into chimpanzees when the apes ate infected monkey meat, researchers say.

Earlier studies have shown that HIV1, the virus that causes the most common form of human AIDS, originated from a simian immunodeficiency virus, or SIV, that is found in chimpanzees. But how chimps came to have SIV has been a mystery. American and English researchers analyzed the genetic pattern of a number of SIV strains in African monkeys and concluded that at least two strains found in the red-capped Mangabeys and in the greater spot-nosed monkeys in south-central Africa combined to form the type of SIV now found in African chimps.

It was this form of SIV that spread into the human population to start the HIV1 epidemic that has killed millions of people worldwide. The recombination of these monkey viruses happened in chimpanzees and the chimp transmitted it to humans on at least three occasions, according to a virologist at the University of Alabama, Birmingham. The transfer between chimps and humans probably happened before 1930. The earliest known case of HIV was from a blood sample collected in 1959 from a man in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. (How he became infected is not known.) 

Three types of HIV1, called M, N and O, probably were transmitted from chimps to humans decades ago. A second type of AIDS, called HIV2, is known to have been transmitted from the sooty Mangabey in West Africa to humans directly, without going through the chimp.

Monkeys and chimps both represent a reservoir of SIV viruses that could, in theory, be spread to humans, forming a new type of immunodeficiency disease. The viruses were most likely spread from species to species when chimps eat monkey meat and hunters in Africa eat chimp meat. Chimps are known to hunt and eat whatever monkey species they can catch. 

As for humans, it is not such a good idea to hunt and eat monkeys because there is a risk for humans to come into contact with a new form of HIV. Genetic studies suggest that lower monkeys first became infected with SIV 100,000 years ago or even earlier.

SIV was passed to chimps after the animals split up into different subspecies living as separate bands in West Africa and in southern and central Africa. The easternmost subspecies of chimps is infected with SIV, but the virus has not been found in chimp tribes in West Africa. Although SIV can infect chimps and the lower monkeys, the virus does not cause disease in those animals. The virus attacks the white blood cells, called CD4 cells, but it does not make the animals sick or cause a decline in their white blood cells.

In humans, HIV attacks and kills white blood cells and eventually overwhelms the body's ability to replace them. Without these disease-fighting white blood cells, the body becomes defenseless against infections that are easily controlled by the by the immune system in healthy people. In 1982 public health officials began to use the term "acquired immunodeficiency syndrome," or AIDS, to describe the occurrences of opportunistic infections, Kaposi's sarcoma, and Pneumocystis Carinii Pneumonia (PCP) in previously healthy men. Formal tracking (surveillance) of AIDS cases began that year in the United States. 

The virus was at first named HTLV-III/LAV (human T-cell lymphotropic virus-type III/lymphadenopathy- associated virus) by an international scientific committee. This name was later changed to HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). 


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From: D. D. of Houston, TX USA
Question: I recently had unprotected sex with a person that I met in a nightclub ("one night stand") and now I'm really worried I may have caught AIDS. Where can I get tested for HIV/AIDS? responds:
First of all you should always be "prepared" by carrying condoms when you go out to socialize. From the sound of your question you didn't plan on having sex but then again nobody "plans" on getting HIV or AIDS. So, in the future, if you think there is even a remote chance you'll engage in a sexual act, be prepared! Now to your question.

Today there are several choices that you have regarding how and where to get tested. One of the first issues to confront is that of "Anonymous" vs. "Confidential" testing. In most states, you can find testing sites that offer either "Anonymous" or "Confidential" HIV testing.

Anonymous testing is available in certain locations but is most common with and through FDA Approved HIV home testing kits such as the ones offered through Anonymous testing uses code numbers or passwords to identify your test. Your full name is never used. You use the code to get your results within 3-7 days (depending on test purchased) via telephone. You are the only person who knows your results. With anonymous testing, you get to decide who to tell and when and best of all is that your name is never associated with the test result. It is completely Anonymous. You may want to obtain an Anonymous test before any number of life changing events such as entering into a sexual relationship, getting married, getting pregnant, applying for a job, life or health insurance, or joining a club or organization (military, peace corp, sports team, etc) that might test your blood for other reasons. As mentioned above, it is far better to know your status in advance so you can manage your life accordingly.

With Confidential testing, your name is used. Therefore, your name and other identifying information is attached to your test results, but kept private. However, health care providers, your insurance company, and, in some states, the local and/or state health department will have access to your test results, mostly for statistical purposes. 

