HIV/AIDS and Syphilis FAQ Page

What is HIV?

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.

The immune system is the body’s defense system. While many viruses can be controlled by the immune system, HIV targets and infects the cells that protect us from illnesses. These are a type of white blood cells called CD-4 cells (sometimes called T-cells). HIV takes over CD-4 cells and turns them into factories that produce thousands of copies of the virus. As the virus makes copies, it damages or kills the CD-4 cells, weakening the immune system.

What Is AIDS?

AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. AIDS is the most advanced stages of HIV infection. When does HIV become AIDS? A person can be HIV+ for many years with no health problems. But without medical treatment, HIV will wear down the immune system and a person will develop AIDS.

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Prevent the Spread of HIV

The spread of HIV can be prevented! Knowing the basics helps you avoid getting the virus from a partner if you are HIV-negative, and avoid giving it to someone else if you are HIV-positive.

HIV is spread through the following body fluids:

  • Blood (including menstrual blood)
  • Semen (male sexual fluids from the penis)
  • Vaginal fluids (female sexual fluids from the vagina)
  • Breast milk

You can reduce the risk of spreading HIV by:

  • Avoiding contact with sexual fluids by always practicing safe sex, i.e.: use condoms.
  • Abstaining from sex unless you and your partner are both HIV-negative and in a long-term, monogamous relationship
  • Not injecting drugs, or if you do, always using a new or clean needle

How do I get tested?

There are several types of HIV tests. The most common is the HIV antibody test which looks for special fighting cells called antibodies that appear in your blood, urine, and oral fluid when you have been infected with HIV. When you get tested for HIV, you will usually give a sample of your blood or a swab of fluids from your mouth. Many testing locations use a rapid HIV antibody test. The rapid test gives very accurate results in about 20 minutes. It is important to remember it can take up to three months after the last possible exposure to HIV before a person has enough antibodies in their system to test positive if they are positive. Also, HIV is most infectious in the earliest weeks after HIV infection, and because HIV antibody tests cannot definitely confirm infection earlier than three months, individuals should avoid unprotected sex or sharing needles.

The health information from your test is confidential (private). Without your written permission, only certain people, such as your health care provider or public health care provider may see the results.

Many hospitals, doctor’s offices, clinics, public health departments and community based organizations offer HIV testing free of charge or at a reduced cost. Please visit Prevent HIV/STD Ohio to find a test site near you.

>>Take the HIV/STD Survey here on WizNation and earn a chance for a $250 Gift Card

What is Syphilis?

What is it?

Syphilis (sif-i-lis) is a sexually transmitted disease caused by a type of bacteria. Syphilis transmission occurs when a person has direct contact with a syphilis chancre (painless sore). This can happen during oral, anal or vaginal sex, during foreplay, even with no penetrative sex (much less common) or a pregnant mother with syphilis can pass it to her fetus. Not having sex is the only way to be sure to not get infected with syphilis. However always practicing safe sex can help reduce the risk of getting syphilis. The highest risk groups include individuals between the ages of 15 and 34, African Americans, men who have sex with men (MSM), and HIV-infected individuals.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of syphilis are very specific based on the stage of infection.

Primary syphilis: The first sign of a syphilis infection is a skin sore called a chancre (shank-er) which usually shows up 10-90 days after exposure. Chancres typically appear on or around the area that was first infected so common areas for chancres are the scrotum, penis, vagina, and anus and in or around the mouth. A chancre might not be visible to the individual because it can be inside the anus or vagina. The sores are not painful and disappear after several weeks without treatment. This doesn’t mean that the infection has been cured. An individual infected with syphilis must be treated with antibiotics to be cured.

Secondary syphilis: Secondary signs and symptoms of syphilis occur 3-6 months after infection. A body rash is a common symptom in this stage. The rash is identified by its location: the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. It is not itchy and can disappear without treatment. Secondary syphilis symptoms may also include mucous patches which are infectious and can occur in any moist area of the body such as mouth or the side of the tongue. Other noticeable symptoms of a secondary infection include patchy hair loss. These symptoms may disappear without treatment, but this doesn’t mean the infection has been cured. An individual infected with syphilis must be treated with antibiotics to be cured.

Tertiary syphilis: This later stage of syphilis infection doesn’t have any specific signs or symptoms, but can cause serious damage to various organs and body systems. Commonly the brain, heart, liver and bones are involved, causing paralysis, mental problems such as dementia, blindness, deafness, heart failure, and possibly death.

Many hospitals, doctor’s offices, clinics, public health departments and community based organizations offer HIV testing free of charge or at a reduced cost. Please visit Prevent HIV/STD Ohio to find a test site near you.

http://preventhivstdohio.com/index.php/test/testing-sites

>>Take the HIV/STD Survey here on WizNation and earn a chance for a $250 Gift Card

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