Miscellaneous brochures


What is HIV?

Human Immunodeficiency Virus 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.

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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” (OIs), 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.” AIDS may be reversed by antiretroviral medications.

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How does someone get HIV?

In the U.S., 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.

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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, greatly reduce the risk of 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. Birth control pills do not protect you from HIV.
  • 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.
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Is there a cure or vaccine for HIV/AIDS?

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

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

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 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 also is infected with another STD, that person is more likely than other people who are infected with HIV to transmit the virus through sexual contact.

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Are there groups in Central Virginia where HIV positive individuals can work in their communities to help prevent the spread and fear of AIDS from growing?

Yes, there are several groups in the community doing this type of work. (Visit our PACOCV page.) For more information, you can contact the VCU HIV/AIDS Center at (804) 828-2234.

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How can I get testing for HIV?

Ask your doctor. Confidential HIV Antibody Testing is available by calling (804) 840-8835 for an appointment. It is free of charge.

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I am aware that sharing needles is one method of HIV transmission. Is this the only HIV/AIDS-risk associated with drug use?

No, all mind altering substances can temporarily reduce your anxiety and inhibitions. This lack of control/caring can cause you to act in ways that you would not normally, thereby placing yourself at risk of contracting the disease.

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I am a health care professional, and my patient population is increasingly HIV positive. Where can I go to receive training, information or consultations on treating this type of patient?

The HIV/AIDS Center at Virginia Commonwealth University has two educational programs: the Virginia HIV/AIDS Resource and Consultation Center and the Virginia Local Performance Site of the Pennsylvania/Mid-Atlantic AIDS Education Training Center. Each of these organizations can provide health care professionals with training programs tailored to meet their learning needs. See VHARCC and PA/MAAETC. Medical consultations are available.

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