HIV Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly is HIV? Is it the same thing as AIDs?

  • Without medication, HIV, which is short for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, can attack the immune system, weakening it over time. This makes it difficult or impossible for the body to fight off infections and some diseases. If left untreated, HIV can progress into AIDS, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, the last stage of HIV infection.

What are some of the symptoms of HIV? When do these symptoms start after exposure?

  • While some don’t exhibit any of the following, initial HIV symptoms can occur between 2 and 4 weeks after exposure and may include chills, fever, rash, muscle aches, night sweats, sore throat, mouth ulcers and more. The only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to be tested.

Is there a cure for HIV?

  • Currently, there is no cure for HIV. While this may be, modern medical treatments are extremely effective at controlling HIV and, when taken routinely, help people live long, healthy lives.

Can HIV affect how long I live?

  • In most cases, HIV can only impact your lifespan if you are not receiving treatment. Taking ART enables people living with HIV to live long, healthy lives. The CDC now issues that people living with HIV and properly treating HIV, have the same life expectancy as people not living with HIV.

What are my options for treatment?

  • Antiretroviral therapy, a.k.a. ART, is the most common treatment for HIV. When taken on a regular basis, ART can greatly reduce the content levels of HIV in a person’s blood. ART may come in the form of one pill or several to be taken together.

When should I start treatment?

  • You should begin treatment as soon as possible after receiving an HIV diagnosis. Delaying treatment may speed up the progression of HIV into AIDS, which can be life threatening.

How often do I need treatment?

  • Your healthcare provider will prescribe your treatment to you as a medication to take on a daily basis.

Do I need treatment even if I’m feeling okay?

  • Yes, even if you aren’t experiencing active symptoms of HIV after receiving your diagnosis, you need to keep up with your treatment plan.

Can I skip my treatments? What should I do if I miss a treatment?

  • Missing or skipping your HIV treatment allows HIV the opportunity to multiply and weaken your immune system. This increases your chances of becoming sick. If you forget to take a dose or miss several doses, consult with your healthcare provider or pharmacist immediately to determine the best course of action. 

Do I need to tell my employer about my HIV?

  • You aren’t required to disclose having HIV to your employer. You are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ACA), which prevents any employer from discriminating against your HIV status as long as it does not interfere with your ability to perform at your job, or directly pose risk to others.

How did I get HIV?

  • HIV is most commonly spread by anal and vaginal sexual intercourse, as well as needle or syringe use. If you recently had unprotected sex, shared needles or other methods of injection, this may be where you contracted HIV. HIV can’t be transmitted via air, water, saliva, sweat, tears, closed-mouth kissing, insects, pets or sharing toilets, food or drink.

Does living with HIV mean I can’t have sex anymore?

  • You can still enjoy a fulfilling sex life with HIV by taking extra steps to practice safe sex. This begins with taking your treatment as prescribed by your healthcare provider, as doing so can lower the levels of HIV in your blood and bodily fluids, which reduces the risks of transmission to a sexual partner. Using condoms and dental dams are also best practices to follow every time you have sex.