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General Information

General Information

What exactly is HIV?

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks the body’s immune
system and weakens it over time. As a result, it’s difficult, or even impossible, for
the body to fight off infections and some diseases. HIV can become AIDS
(Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), the last stage of HIV infection, if left

What are the symptoms of HIV?
Some people may never exhibit any symptoms, however, those that do may
have chills, fever, rash, muscle aches, night sweats, sore throat, mouth ulcers,
and more. These symptoms can occur between two and four weeks after

Does HIV have a cure?
No, there is currently no cure for HIV. But there are modern medical treatments
that can effectively control HIV and help people live long, healthy lives when
taken regularly.

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Can HIV affect how long a person lives?
HIV can only affect a person’s lifespan if they are not getting treatment. Failure to
do so will result in HIV progressing to AIDS, which is potentially fatal.

Are there treatment options for HIV?
The most common treatment is antiretroviral therapy (ART), which, if taken on a
regular basis, can greatly reduce the content levels of HIV in a person’s blood.
ART may come in the form of one pill or several that must be taken together.

When should a person start HIV treatment?
Treatment should be started as soon as possible after an HIV diagnosis. If
treatment is delayed, the progression of HIV into AIDS could be sped up, and this
is potentially life-threatening.

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A More In-Depth Look at HIV & AIDS

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

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks the body’s immune
system, which weakens it over time. The result is that it becomes difficult or even
impossible for the body to fight off infections and some diseases. Some people
with HIV may develop an opportunistic infection, where their CD4 count goes
below 200. CD4 count represents the amount of white blood cells that can fight
infections. HIV may be categorized as AIDS in either situation. Talk to your
medical provider for more information.

What are some of the symptoms of HIV and when do they start after

Many people don’t show any symptoms of HIV. But for those that do, initial
symptoms may occur between two and four weeks after exposure. This can
include chills, fever, rash, muscle aches, fatigue, sore throat, and more. Some
people have compared it to having the flu or a bad cold. Unfortunately, there is
no cure for HIV, but it can be very effectively controlled by modern medical
treatments, which, when taken regularly, can help people live long and healthy

What are my options for treatment?
Medical professionals can provide a combination of medications called
antiretroviral therapy (ART). ART can help lower the amount of HIV in your blood
and can come in the form of pills or an injection. Treatment should begin as soon
as possible after an HIV diagnosis, with any delay to treatment possibly resulting
in serious illness or infections the body may not be able to fight on its own. Your
healthcare provider can prescribe your treatment as a medication to take daily.

What if I feel okay? What if I miss or skip a treatment?
After receiving your diagnosis, you need to keep up with your treatment plan,
even if you aren’t experiencing active HIV symptoms. Missing a treatment may
give the virus the chance to multiply and further weaken your immune system,
thus increasing your chances of becoming sick. If you miss or forget to take more
than one dose, consult with your healthcare provider or pharmacist immediately
to determine the best course of action.

What if I can’t afford medications or treatments?
Programs are available from pharmaceutical companies to help you find financial
resources to pay for treatments. Whether you have insurance or not, you can
search for cost-sharing programs at If you don’t
have a medical provider, we can connect you with trusted providers at A Take Control HIV member will reach out to you within
72 hours of submission.

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Do I need to tell my employer that I have HIV?
No, you are not required to disclose having HIV to your employer. The Americans
with Disabilities Act (ADA) prevents employers from discriminating against your
HIV status.

How do I tell others I have HIV?
Your status is your information to share, and the decision is yours alone to make.
In Pennsylvania, you are not required to disclose your HIV status. Talk to sexual
partner(s), family, friends, your support group, and whomever may be at risk
themselves when you are ready to do so. This may be a difficult conversation,
but sharing your status with others helps to reduce the stigma surrounding HIV.

How is HIV spread?
HIV is spread through semen, vaginal fluid, blood, and breast milk. In most
cases, people get HIV through unprotected sex or sharing needles. HIV cannot
be transmitted through air, water, saliva, sweat, tears, insects, pets, or sharing
toilets, food, or drinks.

Does living with HIV mean I can’t have sex anymore?
You are still able to enjoy a fulfilling sex life with HIV, but extra steps must be
taken to practice safe sex. First, take your treatment as prescribed by your
healthcare provider. This can lower the levels of HIV in your blood and bodily
fluids, which reduces the risks of transmission to a sexual partner. Use condoms
and dental dams every time you have sex. To help keep your partner(s) negative,
talk to them about taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to help reduce their
risk of getting HIV. The use of condoms during any sexual activity can also
minimize exposure to the virus. Staying up to date with your treatments and
medications, resulting in an undetectable viral load, will help diminish the risk of

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Is it true if I am undetectable, I cannot pass the virus on to my sexual

Yes. Once you have reached and maintained an undetectable status, the
transmission of HIV through sex can be prevented. If you had unprotected sex,
you could reduce the risk of your partner contracting HIV by getting PrEP from an
emergency room, health clinics, Planned Parenthood health centers, and
doctor’s offices. Call to ensure they have PrEP in stock. PrEP must be taken
within 72 hours of exposure.

Remember that you are not alone. Talk to others who are also HIV positive or
visit these resources for support:

  • Take Control HIV
  • AIDS Resource

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