Share this with your newly diagnosed HIV patients.

When you have to give one of your patients this difficult heartbreaking news, they will come up with a thousand questions about HIV/AIDS and although you might try to answer them all, this is a great resource you can guide them too.   A lot of people lately have forgotten that AIDS is still killing people. It seems like all of America has forgotten that HIV is a serious disease. Maybe it’s because AIDS was more the 80’s/90’s disease. AIDS it's really... retro. It's all about cancer now. But at Discount Medical Supplies we’re sure that AIDS is just as important as cancer. Not just sure, but HIV-positive.

Frequently Asked Questions about HIV/AIDS

1.What is HIV?

HIV – or human immunodeficiency virus – is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that targets the CD4 cells – also known as T cells – in the immune system. These cells help the body fight off infections and diseases. HIV can cause AIDS when T cells numbers fall below normal levels and the body is no longer able to fight opportunistic infections or cancers.

2.What is AIDS?

Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is the last stage of human immunodeficiency virus infection.  AIDS is a chronic condition and it can be deadly without treatment. You can be diagnosed with AIDS if your CD4 cells fall below 200 cells per cubic millimeter of blood or if you develop one or more opportunistic infections, regardless of CD4 cell count.

3.What are the causes of/risk factors for HIV/AIDS?

·         Unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sexual relations with an infected person.

·         Sharing needles and syringes contaminated with infected blood.

·         Having another sexually transmitted disease.

·         Lack of circumcision increases the risk of heterosexual transmission of HIV.

·         Infected mothers can infect their babies during pregnancy or delivery or through breastfeeding.

4.What are the stages of HIV?

Stage 1

Acute infection

In the first 2-4 weeks following infection, the body responds as it naturally would to infection (i.e., flu-like symptoms). Though these symptoms may be mild, people have a heavy viral load (amount of virus in bloodstream) and are highly contagious at this stage.

Stage 2

Clinical latency

This is a period of low activity during which the virus reproduces slowly, and the patient may not experience any symptoms of feel sick – but they are still infectious. This phase can last one or more decades depending on whether the patient is on medication. At the end of this stage, T cell count drops in inverse proportion to viral load.

Stage 3


This stage is characterized by an immune system that has become so damaged that it can easily fall prey to a growing number of diseases. If left untreated, this phase can last up to 3 years and end in death.


5.What are the symptoms of HIV?

Primary infection

  • Fever.
  • Headache.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Joint pain.
  • Rash.
  • Sore throat.
  • Swollen lymph glands, especially on the neck.

Clinical latent infection

·         Persistent swelling of lymph nodes.

Early symptomatic infection

  • Fever.
  • Fatigue.
  • Swollen lymph nodes.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Weight loss.
  • Oral yeast infection.
  • Shingles.

6.What are the symptoms of AIDS?

AIDS leaves the body vulnerable to opportunistic infections. Symptoms of these infections include:

  • Soaking night sweats.
  • Recurring fever.
  • Chills.
  • Swollen lymph nodes.
  • Weakness.
  • Chronic diarrhea.
  • Persistent white spots or unusual lesions on your tongue or in your mouth.
  • Persistent, unexplained fatigue.
  • Weight loss.
  • Skin rashes or bumps.

7.What are the possible complications of HIV?

·         Tuberculosis.

·         Cytomegalovirus.

·         Candidiasis.

·         Cryptococcal meningitis.

·         Toxoplasmosis.

·         Cryptosporidiosis.

·         Kaposi’s sarcoma.

·         Lymphoma.

·         Wasting syndrome.

·         Neurological complications.

·         Kidney disease.

·         Invasive cervical cancer.

·         Coccidioidomycosis.

·         Encelopathy.

·         Herpes simplex.

·         Histoplasmosis.

·         Isosporiasis.

·         Mycobacterium.

·         Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy.

·         Salmonella.

8.How is HIV transmitted?

HIV is transmitted through the exchange of blood; semen; pre-seminal, rectal, and vaginal fluids; and breast milk. Some activities involving these bodily fluids entail a higher risk of transmission than others. In the U.S., HIV is spread thus:

More commonly:

·         Having anal (highest-risk sexual behavior) or vaginal sex (second-highest-risk sexual behavior) with someone who has HIV without using a condom or taking medications to prevent or treat HIV.

