The Lansing Area AIDS Network
913 West Holmes, Suite 115, Lansing, MI 48910
(517) 394-3560

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The Facts

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What is HIV?

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the virus that causes AIDS, or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. HIV harms the body's immune system by attacking certain cells, known as helper T cells or CD4 cells, which defend the body against illness.

What is AIDS?

AIDS, or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, occurs when an individual's immune system is weakened by HIV to such an extent that the individual develops one or more of about 25 "opportunistic infections", conditions that take advantage of a weakened immune system. When this happens, a person who is HIV positive is considered to have developed AIDS, or to have an "AIDS diagnosis". They may also have developed AIDS if their CD4 cells (a special type of white blood cells that fight infection) have fallen to a certain level and/or the amount of virus in their body has reached a certain level.

What is the difference between HIV and AIDS?

HIV is the virus that causes AIDS, the most advanced stage of HIV disease. A weakened immune system caused by HIV will allow opportunistic infections to develop. A healthy immune system would normally fight these infections, while an HIV-weakened immune system is susceptible to them.

How does someone get HIV?

In the United States, most people get HIV through unprotected sex, including vaginal, anal and oral sex, and through injection drug use. Certain body fluids including blood, pre-ejaculation, semen, and vaginal secretions, can spread HIV. An HIV infected woman can pass HIV to her baby through pregnancy or delivery, as well as through breast milk. HIV cannot be spread by casual contact such as hugging or shaking hands. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), contact with saliva, tears, or sweat has never resulted in HIV transmission.

What are ways to reduce the risk of getting HIV?

  • Choose not to have sex, or make an agreement with a partner who is HIV-negative to be sexually faithful to each other, and stick to it. If you or your partner is HIV-positive, talk with your health care provider about how to reduce your risk, including using latex condoms or dental dams. Latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, are highly effective in preventing transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. In addition, correct and consistent use of latex condoms can reduce the risk of other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
  • Always use a condom for vaginal or anal sex, and barrier methods, such as a condom or dental dam, for oral sex.
  • If you are HIV-positive and are pregnant, see your health care provider to get appropriate treatment. Treatments are available to significantly reduce the risk of passing HIV to your child during pregnancy and delivery.
  • Do not share needles or syringes for any kind of injection drug use.
  • Get Tested! Ask partners to do the same.

Is there a cure or vaccine for HIV/AIDS?

At this time there is neither a cure nor a vaccine for HIV. However, new treatments are available that have been found to be highly effective at keeping infected people healthy longer and in delaying the onset of AIDS.

Is there a link between HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)?

According to the Center for Disease Control, people with STDs may be more likely to contract HIV. STDs, such as herpes, that can cause open sores are especially risky; however, STDs that do not cause open sores also pose a threat. In addition, if someone with HIV is also infected with another STD, that person is more likely than other people who are infected with HIV to transmit the virus through sexual contact.