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What is HIV?
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus.
Viruses are responsible for many of the hard-to-treat ailments in our society, from the common cold and flu, to more serious conditions like AIDS.
AIDS is a disease caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. The HIV virus is spread from person to person through the exchange of contaminated body fluids, like blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and breast milk.
When HIV enters the body, it attaches itself to white blood cells (part of the immune system). The virus contains a protein that causes the white blood cells to produce new HIV cells, which attach to other white blood cells and are carried to all areas of the body.
Just like the virus that causes the common cold, HIV cannot be “cured” with medications. Furthermore, there is no vaccine to prevent infection. However, many medications do exist today that can help to keep the number of viruses in check for long periods of time. Contact your physician to discuss the treatment options that may be available to you.
What is the difference between HIV and AIDS?
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This is the virus that causes AIDS. HIV is different from most other viruses because it attacks the immune system. The immune system gives our bodies the ability to fight infections. HIV finds and destroys a type of white blood cell (T cells or CD4 cells) that the immune system must have to fight disease.
AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection. It can take years for a person infected with HIV, even without treatment, to reach this stage. Having AIDS means that the virus has weakened the immune system to the point at which the body has a difficult time fighting infections. When someone has one or more of these infections and a low number of T cells, he or she has AIDS.
Please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for more information.
How is HIV transmitted?
HIV is spread by sexual contact with an infected person, by sharing needles and/or syringes (primarily for drug injection) with someone who is infected, or, less commonly (and now very rarely in countries where blood is screened for HIV antibodies), through transfusions of infected blood or blood clotting factors. Babies born to HIV-infected women may become infected before or during birth or through breast-feeding after birth.
In the health care setting, workers have been infected with HIV after being stuck with needles containing HIV-infected blood or, less frequently, after infected blood gets into a worker’s open cut or a mucous membrane (for example, the eyes or inside of the nose). There has been only one instance of patients being infected by a health care worker in the United States; this involved HIV transmission from one infected dentist to six patients. Investigations have been completed involving more than 22,000 patients of 63 HIV-infected physicians, surgeons, and dentists, and no other cases of this type of transmission have been identified in the United States.
Some people fear that HIV might be transmitted in other ways. However, no scientific evidence to support any of these fears has been found. If HIV were being transmitted through other routes (such as through air, water, or insects), the pattern of reported AIDS cases would be much different from what has been observed. For example, if mosquitoes could transmit HIV infection, many more young children and preadolescences would have been diagnosed with AIDS.
All reported cases suggesting new or potentially unknown routes of transmission are thoroughly investigated by state and local health departments with the assistance, guidance, and laboratory support from CDC. No additional routes of transmission have been recorded, despite a national sentinel system designed to detect just such an occurrence.
How can I avoid contracting HIV?
In the United States, investments in HIV prevention have paid off. The rate of new HIV infections has slowed from more than 150,000 in the mid-1980s to around 40,000 per year now. Despite the substantial decline, the rate of new infections is still unacceptably high, making prevention (HIV testing and education) as important as ever.
The most reliable ways to avoid acquiring or transmitting HIV are:
- Abstain from sexual intercourse (i.e., oral, vaginal, or anal sex)
- Be in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner
- Abstain from sharing needles and/or syringes for nonprescription drugs
All partners should get tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) before initiating sexual intercourse. Having another STI increases, by two to five times, the likelihood a person will become infected with HIV and increases the likelihood an infected person will transmit HIV.
If a person chooses to have sexual intercourse with a partner whose infection status is unknown or who is infected with HIV or another STI, a new condom should be used for each act of insertive intercourse – oral, anal, or vaginal.
HIV and Injection Drug Users
Injection drug users, their partners, and their children account for a significant number of AIDS cases reported in the United States. Beyond abstinence, using a new, sterile needle or syringe with each injection remains the safest, most effective approach for limiting HIV and hepatitis transmission.
Can a woman with HIV give birth to a child that does not have HIV?
Pregnant women should be routinely counseled and voluntarily tested for HIV. Early diagnosis allows a woman to receive effective antiviral therapies for her own health and preventive drugs (e.g., Zidovudine, also known as ZDV) to improve the chances that her infant will be born free of infection.
HIV and the Law
What is Arkansas Law regarding exposing someone to HIV?
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus.
2010 Arkansas Code, Title 5 – Criminal Offenses, Subtitle 2 – Offenses Against The Person, Chapter 14 – Sexual Offenses, Subchapter 1 – General Provisions
§ 5-14-123 – Exposing another person to human immunodeficiency virus.
5-14-123. Exposing another person to human immunodeficiency virus.
(a) A person with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or who tests positive for the presence of human immunodeficiency virus antigen or antibodies is infectious to another person through the exchange of a body fluid during sexual intercourse and through the parenteral transfer of blood or a blood product and under these circumstances is a danger to the public.