Some people prefer to get tested for HIV without having it listed in their medical record or insurance file. Be sure to find out who will have access to your test results before you get tested. A few testing sites offer the test for free, while others charge a fee for the test. Before getting tested, make sure to ask if there is a fee involved AND whether the testing is "Anonymous" or "Confidential". 

Where to go to get tested

Depending on where you live, you can get tested at any of several places. Testing may be offered at your local: 

  • STD clinic 
  • Family planning clinic 
  • Community health center 
  • Doctor's office 
  • Hospital
  • You can also ask your health care provider or local health department for a referral. 

To find a testing site near you, we suggest you call the National Centers for Disease Control STD/HIV Hotline at (800) 342-2437. They offer nationwide (USA) test site referrals, counseling, literature (upon request), clinical trials information referrals, and a wide scope of other HIV/AIDS/STD/TB-related resource information. This is a 7 day a week, 24-hour, confidential hotline. 
You can also find a testing location online through the National HIV Resources website. 
If you opt to get tested at a clinic, etc., it is important to get tested at a place that also offers counseling about HIV and AIDS. Counselors can answer questions you may have about risky behavior and ways to protect yourself and others in the future. In addition, counselors can help you understand the meaning of test results and tell you about HIV/AIDS resources in your area. Best of luck with your results!

From: D. R. of Phoenix, AZ, USA
Question: What are rapid HIV tests? responds:
A rapid test for detecting antibody to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a screening test that produces very quick results, in 30 minutes or less. In comparison, results from the commonly used HIV antibody screening test, the enzyme immunoassay (EIA), are not available for 1-2 weeks. 

Two rapid HIV tests have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in the United States. OraQuick Rapid HIV-1 Antibody Test (OraSure Technologies, Inc., Bethlehem, Pennsylvania) was approved November 7, 2002, for use by trained personnel as a point-of-care test to aid in the diagnosis of HIV infection. OraQuick is a simple, rapid test that can detect antibodies to HIV in finger-stick whole-blood specimens and provide results in as little as 20 minutes. 

A second FDA-approved moderate-complexity rapid HIV test, Single Use Diagnostic System for HIV-1 (SUDS) (Murex-Abbott Inc., Norcross, Georgia), remains available in the United States for use with serum or plasma specimens and can produce results in 30 minutes or less. Both tests have been categorized as moderate complexity under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988. Both rapid tests are considered to be just as accurate as the EIA. 

Both the rapid test and the EIA look for the presence of antibodies to HIV. As is true for all screening tests (including the EIA), a reactive rapid HIV test result must be confirmed before a final diagnosis of infection can be given. 

From: J. L. of Las Vegas, NV, USA
Question: If I test HIV negative, does that mean that my partner is HIV negative also? responds:
No. Your HIV test result reveals only your HIV status. Your negative test result does not tell you whether your partner has HIV. HIV is not necessarily transmitted every time there is an exposure. Therefore, your taking an HIV test should not be seen as a method to find out if your partner is infected. Testing should never take the place of protecting yourself from HIV infection. If your behavior is putting you at risk for exposure to HIV, it is important to reduce your risks. 


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From: Pilli K. of Nairobi, Kenya
Question: Can I get HIV from open-mouth tongue to tongue kissing? responds: 
Open-mouth kissing is considered a very low-risk activity for the transmission of HIV. However, prolonged open-mouth kissing could damage the mouth or lips and allow HIV to pass from an infected person to a partner and then enter the body through cuts or sores in the mouth. Because of this possible risk, the CDC recommends against open-mouth kissing with an infected partner. One case suggests that a woman became infected with HIV from her sex partner through exposure to contaminated blood during open-mouth kissing. The July 11, 1997, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report contains an article with more detailed information on this case. 

There are no confirmed cases of people getting HIV from deep kissing. It might be risky, however, to kiss someone if there is a chance for blood contact - if the HIV infected person has an open cut or sore in the mouth or on the gums. It would be even more risky if both people had bleeding cuts or sores. So, use common sense - wait until any sores or cuts have healed before kissing.

From: Haroon H. of Ryadh, Saudi Arabia 
Question: Can I get HIV from kissing on the cheek? responds:
HIV is not casually transmitted, so kissing on the cheek is very safe and is an recommended way of showing affection to people you don't know well enough to open mouth kiss. Even if the other person has the virus, your unbroken skin is a good barrier. No one has become infected from such ordinary social contact as dry kisses, hugs, and handshakes. 