·         Sharing needles or syringes, rinse water, or other equipment used to prepare drugs for injection with someone with HIV. HIV can reside in a used needle up to 42 days depending on temperature and other factors.

Less commonly:

·         From mother to child during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding.

·         By being pricked with an HIV-contaminated needle or other sharp object.

Very rarely:

·         Oral sex.

·         Blood transfusions.

·         Swallowing food that has been previously masticated by a person with HIV.

·         Being bitten by an HIV-infected person.

·         Contact between broken skin, wounds, or mucous membranes and HIV-infected blood or blood-contaminated body fluids.

·         Deep, open-mouth kissing if both partners have sores or bleeding gums and blood from the HIV-positive partner gets into the bloodstream of the HIV-negative partner.

9.How is HIV not transmitted?

  • Mosquitoes, ticks, or other insects.
  • Saliva, tears, or sweat that is not mixed with the blood of an HIV-positive person.
  • Hugging, shaking hands, sharing toilets, sharing dishes, or closed-mouth or ‘social’ kissing with someone with HIV.
  • Other sexual activities not involving the exchange of body fluids.

10.What role do drugs play in the transmission of HIV?

Drug can enable the transmission of HIV directly and indirectly. Directly because people who inject drugs, hormones, steroids, or silicone and share needles or syringes and other injection equipment that may be contaminated with someone else’s blood are at a very high risk of contracting HIV. And indirectly because people who are high – on either injectable drugs or Ecstasy, ketamine, GHB, poppers, and other ‘club drugs’ – or drunk are more likely to have unprotected, anonymous sex with more partners

11.Can you get HVI from a tattoo or piercing?

The risk is low – in fact, no cases have been reported in the U.S. – but it does exist, especially if the person performing the procedure is unlicensed and utilizes reused or not properly sterilized equipment.

12.How is HIV diagnosed?

·         Rapid antibody screening test.

·         OraQuick HIV Test.

·         Home Access HIV-1 Test System.

·         Combination, or fourth-generation, test.

·         Nucleic acid test.

13.What is the ‘window period’?

This is the period between when a person is infected with HIV and when the infection can be accurately detected. No test can immediately detect the virus. Most tests look for antibodies and/or antigens which the body develops when exposed to HIV. Most people develop detectable antibodies in 3-12 weeks, and antigens in 2-6 weeks following infection. Conversely, nucleic acid tests can detect HIV – not antibodies – in the blood 1 to 4 weeks after infection. However, these tests are expensive and generally only used to screen people who have recently had a high-risk exposure or a possible exposure with early symptoms of HIV infection. The window period varies from person to person and also depends on the type of test.

14.Who should get tested for HIV?

·         Men who have sex with other men.

·         People who have anal or vaginal sex with a partner with HIV.

·         People who have had more than one sex partner since their last HIV test.

·         People who inject drugs and share needles with others.

·         People who exchange sex for drugs or money.

·         People who have been diagnosed with or sought treatment for another STD.

·         People who have been diagnosed with or treated for hepatitis or tuberculosis.

·         People who have had sex with someone who meets any of the above or whose sexual history is unknown.

·         Everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 at least once as part of routine health care, per the CDC.

·         All pregnant women.

15.What does a negative result mean?

A negative result doesn’t necessarily mean that you don't have HIV – nor does it necessarily mean that your partner is HIV-negative as well. Ask your healthcare provider about the window period for the test you’re taking.  If you get a test within 3 months after a potential exposure and the result is negative, get tested again in 3 more months to make sure. If you had a negative result the last time you were tested, you can only be sure you’re still negative if you haven’t had a potential exposure since the last test. 

16.What does a positive test result mean?

A follow-up test will be arranged and performed to confirm the results. The patient should start treatment as soon as they are diagnosed with HIV.

17.Does an HIV-positive diagnosis mean you have or will have AIDS?

Two words; Magic Johnson.

18.What is anonymous testing?

If you take an anonymous HIV test, you will be given a unique identifier that will allow you to get your results, and which will be the only link between you and your results. That is, no one else will know unless you choose to tell them.

19.What is confidential testing?

