HIV FAQs

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HIV Testing and Counseling services are provided by State Office of AIDS Certified Counselors utilizing the “ouchless” OraSure testing method.
Services are available for Adults & Adolescents

Facts About HIV

What is HIV?

HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. It is the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. Usually a person has the virus for months or years before any signs of illness appear. It slowly weakens the body’s ability to fight off illness. People with AIDS can have serious infections and cancers. These illnesses make them very sick and can eventually kill them.

How does someone get HIV?

HIV spreads through blood, semen and vaginal secretions from infected people. People get HIV from contact with these fluids. Contact can come from unsafe sex. It can also come from used needles and syringes. Infected women can pass the virus to their babies during pregnancy, childbirth and breast feeding. Some people who received blood products from 1978 to 1985 got infected blood. Now blood tanks test all blood for HIV before they use it.

How can I avoid getting infected?

  • Avoid unsafe sex. Many of the things that feel good are safe because no blood, semen or vaginal secretions get into the body. This includes hugging, cuddling, kissing, fantasizing, masturbation and massage.
  • Use latex condoms. Reduce your risk by using a latex condom (rubber) from start to finish every time you have sex.
  • Use spermicides. Spermicides found in birth control foams and jellies are best used along with condoms, not in place of them.
  • Use only water-based lubricants. Lubricants containing oil, like Vaseline┬« petroleum jelly, can damage a condom and cause it to break.
  • Never share needles. If you shoot drugs, seek help to stop.
  • Don’t mix alcohol or other drugs with sex. They might cloud your judgment and lead you to unsafe sex.

The Fact is…

  • There are approximately one million people infected with HIV in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). This is one in every 250 people.
  • In 1992, close to 35 percent of all AIDS cases reported to the CDC were associated with drug injection. In addition, more than 80 percent of all HIV-positive women inject drugs or have sexual partners who do.
  • CDC reports, about two million heterosexual men and women put themselves at risk for getting infected with HIV through intravenous drug use and engaging in risky (i.e. unprotected) sexual behavior.
  • The reason people who inject drugs and share drug-injecting equipment are at high-risk for becoming infected is because needles and syringes often transfer HIV-infected blood among drug users.
  • Some drug users also put themselves at risk for HIV by trading sex for cocaine and other non-injected drugs. In doing so, they have multiple sex partners and do not use protection.
  • Alcohol and drug use often results in impaired judgment. This may lead people to engage in unprotected sex, and this puts them at risk for HIV infection.
  • Studies done by the CDC in New York City and Miami found the young crack users who had never injected drugs or had male homosexual intercourse were still at high-risk for HIV infection — particularly the females. In fact, 32 percent of crack-using women got HIV in NYC and 45 percent in Miami, compared with 11 percent of crack-using males in both places.

About Orasure Testing

What is OraSure?

The OraSure HIV-1 oral specimen collection device is an easy way to get tested for HIV infection. OraSure requires no blood or needles. The process only takes a few minutes. Like a blood test. OraSure checks for HIV antibodies, not the virus.

A trained professional (your tester) will show you what to do. Your tester will give you a special OraSure pad with a handle. Using the handle, you place the pad between your cheek and gum. Rub it gently back and forth until moist. Then leave it in place for two minutes. After two minutes, your tester will ask you to put the pad into a vial. The pad goes to a medical lab for testing.

How accurate is OraSure?

Doctors and clinics tested OraSure in thousands of people. The tests showed the OraSure system is more than 99% accurate. Even so, false results can occur with any test. Be sure to discuss your results with your health care provider.

How can you test for HIV in your mouth if you can’t get HIV from saliva?

OraSure checks for HIV antibodies, not the virus. A blood test works the same way. Saliva has never been known to infect anyone with HIV.

Why should I get tested?

You cannot tell by looking at someone whether he or she has HIV. The virus takes time to show its effects. A person can have HIV for ten years or more before the symptoms of AIDS appear. Anyone can have the virus without knowing it. The only way to be sure, for yourself and your loved ones, is to take the test.

What should I know before I test?

Your health care provider is the best person to answer your questions about HIV, the OraSure HIV-1 antibody test and other testing options. HIV antibody testing can be performed on either an OraSure sample or a blood sample. Ask your health care provider for the information you need to make good choices….

How private is my test result?

  • Ask your health care provider how they will keep your test results private. Most clinics provide either confidential or anonymous testing.
  • Confidential testing means the clinic keeps your record secret from everybody except health professionals. In some states, they must report results to the health department.
  • Anonymous testing means no one asks your name. You are the only one who can tell anyone else your result. Anonymous testing is not available everywhere.

What does a negative result mean?

A negative result means the lab found no HIV antibodies in your sample. If you had no risks for HIV in the six months before your test, you probably don’t have HIV. A risk is contact with blood, semen or vaginal fluids from a person who may have HIV. You can stay free of HIV by following prevention guidelines. Read “How can I avoid getting infected?” Talk to your health care provider about your result.

If you had any risks for HIV in the six months before your test, it is still possible that you have HIV. This is because your body can take six months after you are infected to make HIV antibodies. Get tested again in three to six months to be sure you’re not infected. Practice safe sex. Ask your health care provider to help you understand what your result means for you.

What does a positive result mean?

A positive result means you have HIV infection and you can benefit from special medical care. New treatments can keep you healthy, even though you have HIV. See a doctor, even if you don’t feel sick. A doctor can help you stay healthy and live longer. Other tests can tell you how strong your immune system is and what treatments might be best for you. Some people stay healthy for a long time with HIV. Others become ill more rapidly. Be careful not to pass HIV on to others.

What does an indeterminate result mean?

Once in a while, test results are unclear. The lab cannot tell whether they are positive or negative. This can happen even if the test was done exactly right. It does not happen often. If you get this result, you will need more tests to know whether you have HIV.

Where Can I get More Information?

You may contact CORR for your confidential HIV counseling appointment, speak with your health care provider or call the National AIDS Hotiline at 800-342-AIDS800-342-AIDS (800-342-2437800-342-2437). The National AIDS Hotline can give you quick, private answers at any time, day or night.

Information courtesy of Join Together & Epitope, Inc.