From: J. L. of Virginia Beach, VA, USA 
Question: Can I get HIV from performing oral sex? responds:
Yes, it is possible for you to become infected with HIV through performing oral sex. There have been a few cases of HIV transmission from performing oral sex on a person infected with HIV. While no one knows exactly what the degree of risk is, evidence suggests that the risk is less than that of unprotected anal or vaginal sex. 

Blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, and vaginal fluid all may contain the virus. Cells in the mucous lining of the mouth may carry HIV into the lymph nodes or the bloodstream. The risk increases if you have cuts or sores around or in your mouth or throat; if your partner ejaculates in your mouth; or if your partner has another sexually transmitted disease (STD). If you choose to have oral sex, and your partner is male, use a latex condom on the penis; or if you or your partner is allergic to latex, plastic (polyurethane) condoms can be used. 

Research has shown the effectiveness of latex condoms used on the penis to prevent the transmission of HIV. Condoms are not risk-free, but they greatly reduce your risk of becoming HIV-infected if your partner has the virus. 
If you choose to have oral sex, and your partner is female, use a latex barrier (such as a dental dam or a cut-open condom that makes a square) between your mouth and the vagina. Plastic food wrap also can be used as a barrier. 
The barrier reduces the risk of blood or vaginal fluids entering your mouth

From: E. H. of Wainfleet, Canada
Question: Can I get HIV from someone performing oral sex on me? responds:
Yes, it is possible for you to become infected with HIV through receiving oral sex. If your partner has HIV, blood from their mouth may enter the urethra (the opening at the tip of the penis), the vagina, the anus, or directly into the body through small cuts or open sores. While no one knows exactly what the degree of risk is, evidence suggests that the risk is less than that of unprotected anal or vaginal sex. If you choose to have oral sex, use a latex condom on the penis; or if you or your partner is allergic to latex, a plastic (polyurethane) condom can be used. 

Research has shown the effectiveness of latex condoms used on the penis for preventing the transmission of HIV. Condoms are not risk-free, but they greatly reduce your risk of becoming HIV-infected if your partner has the virus. 
If you choose to have oral sex and you are female, use a latex barrier (such as a cut-open condom that makes a square or a dental dam) between their mouth and the vagina. Plastic food wrap can also be used as a barrier. 

The USA's Centers for Disease Control has produced a very good overview on this issue called "What you should know about Oral Sex" and we highly recommend reading it if you have more detailed questions. 

From: Richa C. of Rajasthan, India
Question: I am an 18 yr. old virgin set to marry a much older man that my family has arranged. My question is, can I get HIV from having vaginal sex? responds:
Yes, it is possible to become infected with HIV through vaginal intercourse. In fact, it is the most common way the virus is transmitted in much of the world. HIV can be found in the blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, or vaginal fluid of a person infected with the virus. The lining of the vagina can tear and possibly allow HIV to enter the body. Direct absorption of HIV through the mucous membranes that line the vagina also is a possibility. The male may be at less risk for HIV transmission than the female through vaginal intercourse. However, HIV can enter the body of the male through his urethra (the opening at the tip of the penis) or through small cuts or open sores on the penis. 

Risk for HIV infection increases if you or a partner has a sexually transmitted disease (STD). For more information on this issue, see "Is there a connection between HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases?" 

If you have vaginal intercourse, use a latex condom to help protect both you and your partner from the risk of HIV and other STDs. Studies have shown that latex condoms are very effective, though not perfect, in preventing HIV transmission when used correctly and consistently. If either partner is allergic to latex, plastic (polyurethane) condoms for either the male or female can be used. 

From: V. R. of Tuskegge, AL, USA 
Question: Can I get HIV from anal sex? responds:
Yes, it is possible for either sex partner to become infected with HIV during anal sex. HIV can be found in the blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, or vaginal fluid of a person infected with the virus. In general, the person receiving the semen is at greater risk of getting HIV because the lining of the rectum is thin and may allow the virus to enter the body during anal sex. However, a person who inserts his penis into an infected partner's rectum also is at risk because HIV can enter through the urethra (the opening at the tip of the penis) or through small cuts, abrasions, or open sores on the penis. Having unprotected (without a condom) anal sex is considered to be extremely risky behavior. If people choose to have anal sex, they should use a latex condom. Most of the time, condoms work well. However, condoms are more likely to break during anal sex than during vaginal sex. Thus, even with a condom, anal sex can be risky. A person should use a water-based lubricant in addition to the condom to reduce the chances of the condom breaking. 