 If you test positive for HIV With confidential testing, The results will go in your medical record and may be, along with your name, shared with your healthcare providers and your health insurance company. Additionally, they will be reported to the state or local health department to help public officials better estimate the rates of HIV in the state. The state health department will then remove all personal information and share the remaining information with CDC. The CDC does not share this information with anyone else, including insurance companies. Moreover, the results are protected by state and federal laws, and can be released only with your permission.

20.Who should you tell about a positive test result?

You should definitely share your HIV status with your partner(s) – whether personally or via partner notification services – so that they can get tested as well (there is also the possibility of getting tested together). Other than that, it would be entirely up to you whether to tell your friends, family, and employers – though the latter are entitled to ask whether you have any conditions that could affect your performance or present a risk to coworkers.

21.How is HIV treated?

There is no cure for HIV, but the condition can be managed with antiretroviral therapy (ART). More than one class of drugs should be taken for better results, including:

  • Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs). Efavirenz (Sustiva), etravirine (Intelence) and nevirapine (Viramune).
  • Nucleoside or nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs). Abacavir (Ziagen), and the combination drugs emtricitabine-tenofovir (Truvada), and lamivudine-zidovudine (Combivir).
  • Protease inhibitors (Pis). Atazanavir (Reyataz), darunavir (Prezista), fosamprenavir (Lexiva) and indinavir (Crixivan).
  • Entry or fusion inhibitors. Enfuvirtide (Fuzeon) and maraviroc (Selzentry).
  • Integrase inhibitors. Raltegravir (Isentress), elvitegravir (Vitekta) and dolutegravir (Tivicay).

22.What are the side effects of HIV treatment?

  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Heart disease.
  • Weakened bones or bone loss.
  • Breakdown of muscle tissue.
  • Abnormal cholesterol levels.
  • Higher blood sugar levels.

23.What are the benefits of treatment?

When treatment is started early and is followed as prescribed, it can improve the length and quality of life of people with HIV, lower the risk of infecting others, and deter and even avoid the progression of HIV to AIDS. Furthermore, pregnant women with HIV who are treated early have a decreased risk of infecting their babies.

24.How can you complement HIV medical treatment?

·         Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein to support the immune system.

·         Avoid unpasteurized dairy products, raw eggs and raw seafood like oysters, sushi or sashimi to prevent foodborne illnesses.

·         Get immunized – with vaccines that do not have live viruses – to prevent the flu, pneumonia, and other infections.

·         Avoid cats, reptiles, birds, and other animals that may carry infection-causing parasites.

·         Drinking tap, filtered, or bottled water as opposed to directly from lakes or rivers.

25.Is there emergency treatment for HIV?

Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is the administration of ART drugs after potential exposure to HIV. PEP should be started within 72 hours after a recent possible exposure to HIV, and continued once or twice daily for 28 days. 

26.Who should be prescribed PEP?

People who are HIV-negative or don’t know their HIV status and who have

·         Been potentially exposed to HIV during sexual intercourse,

·         Shared needles and drug paraphernalia, or

·         Been sexually assaulted

In the previous 72 hours.

27.What are the side effects of PEP?

It may cause side effects such as nausea, but they are manageable and not dangerous.

28.How can HIV be prevented?

·         Practicing safe, responsible sex.

·         Using clean needles.

·         Getting circumcised.

·         Pre-exposure prophylaxis.

29.What is pre-exposure prophylaxis?

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a highly effective method for preventing HIV-negative people who are at very high risk for HIV from acquiring HIV from a sexual or injection-drug-using partner who is positive HIV positive – if observed consistently it can reduce the risk by 70%-90%. It revolves around the daily ingestion of prescription HIV drugs such as Truvada to keep HIV from entering the bloodstream and spreading through the body.

30.Who should consider PrEp?

·         People who are HIV-negative and in an ongoing sexual relationship with an HIV-positive partner.

·         People who aren’t in a mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who recently tested HIV-negative.

·         Gay or bisexual men who have had anal sex without a condom or been diagnosed with an STD in the past 6 months.

·         Heterosexual men or women who do not regularly use condoms during sex with partners of unknown HIV status who are at substantial risk of HIV infection.

31.How safe is PrEP?

Temporary side effects include nausea in some people. No severe adverse effects have been reported.


Related: Early symptoms of HIV