HIV/AIDS Basics

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.

 

The Ryan White Program


The HIV Care Program is funded through the Ryan White Care Acts Part B, Part C, and Part D Grants, and through the HOPWA and CDC HIV Prevention Grants. We network with other agencies in our area to provide services needed by our clients.

Download the Client Enrollment Information Packet.

Learn more about the Ryan White Program and governmental HIV/AIDS services.

Who Was Ryan White?

Ryan White courageously fought AIDS-related discrimination and helped educate the nation about HIV/AIDS.

Ryan White was diagnosed with AIDS at age 13. He and his mother, Jeanne White Ginder, fought for his right to attend school, gaining international attention as a voice of reason about HIV/AIDS. At the age of 18, Ryan died on April 8, 1990, just months before Congress passed the AIDS bill that bears his name – the Ryan White CARE (Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency) Act, now called the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program.

Learn more about Ryan’s early years of struggle, pain, and triumph.

About the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program

The Ryan White Program works with cities, states, and local community-based organizations to provide HIV-related services to more than half a million people each year. The program is for individuals living with HIV/AIDS who have no health insurance (public or private), who have insufficient health care coverage, or who lack financial resources to get the care they need for their HIV disease. As such, the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program fills gaps in care not covered by other funding sources.

The majority of Ryan White funds support primary medical care and essential support services. A smaller but equally critical portion funds technical assistance, clinical training, and research on innovative models of care.

The Ryan White legislation created a number of programs, called Parts, to meet needs for different communities and populations affected by HIV/AIDS:

  • Part A provides emergency assistance to Eligible Metropolitan Areas and Transitional Grant Areas that are most severely affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
  • Part B provides grants to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and 5 U.S. Pacific territories or associated jurisdictions. In Arkansas, this is managed by the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) and through their subcontractors (ARcare and Jefferson Comprehensive Care).
  • Part C provides comprehensive primary health care in an outpatient setting for people living with HIV disease. Part C Grantees in Arkansas include ARcare in Northeast Arkansas, Jefferson Comprehensive Care in Southeast Arkansas, and East Arkansas Family Clinic in West Memphis.
  • Part D provides family-centered care involving outpatient or ambulatory care for women, infants, children, and youth with HIV/AIDS. Part D Grantees in Arkansas include ARcare and Jefferson Comprehensive Care.
  • Part F provides funds for a variety of programs:
    • The Special Projects of National Significance Program Grants fund innovative models of care and support the development of effective delivery systems for HIV care.
    • The AIDS Education and Training Centers Program supports a network of 11 regional centers and several national centers that conduct targeted, multidisciplinary education and training programs for health care providers treating people living with HIV/AIDS. ARcare and Jefferson Comprehensive participate.
    • The Dental Programs provide additional funding for oral health care for people with HIV. No programs are in Arkansas since there is no dental school in the state.
    • The Minority AIDS Initiative provides funding to evaluate and address the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS on African-Americans and other minorities. All three Part C Grantees are also funded under the Minority AIDS Initiative.

For more information, download Program Fact Sheets.

Overview of the Ryan White Legislation

The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program is the largest federal program focused exclusively on HIV/AIDS care. First enacted in 1990 as the Ryan White CARE (Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency) Act, the legislation authorizes programs, called Parts. The purpose is to provide a flexible structure under which this national program can address HIV/AIDS care needs on the basis of:

  • Different geographic areas (large metropolitan areas, states, and communities across the nation)
  • Varying populations hit hardest by the epidemic
  • Types of HIV-AIDS-related services
  • Service system needs (e.g., technical assistance for programs, training of clinicians, research on innovative models of care)

Legislative provisions (called Sections) address, for example, planning and decision making, type of grants that are available, what funds may be used for, requirements for entities submitting applications for funding, and available technical assistance to help programs run more effectively.

The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program is administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), HIV/AIDS Bureau (HAB).

 

HIV Links And Resources

ARcare is committed to educating Arkansas communities about HIV. Please contact us if you are interested in our HIV education or lecture programs. We invite you to explore these links about HIV and AIDS to learn more.

HIV Basics
HIV Prevention
Living with HIV
Arkansas HIV Resources
More HIV Sites

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