Affinity Health Plan

  • Health Awareness Series: December 2016 - HIV

    December 01, 2016

    When HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) was first discovered in the 1980s, having it was a death sentence. Today, the HIV infection can be managed as a chronic disease, like diabetes.  However, if you are not careful, HIV can be spread from person to person. Diabetes cannot.  With the best of care, people can live almost as long as those without HIV.1   And although HIV can be treated, it cannot be cured. Once you have HIV, you have it for life.

    It is vital to know how to prevent and treat HIV.

    What is HIV?
    HIV is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system. Once weakened, the body cannot fight off infections and diseases. While HIV cannot be cured, it can be controlled. In 2016, there are drugs that treat HIV. Untreated, HIV can become AIDS. AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, and it’s the final stage of an HIV infection. Not everyone who has HIV will develop AIDS.

    How is HIV spread?
    HIV is spread when body fluids from someone with HIV get into the body of someone who does not have HIV.  This happens by having unprotected sex,  sharing  needles, and coming into contact with blood and body fluids, such as semen and even breast milk.

    You cannot get HIV from hugging, shaking hands, using the toilet, drinking from the same glass or eating the same food. HIV does not live in water or air.

    Why should I get tested?
    The only way to know for sure whether you have HIV is to get tested. To find places near you that offer free or low-cost, confidential HIV testing,

    • Visit gettested.cdc.gov,
    • Text your ZIP code to KNOW IT (566948), or
    • Call 800.CDC.INFO (800.232.4636) or 311.

    You can also use an at-home test kit, which you can buy online and in most drug stores.

    After you are tested and get the results, talk to your doctor. If you have HIV, you can find out how to treat it. If you do not have HIV, you can learn ways to prevent getting it.

    Here are some ways to be safe and prevent getting infected:

    • Get tested and ask your partner to get tested.
    • If you have oral, vaginal, or anal sex, use a latex condom the right way each and every time. Talk to your doctor if you are allergic to latex. Contraceptive pills will not protect you from HIV.
    • Never share needles or syringes. 
    • If you have unprotected sex, get tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
    • Learn more about PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), a medicine that protects you from becoming infected.
    • People who already have HIV can still get infected with another kind of HIV virus.  Always protect yourself and your partner.

    To learn more:

    Sources:
    US Department of Health and Human Services. “What is HIV/AIDS?” www.aids.gov
    Family Doctor.org: “Self-management: Taking Charge of Your Health” www.familydoctor.org


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