From: Ahmed C. of Istanbul, Turkey
Question: I am a young man of 19 and don't have a girlfriend so I masturbate. Can you get AIDS or HIV through masturbation? responds:
You cannot get AIDS or HIV by self masturbation unless you had an infected person's bodily fluids (blood, semen, etc) on your hands. To be absolute safe from any unwanted germs or diseases, use a condom. It is also safe to masturbate with someone else (touching yourselves, not each other), as long as bodily fluids don't touch one another, especially near any opening or broken skin (cut) on partners. 

From: M. D. of Philadelphia, PA, USA
Question: A friend of mine regularly shoots drugs and I keep telling him that injecting drugs is a risk for HIV. Can you explain to me why injecting drugs can cause HIV so that I can convince him to stop using drugs. responds:
At the start of every intravenous injection, blood is introduced into needles and syringes. 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 (sometimes called "direct syringe sharing") carries a high risk of HIV transmission because infected blood can be injected directly into the bloodstream. In addition, 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 water; reusing bottle caps, spoons, or other containers ("spoons" and "cookers") used to dissolve drugs in water and to heat drug solutions; or 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 of sterile syringes, 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. 
Please tell your friend he is endangering his life by continuing to use injected drugs and offer to accompany him to a drug rehabilitation center for help. 

From: Alex R. of Adelaide, Australia
Question: Can I get HIV from getting a tattoo or through body piercing? responds:
A risk of HIV transmission does exist if instruments contaminated with blood are either not sterilized or disinfected properly or are used inappropriately between clients. The CDC recommends that instruments that are intended to penetrate the skin be used once, then disposed of or thoroughly cleaned and sterilized. Personal service workers who do tattooing or body piercing should be educated about how HIV is transmitted and take precautions to prevent transmission of HIV and other blood-borne infections in their settings. If you are considering getting a tattoo or having your body pierced, ask the staff at the establishment what procedures they use to prevent the spread of HIV and other blood-borne infections, such as hepatitis B virus. You also may call the local health department to find out what sterilization procedures are in place in the local area for these types of establishments. 

From: Edmond F. of Giilan, Kosovo
Question: Should I be concerned about getting infected with HIV while playing contact sports? responds:
There are no documented cases of HIV being transmitted during participation in sports. The very low risk of transmission during sports participation would involve sports with direct body contact in which bleeding might be expected to occur. If someone is bleeding, their participation in the sport should be interrupted until the wound stops bleeding and is both antiseptically cleaned and securely bandaged. There is no risk of HIV transmission through sports activities where bleeding does not occur. 

From: E. V. of Los Angeles, CA, USA
Question: An HIV infected friend just moved in with me and my 9 yr old daughter. Can my daughter or I get HIV from casual contact (shaking hands, hugging, using a toilet, drinking from the same glass, or the sneezing and coughing of an infected person)? responds:

No. HIV is not transmitted by day-to-day contact in the home, workplace, schools, or social settings. HIV is not transmitted through shaking hands, hugging, or a casual kiss. You cannot become infected from a toilet seat, a drinking fountain, a door knob, dishes, utensils, drinking glasses, food, or pets. A small number of cases of transmission have been reported in which a person became infected with HIV as a result of contact with blood or other body secretions from an HIV-infected person in the household. Although contact with blood and other body substances can occur in households, transmission of HIV is rare in this setting. However, persons infected with HIV and persons providing home care for those who are HIV-infected should be fully educated and trained regarding appropriate infection-control techniques. HIV is not an airborne or food-borne virus, and it does not live long outside the body. HIV can be found in the blood, semen, or vaginal fluid of an infected person. The three main ways HIV is transmitted are through having sex (anal, vaginal, or oral) with someone infected with HIV, through sharing needles and syringes with someone who has HIV, through exposure (in the case of infants) to HIV before or during birth, or through breast feeding. 

For more information about HIV transmission, visit "The Facts about AIDS and HIV" and/or read the CDC's publication "HIV and Its Transmission."