(b) A person commits the offense of exposing another person to human immunodeficiency virus if the person knows he or she has tested positive for human immunodeficiency virus and exposes another person to human immunodeficiency virus infection through the parenteral transfer of blood or a blood product or engages in sexual penetration with another person without first having informed the other person of the presence of human immunodeficiency virus.
(c) (1) As used in this section, “sexual penetration” means sexual intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, anal intercourse, or any other intrusion, however slight, of any part of a person’s body or of any object into a genital or anal opening of another person’s body.”
(2) However, emission of semen is not required.
(d) Exposing another person to human immunodeficiency virus is a Class A felony.
When is disclosing one’s HIV status required?
Arkansas is one of the four strictest states when it comes to state laws regarding HIV disclosure. Michigan, New Jersey, and Ohio are the other three. Even if a condom is used, even if there is no emission of semen or HIV is not transmitted, sexual conduct without disclosure in Arkansas is still considered a crime, which carries severe penalties.Arkansas law requires disclosure in four defined instances:
1. Medical professionals must disclose to the Arkansas Department of Health the results of any positive test. Conversely, medical staff are required to disclose to any person who tests HIV positive.
2. An HIV positive person is required by law to disclose their HIV status to any physician or dentist prior to receiving any health care service.
3. If an HIV+ person plans to engage in sexual conduct with someone, they must disclose their status to that person prior to the act. Notice how Arkansas sexual conduct is defined in part C above.
4. If there is to be the transfer of blood or blood products (including the sharing of needles), there must be full disclosure of one’s known HIV status.
There is protection against disclosure of one’s status by medical professionals without your consent. ACT 614 in 1989 established confidentiality standards for those who test HIV positive due to the sensitive nature of an HIV diagnosis.For people living with HIV, if you have a concern regarding HIV-related discrimination, contact Lambda Legal for guidance.
Do I need an appointment for HIV testing?
Appointments are highly recommended. Rapid oral HIV testing is offered at all Positive Connections Access Centers. Available testing hours may vary by location. To schedule a testing appointment near you, contact us.
How much does HIV testing cost?
Rapid HIV testing services are free of charge.
(Confirmatory HIV blood testing at ARcare Family Practice Clinics is available on a sliding scale fee.)
Do I need to have insurance coverage for HIV testing?
No. You do not need to present any insurance information to receive rapid HIV testing with ARcare Positive Connections.
What type of HIV testing is offered at ARcare Positive Connections?
Currently, we conduct an oral swab test that requires no blood and no needles. A result is able to be read in just twenty minutes. To schedule a test with ARcare Positive Connections, contact us.
Is HIV testing at ARcare Positive Connections anonymous?
No, testing is not anonymous. ARcare Positive Connections offers confidential rapid HIV testing. Our program complies with the confidentiality requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Privacy and Security Rules implementing the Act. Unless an exception to the Act applies or you authorize the release of the information, Protected Health Information relating to your HIV/STI testing will remain confidential.
How often should I get an HIV test?
The CDC recommends all sexually active individuals get HIV screenings at least annually. People who have multiple or anonymous partners should be tested for HIV more frequently. Getting tested every 3-6 months is recommended.
My partner and I want to get our HIV tests at the same time. Can we do that?
Yes. Testing Together is an HIV testing and counseling service for people and their sexual partner. Testing together helps couples get tested and talk about safer sex together. It’s a chance for both of you to find out your current HIV status, learn how to protect each other, and talk openly and honestly about sex and your relationship! Schedule a test with ARcare Positive Connections.
I would like ARcare Positive Connections to provide HIV testing at an event. What do I need to do?
Let us know! Contact us and be sure to check “Testing Event” on the form. We will reach out to you for more information. Please be aware that although every effort is made, sometimes we are unable to attend or provide testing at specific events.
I would like ARcare Positive Connections to come and do a HIV & Sexual Health presentation in my community. What do I need to do?
Learn more about educational offerings and submit a form to request a training here.
What is PrEP/PEP?
“PrEP” stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. It is an FDA-approved prevention pill for people who don’t have HIV, but who have a greater chance of becoming HIV-positive. When taken every day, PrEP can prevent an HIV infection by over 92%. You can use PrEP with other prevention methods, like condoms, to offer more protection. For PrEP to work, people who use it must take it every day seven days a week.
Does PrEP have side effects?
The good news is most people who’ve taken PrEP reported they’ve had no side effects. However, as with any drug, it is good to know all the risks.
- About 10% of the people taking PrEP experience mild side effects at the beginning. Examples of side effects include nausea, diarrhea and headaches. These were reported to go away quickly.
- A small number of people taking PrEP may experience changes in their kidney function and in their bone density. These side effects are not common.
When on PrEP, you should check in with your doctor or medical team member regularly so they can help you with any issues you may experience. To learn more about PrEP, visit the CDC website.
How well does PrEP actually work?
When taken every day, PrEP has been proven to reduce the risk of HIV infection, in people who have a greater chance of becoming HIV-positive, by at least 92%. However, keep in mind that PrEP is much less effective if it is not taken consistently.
