HIV, human immunodeficiency virus, is the virus that can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Unlike some other viruses, the human body cannot get rid of HIV. The only way to know if you are infected with HIV is to be tested. Currently, there is no effective cure for HIV; however, HIV can be controlled with proper medical care.
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An HIV test is the only way to know if you or a partner has HIV. There are an estimated 1.2 million people in the United States have HIV, including about 158,500 people who are unaware of their status. Nearly 40% of new HIV infections are transmitted by people who don’t know they have the virus. For people with undiagnosed HIV, testing is the first step in maintaining a healthy life and preventing HIV transmission.
Outreach testing services are offered by community-based organizations and local health departments who receive funding from the Indiana Department of Health through grants. Our partners use a rapid antibody screening test usually with blood from a finger prick or with oral fluid and results are ready in 30 minutes or less.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Should I get tested?
CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested at least once as a part of their routine health care. People with higher risk factors, such as more than one sex partner, other STDs, gay and bisexual men and individuals who inject drugs should be tested at least once a year. To learn more about HIV/AIDS visit: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/index.html
- How do I know if I am at risk to get HIV?
Knowing your risk can help you make important decisions to prevent exposure to HIV. The CDC has developed the HIV Risk Reduction Tool to help you know risk and for better understanding of how different prevention methods like using condoms or taking PrEP, can reduce your risk. Overall, an American has a 1 in 99 chance of being diagnosed with HIV at some point in their lifetime. However, the lifetime risk is much greater among some populations. If current diagnosis rates continue the lifetime risk of getting HIV is:
- 1 in 6 for gay and bisexual men overall
- 1 in 2 for Black/African American gay and bisexual men
- 1 in 4 for Hispanic gay and bisexual men
- 1 in 11 for white gay and bisexual men
- 1 in 20 for Black/African American men overall
- 1 in 48 for Black/African American women overall
- 1 in 23 for women who inject drugs
- 1 in 36 for men who inject drugs
Your health behaviors also affect your risk. You can get or transmit HIV only through specific activities. HIV is commonly transmitted through anal or vaginal sex without a condom or sharing injection and other drug injection equipment with a person infected with HIV. Substance use can increase the risk of exposure to HIV because alcohol and other drugs can affect your decision to use condoms during sex. To learn more about your HIV risk and ways to reduce these risks, visit: https://hivrisk.cdc.gov.
- What if my HIV test is positive?
If your test result is positive, you can take medicine to treat the virus. HIV treatment reduces the amount of HIV in your blood (viral load). Taking HIV treatment as prescribed can make the viral load so low that a test can’t detect it (undetectable viral load). Getting and keeping an undetectable viral load (or staying virally suppressed) is the best way to stay healthy and protect others.
If you need help finding a provider you can contact a member of the IDOH HIV Services team by calling 866-588-4948 and select option #1 or by emailing HSProgram@health.in.gov.
- What if my HIV test is negative?
If your test result is negative, you can take actions to prevent HIV.
- Use condoms consistently and correctly.
- Talk to your doctor about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)
- Get tested regularly
- How do I protect myself and my partner(s) from HIV?
Your life matters and staying healthy is important. It’s important for you, the people who care about you, and your community. Knowing your HIV status gives you powerful information to help you take steps to keep you and your partners healthy. You should get tested for HIV and encourage your partners to get tested too. For people who are sexually active, there are more tools available today to prevent HIV than ever before. The list below provides a number of ways that you can lower your chances of getting HIV. The more of these actions you take, the safer you can be.
- Get tested and treated for other STIs and encourage your partners to do the same. All adults and adolescents from ages 13-64 should be tested at least once for HIV and high-risk groups get tested more often. STIs can have long-term health consequences. They can also increase your chance of getting HIV or transmitting it to others. It is important to have an honest and open talk with your healthcare provider and ask whether you should be tested for STIs. Your healthcare provider can offer you the best care if you discuss your sexual history openly. Find an HIV/STI testing site.
- Use condoms consistently and correctly.
- Talk to your doctor about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). CDC recommends that PrEP be considered for people who are HIIV-negative and at substantial risk for HIV. For sexual transmission, this includes HIIV-negative persons who are in an ongoing relationship with an HIV-positive partner. It also includes anyone who 1) is not in a mutually monogamous* relationship with a partner who recently tested HIV-negative, and 2) is a gay or bisexual man who has had anal sex without a condom or been diagnosed with an STI in the past 6 months; or heterosexual man or woman who does not regularly use condoms during sex with partners of unknown HIV status who are at substantial risk of HIV infection (e.g., people who inject drugs or have bisexual male partners). For people who inject drugs, this includes those who have injected illicit drugs in the past 6 months and who have shared injection equipment or been in drug treatment for injection drug use in the past 6 months. See more information at http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/prep.html
- Talk to your doctor right away (within 3 days) about post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) if you have a possible exposure to HIV. An example of a possible exposure is if you have anal or vaginal sex without a condom with someone who is or may be HIV-positive, and you are HIV-negative and not taking PrEP. Your chance of exposure to HIV is lower if your HIV-positive partner is taking antiretroviral therapy (ART) consistently and correctly, especially if his/her viral load is undetectable (see Can I transmit HIV if I have an undetectable viral load). Starting medicine immediately (known as post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP) and taking it daily for 4 weeks reduces your chance of getting HIV.
- If your partner has HIV, encourage your partner to get into care and to take HIV medicine as prescribed. Taking HIV medicine as prescribed can make the level of virus in their body very low (called viral suppression) or even undetectable. A person with HIV who gets and stays virally suppressed or undetectable can stay healthy and has effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to HIV-negative partners through sex.
* Mutually monogamous means that you and your partner only have sex with each other and do not have sex outside the relationship.
- How do HIV, STIs and Viral Hepatitis relate to each other?
Persons who have an STI are at least two to five times more likely than uninfected persons to acquire HIV infection if they are exposed to the virus through sexual contact. In addition, if a person who is HIV positive also has an STI, that person is more likely to transmit HIV through sexual contact than other HIV-infected persons.
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and HIV are bloodborne viruses transmitted primarily through sexual contact and injection drug use. Because of these shared modes of transmission, a high proportion of adults at risk for HIV infection are also at risk for HBV infection. HIV-positive persons who become infected with HBV are at increased risk for developing chronic HBV infection and should be tested. In addition, persons who are co-infected with HIV and HBV can have serious medical complications, including an increased risk for liver-related morbidity and mortality.
Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) is one of the most common causes of chronic liver disease in the United States. For persons who are HIV infected, co-infection with HCV can result in a more rapid occurrence of liver damage and may also impact the course and management of HIV infection.
PrEP is a prescription medication that, when taken daily, is proven to be 90% effective at protecting a person from HIV transmission. This medication is recommended for people who are currently HIV-negative, but at are risk of transmission. This would be a person who is sexually active (especially with multiple partners) or works in an environment where they could come into contact with bodily fluids (such as a healthcare provider). PrEP has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection through sexual intercourse (for gay and bisexual men, transgender women, and heterosexual men and women) and drug injection.
PrEP does not cure HIV. However, it does prevent HIV from infecting the body by blocking the virus from infiltrating the enzymes of the body’s cells.
- How well does PrEP work?
PrEP provides a significant reduction in HIV risk for HIV-negative individuals who take the pill every day as directed. If a daily dose is missed, the level of HIV protection may decrease. It only works if you take it. People who use PrEP correctly and consistently have higher levels of protection against HIV. It does not protect against other sexually transmitted infections (STI) or pregnancy and should still be used in conjunction with condoms. It is not a cure for HIV.
- Is PrEP right for me?
PrEP may benefit you if you test negative for HIV and
- you have had anal or vaginal sex in the past 6 months, and you:
- have a sexual partner with HIV (especially if the partner has an unknown or detectable viral load),
- have not consistently used a condom, or
- have been diagnosed with an STI in the past 6 months.
- you inject drugs and
- have an injection partner with HIV, or
- share needles, syringes, or other injection equipment.
- you’ve been prescribed PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) and you:
- report continued risk behavior or
- have used multiple courses of PEP
If you are a woman and have a partner with HIV and are considering getting pregnant, talk to your doctor about PrEP. PrEP may be an option to help protect you and your baby from getting HIV while you try to get pregnant, during pregnancy, or while breastfeeding.
- Is PrEP safe?
PrEP is safe. No significant health effects have been seen in people who are HIV-negative and have taken PrEP for up to 5 years.
Some people taking PrEP may have side effects, like nausea, diarrhea, headache, fatigue, and stomach pain. These side effects are usually not serious and go away over time. If you are taking PrEP, tell your health care provider if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away.
And be aware: PrEP protects you against HIV but not against other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or other types of infections. Combining PrEP with condoms will reduce your risk of getting other STIs.
- How do I get PrEP?
If you think PrEP may be right for you, visit your doctor or health care provider. PrEP is only available by prescription. Any health care provider licensed to write prescriptions can prescribe PrEP; specialization in infectious diseases or HIV medicine is not required.
For more information about PrEP and to connect to a PrEP Navigator, visit PrEPDaily.org
A person living with HIV on antiretroviral therapy (ART) who has an undetectable viral load (under 200 copies/mL) cannot transmit HIV through sex.
- What is an undetectable viral load?
- How do I stay undetectable?
People with HIV can get and keep an undetectable viral load by taking HIV medicine (called antiretroviral therapy or ART) exactly as prescribed. Almost everyone who takes HIV medicine as prescribed can reach an undetectable viral load, usually within one to six months after starting treatment. But treatment is not a cure. HIV is still in your body when your viral load is suppressed, even when it is undetectable. If you skip doses of your HIV medicine, even now and then, your viral load will quickly go back up. If you have stopped taking your HIV medicine or are having trouble with taking your doses as prescribed, talk to your health care provider as soon as possible about strategies to get your viral load suppressed.
- What are the benefits of being undetectable?
There are important health benefits to having a suppressed or undetectable viral load. People with HIV who know their status, take HIV medicine as prescribed, and get and keep an undetectable viral load can live long and healthy lives.
People with HIV who take HIV medicine as prescribed and get and keep an undetectable viral load will not transmit HIV to their HIV-negative partners through sex. This is sometimes called treatment as prevention or undetectable = untransmittable (U=U).
- How do we know that undetectable = untransmittable?
Several recent scientific studies looked at thousands of couples undergoing HIV treatment. Among the participants in the studies who had undetectable HIV viral loads, none passed the virus to their sex partners.
Learn more about these studies by visiting the resources below:
HIV Prevention Program