From: Ahmed R. of Singapore 
Question: Can I get infected with HIV from mosquitoes? responds:
No. From the start of the HIV epidemic there has been concern about HIV transmission of the virus by biting and bloodsucking insects, such as mosquitoes. However, studies conducted by the CDC and elsewhere have shown no evidence of HIV transmission through mosquitoes or any other insects -- even in areas where there are many cases of AIDS and large populations of mosquitoes. Lack of such outbreaks, despite intense efforts to detect them, supports the conclusion that HIV is not transmitted by insects. 


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From: M. C. of Dallas, TX, USA 
Question: I'm afraid to get tested. What if I test positive for HIV? responds:
If you test positive for HIV, the sooner you take steps to protect your health, the better, so don't be afraid to get tested. 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. There are a number of important steps you can take immediately to protect your health: 

See a doctor, even if you do not feel sick. Try to find a doctor who has knowledge and experience treating HIV. You can conduct a search for an experienced Medical Doctor by using the "Treatment Providers" search page at There are now many drugs to treat HIV infection and help you maintain your health. It is never too early to start thinking about treatment possibilities. Have a TB (tuberculosis) test done. You may be infected with TB and not know it. Undetected TB can cause serious illness, but it can be successfully treated if caught early. Smoking cigarettes, drinking too much alcohol, or using illegal drugs (such as cocaine) can weaken your immune system. There are programs available that can help you reduce or stop using these substances. There is much you can do to stay healthy. Learn all that you can about maintaining good health. Call the CDC National AIDS Hotline to get additional information, order publications, and obtain referrals to local, state, and national resources that may be useful to you. The Hotline numbers are 1-800-342-2437 (English), 1-800-344-7432 (Spanish), and 1-800-243-7889 (TTY). You also can order publications and get referrals from the CDC National Prevention Information Network (operators of the National AIDS Clearinghouse) by calling 1-800-458-5231. 

From: B. L. of Scottsdale, AZ, USA
Question: I've just confirmed that I'm HIV positive. Where can I get information about treatments? responds:
We're very sorry to hear this news and wish you the best of luck during your upcoming treatment regimen. The CDC recommends that you be in the care of a doctor or medical service, ideally one with experience treating people living with HIV. You can conduct a search for an experienced Medical Doctor by using the "Treatment Providers" search page at Your doctor can provide information and guidance. Detailed information on specific treatments is available from the Department of Health and Human Services' AIDSinfo. Information on enrolling in clinical trials is also available at AIDSinfo. You may contact AIDSinfo by phone at 1-800-448-0440 (English and Spanish) or 1-888-480-3739 (TTY). 

The National AIDS hotline can offer practical information on maintaining health and general information about a wide variety of treatments, including antiretroviral and prophylaxis (preventive therapy) for opportunistic infections. The Hotline can also provide referrals to national treatment hotlines, local AIDS organizations, and HIV/AIDS-knowledgeable health care providers. The Hotline numbers are 1-800-342-2437 (English), 1-800-344-7432 (Spanish), and 1-800-243-7889 (TTY). 

From: A. J. of Chicago, Il, USA
Question: I've just been diagnosed with HIV, how can I stay healthy longer? responds:
There are many things you can do for yourself to stay healthy. Here are a few: 

Make sure you have a doctor who knows how to treat HIV. Follow your doctor's instructions. Keep your appointments. Your doctor will likely prescribe medicine for you. Take the medicine just the way he or she tells you to because taking only some of your medicine gives your HIV infection more chance to fight back. If you get sick from your medicine, call your doctor for advice - don't change how you take your medicine on your own or because of advice from friends and do not supplement the medicine with any "herbal" remedies unless you get your doctor's approval to do so. Many times these "herbal" supplements may actually inhibit your medicine's effectiveness. 

Get immunizations (shots) to prevent infections such as pneumonia and flu. Your doctor will tell you when to get these shots. If you smoke or if you use drugs not prescribed by your doctor, quit. Eat healthy foods. This will help keep you strong, keep your energy and weight up, and help your body protect itself. Exercise regularly to stay strong and fit. Get enough sleep and rest. Take time to relax. Many people find prayer or meditation, along with exercise and rest, helps them cope with the stress of having HIV infection or AIDS. 