To learn more about PrEP, visit the CDC website.
I don’t have insurance. Can I still get PrEP without insurance?
Most insurance plans cover the cost of PrEP prescriptions, but eligible uninsured clients can utilize pharmaceutical or government assistance programs to get PrEP, often at no cost.
If you do not have insurance, you can access PrEP through a program called Ready, Set, PrEP. Ready, Set, PrEP is a nationwide program led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to expand access to PrEP medications to reduce new HIV infections in the United States by 2030 that brings us one step closer to ending the HIV epidemic in the U.S.
Contact us for more information about accessing PrEP.
Why is my cost for PrEP not the same as someone else?
Most insurance plans cover PrEP, but the monthly out-of-pocket costs can change from person to person. This depends on a few factors:
- Prescription Drug Tier: Drugs on a formulary are normally grouped into tiers. The tier it is in determines your portion of the drug cost.
- Plan Deductible: This may be Pharmacy, Medical or a mix of both. If your policy has a Pharmacy deductible, you will need to spend that amount down before your portion of the drug cost begins (prescription co-payment/co-insurance).
- Prescription Co-payment or Co-insurance: This is the fee you must pay each month for your medicine.
Contact your plan’s Member Services for specifics about your out-of-pocket costs to access PrEP.
Do I need to see an HIV specialist to start PrEP?
No, you can go to any medical provider who prescribes medication to get PrEP.
How often do I need to see my doctor while I take PrEP?
Per CDC guidelines, patients on a PrEP medication regimen are required to attend follow-up visits with their medical teams every 3 months for lab work and prescription refills.
I am ready to start using PrEP. What should I do?
Most ARcare clinics are currently able to offer PrEP as an option for HIV prevention. Contact us for more information about accessing PrEP.
I think I was exposed to HIV. What should I do?
Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) is a 28-day course of medication that is effective in preventing HIV infection when taken within 72 hours after a high-risk exposure. PEP is only available by prescription and can be accessed through the ER or through a visit with an ARcare medical provider.
I’m currently on PrEP, and I think I was exposed to HIV. Do I need PEP?
We think it’s great that you’re engaging in preventative healthcare by taking PrEP! If you have missed doses of your PrEP prescription, PEP may be right for you. You should contact your prescribing medical provider as soon as possible to discuss your potential exposure. Please keep in mind that PEP is most effective within 72 hours of an HIV exposure.
HIV Training & Education
For what topics is training offered?
Lectures focused on HIV in Arkansas, HIV Basics, PrEP, and Ending the HIV Epidemic are all offered. If you have a suggestion for an additional training topic or would like more information about scheduling an education opportunity, complete our training request form.
Do you charge for the trainings you offer?
No. Training and education for both community groups and providers is grant-funded and free of charge. However, CEUs offered for provider trainings frequently require a fee.
Do you offer Continuing Education Units (CEUs) credits for provider trainings?
Yes, CEU credits are available for doctors, nurses, social workers, and other licensed professionals for some of our trainings through the AIDS Education and Training Center (AETC). Cost and CEU details vary based on the training and your needs. Always check with your professional licensing board regarding any specific requirements. Learn more about HIV trainings and educational offerings here.
Can you provide training at my office or location?
Yes. We are happy to host training for your staff at your location. Please complete the training request form on our Provider Education page to get started.
What is the Ryan White program?
The Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program provides a comprehensive system of HIV primary medical care, essential support services, and medications for low-income people living with HIV who are uninsured and underserved. The Program funds grants to states, cities/counties, and local community-based organizations to provide care and treatment services to people living with HIV to improve health outcomes and reduce HIV transmission among hard-to-reach populations.
More than half of people living with diagnosed HIV in the United States receive services through the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program each year. That means more than half a million people received services through the Program.
More information available here.
Who was Ryan White?
The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program was named for a courageous young man named Ryan White who was diagnosed with AIDS following a blood transfusion in December 1984. Ryan White was diagnosed at age 13 while living in Kokomo, Indiana and was given six months to live. When Ryan White tried to return to school, he fought AIDS-related discrimination in his Indiana community. Along with his mother Jeanne White Ginder, Ryan White rallied for his right to attend school – gaining national attention – and became the face of public education about his disease. Surprising his doctors, Ryan White lived five years longer than predicted. He died in April 1990, one month before his high school graduation and only months before Congress passed the legislation bearing his name in August 1990 – the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act. Read more here.
How can I apply for Ryan White Services?
To apply for services, contact the ARcare Positive Connections Access Center that is nearest to you. Our staff will schedule an intake appointment with you to assist you with enrollment. Find an Access Center near you here.
Am I eligible for Ryan White Services?
People living with HIV may be eligible for Ryan White services who show Arkansas residency and who fall within the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) limitation for household income and size. Other documentation, such as proof of any insurance will be necessary. Find out more here.