Communicable Diseases - HIV / AIDS

Communicable Disease Prevention and Control

HIV-AIDS - Blood-Borne Diseases

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV, attacks your immune system, which helps you fight off illness.  If your immune system fails, you can become very sick.

Once the virus gets inside your body, you may not look or feel sick for years but you can still infect others.  Over time, your immune system grows weaker and you can become sick with different illnesses. At this stage the disease has progressed to Acquired ImmunoDeficiency Syndrome, or AIDS.

How is HIV transmitted?

Anyone can get HIV by:

  • Having sex without a condom with someone who is HIV positive (you may not know they are HIV positive).  The virus can be in an infected person’s blood, semen, or vaginal fluids and can enter your body through tiny cuts or sores in your skin, or through the lining of your vagina, penis, rectum, or mouth.
  • Sharing a needle or syringe to inject drugs, or by sharing equipment used to prepare drugs for injecting
  • Receiving tainted blood or a blood clotting factor via transfusion before 1985 (today all blood is tested for HIV)

In addition, babies born to women with HIV can become infected during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding.

What are the symptoms?

Many people who have HIV feel healthy, so the only way to know if you are infected with HIV is to be tested.  Your doctor can give you a confidential test or you can be tested anonymously at a clinic.  Call Public Health Services for information about the anonymous testing clinic closest to you.

What is the treatment?

There is no cure for HIV or AIDS.  However, there are many treatments available that slow the damage done by the virus.  Your doctor will discuss available treatments with you.

How can HIV be prevented?

  • Don’t share needles and syringes used to inject drugs, steroids, vitamins, or for tattooing or body piercing. Also, don’t share equipment ("works") used to prepare drugs to be injected. Many people have been infected with HIV, hepatitis, and other diseases this way. The virus from an infected person can stay in a needle and then be injected directly into the next person who uses the needle.
  • Use a latex condom every time you have sex, including oral and anal sex. There also is a condom that women can use to protect themselves.
  • Don’t share razors or toothbrushes because of the possibility of contact with blood.
  • If you are pregnant or think you might be soon, talk to a doctor or Public Health Services about being tested for HIV. Drug treatments are recommended for infected mothers-to-be to help reduce the chance of passing HIV to the baby.