ARcare

HIV Information & Resources

About HIV/AIDS

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is an infection that gradually destroys the immune system and progresses to AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). HIV is primarily spread from an infected person to another during sexual activity, needle sharing, and transmission between a mother and baby during or after pregnancy.

For the vast majority of people, HIV leads to AIDS. AIDS is the final stage of HIV and results in death. While there is no cure for HIV or AIDS, there are medications that can help people live longer and with a better quality of life than ever before. You can help stop the spread of HIV by being tested and preventing the spread of HIV to others or by taking precautions to prevent being infected with HIV.

ARcare is committed to HIV/AIDS community awareness by participating in outreach activities, such as education seminars and health fairs. Do you know what your HIV/AIDS status is? Call the office nearest you to make a confidential appointment to find out.

Read about HIV and AIDS in our patient education library.

Pathology of HIV

The white blood cells and antibodies in your body fight and destroy infections. Certain cells (CD4 lymphocytes) coordinate your body’s immune response. CD4 cells are also called T-cells or helper cells. HIV targets the CD4 cells. HIV enters the CD4 cells, inserts its own genetic material, and replicates itself. The new HIV cells enter the blood stream, target more CD4 cells, and the replication process repeats itself, while at the same time lowering the number of CD4 cells.

As the number of CD4 cells decrease, the body becomes more vulnerable to and less capable of fighting infections. An HIV infection advances to the definition of AIDS when the CD4 blood count drops to 200 or less or certain infections develop because the immune system is not functioning properly.

Causes of HIV

HIV is a viral infection that is transmitted from an infected person to another person. HIV is transmitted in several ways, including:

  • Sexual activity: male and female, male and male, female and female (vaginal sex, anal sex, oral sex, sharing "sex toys")
  • Needle sharing
  • Accidental needle sticks by healthcare workers
  • Rarely by infected blood products
  • Transmission between a mother and baby during or after pregnancy
  • The spermicide nonoxynol-9 that is used in gels or on some types of condoms can actually irritate
  • The vagina can cause tears that allow HIV to enter the body
  • In rare cases, HIV may be transmitted by organ or tissue transplant or unsterilized dental or surgical equipment.
  • People with STDs that cause sores have a higher risk of getting HIV.

Symptoms of HIV

Initially, most people with HIV experience flu-like symptoms, although some people do not. The initial flu-like symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Rash
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen lymph nodes

People with HIV may not have symptoms for many years, but may transmit HIV to others during their symptom-free period. As HIV suppresses the immune system, life-threatening infections, such as pneumonia or cancers, develop.

For the vast majority of people who are not treated with medications, HIV results in AIDS. AIDS is the final stage of HIV and usually results in death if not treated. There are however, a very small percentage of people that appear to develop AIDS more slowly or not at all.

Diagnosing HIV

You can be tested for HIV with a simple blood or oral mucus test. You should be tested if you suspect that you may have been exposed to HIV or if you are at risk for contracting HIV. It is important to know your HIV status for your own health but also to prevent the spread to other people.

You may be advised to be tested for HIV again because it can take the infection three to six months after initial infection to produce positive test results. The Centers for Disease Control encourages:

  • Routine testing for people between the ages of 13 to 64
  • Everyone should be tested at least once. People in high-risk groups should be tested each year.
  • You should be tested for HIV and STDs if you have been raped.
  • Women who are thinking about becoming pregnant or who are pregnant should be tested as well.

You can receive confidential HIV testing at ARcare offices regardless of your ability to pay. Contact us to learn more.

HIV Treatment

The focus of treatment is to suppress the HIV infection for as long as possible. Although there is no cure for HIV or AIDS, medications can help to keep the amount of virus in the blood very low. HAART therapy has helped people live longer and with a better quality of life than ever before. Over time, HIV may become less responsive to HAART. Salvage therapy, the combination of different medications, is used to treat drug-resistant HIV.

It can be helpful to participate in counseling with professionals that are familiar with HIV and AIDS. They can provide you and your loved ones with support and education. It is important that you learn how to prevent spreading the disease to others. It is also important to learn how to advocate for and access the services and possible funding assistance that may help you. Learn about ARcare's financial assistance and support programs, including AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP Medication).

To read detailed information about HIV/AIDS, please visit our patient education library.

To receive confidential HIV testing, call the HIV office nearest you.

HIV Resources/Links