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HIV/AIDS

What is HIV?
What is AIDS?
What are the symptoms?
How do people get infected with HIV?
How can I avoid becoming infected with HIV?
Is there a cure or treatment?
How is HIV detected?
Who should be tested for HIV?
What do the test results mean?
What types of services are available to people diagnosed with HIV or AIDS?
How many people in Northern Kentucky have been diagnosed with HIV?
Where can I get more information on HIV/AIDS?

What is HIV?
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS if not treated. Unlike some other viruses, the human body can’t get rid of HIV completely, even with treatment. So once a person gets HIV, he/she has it for life.

What is AIDS?
AIDS is the most severe phase of HIV infection. People with AIDS have such badly damaged immune systems that they get an increasing number of severe illnesses, called opportunistic illnesses.

What are the symptoms?

The only way to know for sure whether you have HIV is to get tested. Knowing your status is important because it helps you make healthy decisions to prevent getting or transmitting HIV.

Some people with HIV may experience a flu-like illness within two to four weeks after infection. But some people may not feel sick during this stage. Flu-like symptoms include fever, chills, rash, night sweats, muscle aches, sore throat, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, or mouth ulcers. These symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks. During this time, HIV infection may not show up on an HIV test, but people who have it are highly infectious and can spread the infection to others. The only way to know if someone is infected with HIV to get tested for HIV.

Symptoms of AIDS include chills, fever, sweats, swollen lymph glands, weakness and weight loss. People with AIDS can be very infectious.

How do people get infected with HIV?

The HIV virus is in blood, semen, anal and vaginal fluids, and breast milk of an infected person who is not on successful treatment. A person can get infected with HIV if:

HIV can be transmitted by an infected mother to her baby, probably during delivery, particularly if the mother is not on successful treatment or does not know her status.

How can I avoid becoming infected with HIV?

There are many things people can do to protect themselves from getting infected, including practicing abstinence, limiting the number of sexual partners, never sharing needles, and using condoms the right way every time you have sex. Additionaly, medications such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) may prevent HIV infection.

Is there a cure or treatment?
Although there is no cure for HIV infection, there are treatment options that can help people living with HIV experience long and productive lives. Once diagnosed and one treatment, a person can stay very healthy.  If diagnosed early enough, the infected person on successful treatment may never progress from HIV to AIDS. Further, a person on a successful HIV treatment program may also greatly reduce his/her ability to infect others with HIV.

How is HIV detected?
There are a number of ways to test for HIV, including a blood draw, finger stick, oral swab or home kits. The Health Department uses an HIV screening test that provides results within the same visit. If HIV is found during that screening, blood will be collected to send for confirmation.  Learn more and schedule your appointment for HIV testing by the Health Department.

HIV testing is also available through local health care providers. It is covered by most insurance programs, Medicaid and Medicare.

Who should be tested for HIV?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all sexually active adults, aged 13-64, have at least one HIV test in their lifetime and annually thereafter based on a person’s life choices. Some people may need to be tested every six months. 

Individuals who have had condomless sex or shared needles, for any reason at least once, should be tested for HIV.

What do the test results mean?

HIV testing typically has two results, negative and positive.

Negative means that no HIV was found at the time of the test. There is a time period when a person may be infected but the test can't yet detect the HIV infection. Individuals who fall into this window should be tested again, typically in three months.

Positive means HIV infection is present and has been confirmed. This means you have HIV and will start treatment for HIV.  The Health Department will assist you with getting the care from an HIV specialist that you need.  Find out more about HIV case management services.

What types of services are available to people diagnosed with HIV or AIDS?
The Health Department offers case management services for those residing in Boone, Campbell, Kenton, Grant, Pendleton, Owen, Carroll, and Gallatin counties who have been diagnosed with HIV or AIDS. Learn more.

How many people in Northern Kentucky have been diagnosed with HIV?
Through June 2015, a total of 750 Northern Kentucky residents have been diagnosed with HIV.  Of those, 494 are belived to be living with HIV.

Where can I get more information on HIV/AIDS?
Contact the Health Department's HIV Health Educator at 859.363.2085 or visit:
Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services HIV/AIDS Branch
National HIV and STD Testing Resources
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
AVERT
Project Inform
PrEP(Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis)
PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis)

Sources: Northern Kentucky Health Department, Kentucky Department for Public Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention