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10 Things You Wanted To Know About HIV But Were Too Afraid To Ask

Help stop the virus by learning all you can about HIV prevention, transmission, and treatment. Talk to your healthcare provider to find out more information! Stopping the virus starts with you.

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3.

Much has changed since the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the ’80s. There is no cure, but people diagnosed with HIV can lead healthy lives. If you’re living with HIV, HIV treatment can help lower your viral load. And a lower viral load means you can restore your immune system, fight infections and cancers, and stop HIV before it leads to AIDS. Ask your healthcare provider about how treatment can help protect your health!

4.

Undetectable is when HIV is in someone’s body but can no longer be measured by a lab test. It is not a cure, but it is one of the goals of HIV treatment. The best way to get to and stay undetectable is by taking HIV medicine. Being undetectable reduces the risk of passing HIV to someone during sex. But it is not 100% effective against transmission. You should still use condoms and practice safer sex. Questions? Your healthcare provider can tell you more.

5.

No. HIV can also be transmitted through blood (use of shared needles, other injection equipment, etc.), from childbirth or pregnancy, and through breastfeeding. Other less common risks for transmission include occupational exposure (if you're a medical professional treating someone who is HIV positive) and through blood transfusion or organ transplant.

6.

Yes. Different activities have different risks for HIV. The riskiest sexual acts are receptive and insertive anal sex, followed by receptive vaginal sex and insertive vaginal sex. Comparatively, oral sex is less risky, but is not risk free. Lower transmission risk by knowing your HIV status and your partner's HIV status and by practicing safer sex.

7.

If you’re worried that you were not safe and think you may have been exposed to HIV, talk to a doctor or go to an urgent care facility ASAP. You may be able to take a medicine to help keep you from getting HIV. It’s called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), and it means taking medicine within 72 hours of when you think you may have been exposed to HIV. PEP is available from a healthcare provider, emergency room, urgent care clinic, or HIV clinic.

8.

Yes — if you are HIV negative, you can take steps to stay that way. First, get to know what sexual activities put you at risk before engaging with a partner. Not all activities have the same risk. Using condoms the right way greatly reduces your risk for HIV and for many other STDs. Second, an HIV-positive partner can help reduce the risk of passing on HIV by staying on HIV treatment and being undetectable. Being undetectable helps lower the chance of passing on HIV through sex by 96%. It’s not 100%, so be safe, use condoms, and ask your healthcare provider about all the ways to prevent HIV infection.

9.

Women can greatly reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to their unborn child by receiving treatment during pregnancy and childbirth. There are a variety of birthing options available to women that may reduce or decrease the risk of transmission. Newborns should not be breastfed by an HIV-positive mother because HIV can be transmitted through breastmilk. Talk to your healthcare provider about further ways to prevent transmitting HIV to your child and any associated risks.

10.

No. HIV is a virus that weakens your immune system and prevents your body from naturally being able to protect itself against infections and diseases. AIDS is an advanced stage of HIV that makes the body vulnerable to many serious conditions. Those whose HIV has progressed into AIDS have severely weakened immune systems and are at a large risk to develop opportunistic infections, but AIDS can be prevented for those diagnosed with HIV by receiving proper treatment.

Stopping the virus starts with you. Learn more about what you can do to stop the virus through testing, prevention, and treatment.

Illustrations by Victoria Reyes © Buzzfeed

Facts from AIDS.gov. Thumbnails from Thinkstock.

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