There also are many things you can do to protect your health when you prepare food or eat, when you travel, and when you're around pets and other animals. You can read more about these things in the brochures in the CDC Opportunistic Infections Series. You can get these brochures and other information on HIV from the CDC National AIDS Hotline at (800) 342-2437. 

From: M. H. of Ft. Lauderdale, FL, USA
Question: I am newly diagnosed with HIV. What can I expect when I go to the doctor? responds:
At your first appointment your doctor will ask you questions, do a checkup, draw blood, and do a tuberculosis skin test and other tests. Your doctor also may give you some immunizations (shots). Tell your doctor about any health problems you are having so that you can get treatment. You also should ask your doctor any questions you have about HIV or AIDS, such as what to do if your medicine makes you sick, where to get help in quitting smoking or drug use, or how to eat healthy foods. 

When your doctor draws blood, it is used for many tests, including the CD4 cell count and "viral load testing." Viral load testing measures the amount of HIV in your blood. Viral load tests help predict what will happen next with your HIV infection if you don't get treatment. They are used with CD4 cell counts to decide when to start and when to change your drug therapies. Keep your follow-up appointments with your doctor. At follow-up appointments you and your doctor will talk about your test results, and he or she may prescribe medicine for you.

From: S. B. of San Francisco, CA, USA
Question: I am HIV positive. What are some of the other diseases I could get? responds:
In addition to Pneumocystis Carinii [NEW-mo-SIS-tis CA-RIN-nee-eye] Pneumonia (PCP), you also have a higher chance of getting other diseases, depending on your CD4 count. These are called "opportunistic infections" because a person with HIV can get the infection if his or her weakened immune system gives it the opportunity to develop. More than 100 germs can cause opportunistic infections. Some of these infections include:

MAC  (mycobacterium avium [my-ko-bak-TEER-i-um a-VEE-i-um] complex)
CMV  (cytomegalovirus [si-to-MEG-eh-lo-vi-res])
TB  (tuberculosis [too-burr-qu-LO-sis]) 
toxo  (toxoplasmosis [tok-so-plaz-MO-sis])
crypto  (cryptosporidiosis [krip-to-spo-rid-e-O-sis]) 

You can learn more about how to prevent the most serious opportunistic infections from the brochures in the CDC Opportunistic Infections Series, which you can get by calling the CDC National AIDS Hotline at (800) 342-2437.
Watch out for certain symptoms: breathing problems, mouth problems, such as thrush (white spots), sores, change in taste, dryness, trouble swallowing, or loose teeth, fever for more than two days, weight loss, poor vision or "floaters" (moving lines or spots in your vision) diarrhea, skin rashes or itching. Tell your doctor right away if you have any of these problems. Your doctor can treat most of your HIV-related problems, but sometimes he or she may need to send you to a specialist. Visit a dentist at least twice a year, or more often if you have mouth problems.

From: A. B. of Tacoma, WA, USA
Question: What is the treatment for HIV or AIDS? responds:
HIV and HIV-related illnesses vary from person to person. People can live with HIV for many years. Your doctor will design a medical care plan for you. Your doctor will tell you about the risks and benefits of the drugs for HIV and when you need to start taking them. Many drugs are used together to treat HIV. These drugs often include "antiretroviral" medicines. These medicines are powerful drugs, but they are not cures for HIV. If your doctor prescribes any of these drugs for you, take them exactly as prescribed.
If your HIV infection gets worse and your CD4 cell count falls below 200, you are more likely to get other infections. Your doctor will likely prescribe TMP-SMX (trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole [try-METH-o-prim - sul-fa-meth-OX-uh-zole]) - also known as Bactrim(r), Septra(r), or Cotrim(r)* - or other drugs, to prevent PCP.

Your doctor also may prescribe other drugs for you, depending on your CD4 count. Most people have no problem with these medicines. But if you get a rash or have other problems, call your doctor right away to discuss other treatments. Don't change the way you are taking any of your medicines without first talking with your doctor. If you don't take your medicines the right way, you might give your HIV infection a better chance to fight back.

From: Yekiwe P. of London, England
Question: What are the drugs available for treatment and who makes them and what do they do? responds:
Since this is a very technical question, we would like to refer you to a very easy to understand web site produced by our friends at the University of New Mexico who have graciously allowed to offer this resource to our readers at no cost. Please take a look at the relevant fact sheet entitled ANTIVIRAL DRUG NAMES for detailed information and available drugs and we're sure you'll find what you're looking for. 


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