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"Compassion without judgement!"

Helpful Resources

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FAQ

Common Questions:

What Is HIV?

What is AIDS? What causes AIDS?

Where did HIV come from?

How long does it take for HIV to cause AIDS?

How can I tell if I'm infected with HIV? What are the symptoms?

I have read on the Internet several stories about people getting stuck by needles in phone booth coin returns, movie theater seats, and other places. One story said that CDC reported similar incidents about improperly discarded needles and syringes.

How is HIV passed from one person to another?

Can I get HIV from kissing on the cheek?

Can I get HIV from open-mouth kissing?

Can I get HIV from performing oral sex?

Can I get HIV from someone performing oral sex on me?

Can I get HIV from having vaginal sex?

How effective are latex condoms in preventing HIV?

Is there a connection between HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases?

Why is injecting drugs a risk for HIV?

How can people who use injection drugs reduce their risk for HIV infection?

Can I get HIV from getting a tattoo or through body piercing?

Are health care workers at risk of getting HIV on the job?

Are patients in a dentist's or doctor's office at risk of getting HIV?

Should I be concerned about getting infected with HIV while playing sports?

Can I get HIV from casual contact (shaking hands, hugging, using a toilet, drinking from the same glass, or the sneezing and coughing of an infected person)?

Can I get infected with HIV from mosquitoes?

What should I know before I get tested?

How does someone get HIV?

How can I avoid becoming infected?

What are my options for HIV testing?

What is the OraSure® HIV-1 Collection Device?

What is the OraQuick® ADVANCETM Rapid HIV-1/2 Antibody Test and how is it done

What does a PRELIMINARY POSITIVE result mean?

What does a NEGATIVE result mean?

How is the HIV infection prevented?

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Agency Names & Numbers

American Red Cross
850.763.6587

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850.872.4455

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850.769.1511

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850.674.5645

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800.342.2437

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850.747.5112

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850.769.1632

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850.872.4455 Ext 1188

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850.763.0706

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800.962.2873

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850.872.4737

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850.769.8341

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850.227.1276

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800.621.4000

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800.282.3171

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850.769.9481

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800.352.5683

Suicide Crisis & Mental Health Hotline
850.769.9481

The Family Source of FL Parent Helpline
800.352.5683

Washington County Health Deptartment
850.638.6240

Women Alive
800.554.4876

 

 

 

 

Answers:

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What Is HIV?

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the virus that causes AIDS. This virus is passed from one person to another through blood-to-blood and sexual contact. In addition, infected pregnant women can pass HIV to their babies during pregnancy or delivery, as well as through breast-feeding. People with HIV have what is called HIV infection. Most of these people will develop AIDS as a result of their HIV infection.

These body fluids have been proven to spread HIV:

* Blood
* Semen
* Vaginal fluid
* Breast milk
* Other body fluids containing blood

These are additional body fluids that may transmit the virus that health care workers may come into contact with:

* Cerebrospinal fluid surrounding the brain and the spinal cord * Synovial fluid surrounding bone joints * Amniotic fluid surrounding a fetus

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What is AIDS? What causes AIDS?

AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. An HIV-infected person receives a diagnosis of AIDS after developing one of the CDC-defined AIDS indicator illnesses. An HIV-positive person who has not had any serious illnesses also can receive an AIDS diagnosis on the basis of certain blood tests (CD4+ counts).

A positive HIV test result does not mean that a person has AIDS. A diagnosis of AIDS is made by a physician using certain clinical criteria (e.g., AIDS indicator illnesses). Infection with HIV can weaken the immune system to the point that it has difficulty fighting off certain infections. These types of infections are known as "opportunistic" infections because they take the opportunity a weakened immune system gives to cause illness. Many of the infections that cause problems or may be life-threatening for people with AIDS are usually controlled by a healthy immune system. The immune system of a person with AIDS is weakened to the point that medical intervention may be necessary to prevent or treat serious illness.

Today there are medical treatments that can slow down the rate at which HIV weakens the immune system. There are other treatments that can prevent or cure some of the illnesses associated with AIDS. As with other diseases, early detection offers more options for treatment and preventative care.

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Where did HIV come from?

We do not know. Scientists have different theories about the origin of HIV, but none have been proven. The earliest known case of HIV was from a blood sample collected in 1959 from a man in Kinshasha, Democratic Republic of Congo. (How he became infected is not known.) Genetic analysis of this blood sample suggests that HIV-1 may have stemmed from a single virus in the late 1940s or early 1950s. We do know that the virus has existed in the United States since at least the mid to late 1970s. From 1979-1981 rare types of pneumonia, cancer, and other illnesses were being reported by doctors in Los Angeles and New York among a number of gay male patients. These were conditions not usually found in people with healthy immune systems. In 1982 public health officials began to use the term "acquired immunodeficiency syndrome," or AIDS, to describe the occurrences of opportunistic infections, Kaposi's sarcoma, and Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia in previously healthy men. Formal tracking (surveillance) of AIDS cases began that year in the United States.

The cause of AIDS is a virus that scientists isolated in 1983. The virus was at first named HTLV-III/LAV (human T-cell lymphotropic virus-type III/lymphadenopathy-associated virus) by an international scientific committee. This name was later changed to HIV (human immunodeficiency virus).

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How long does it take for HIV to cause AIDS?

Since 1992, scientists have estimated that about half the people with HIV develop AIDS within 10 years after becoming infected. This time varies greatly from person to person and can depend on many factors, including a person's health status and their health-related behaviors.

Today there are medical treatments that can slow down the rate at which HIV weakens the immune system. There are other treatments that can prevent or cure some of the illnesses associated with AIDS, though the treatments do not cure AIDS itself. As with other diseases, early detection offers more options for treatment and preventative health care.

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How can I tell if I'm infected with HIV? What are the symptoms?

The only way to determine for sure whether you are infected is to be tested for HIV infection. You cannot rely on symptoms to know whether or not you are infected with HIV. Many people who are infected with HIV do not have any symptoms at all for many years.

The following may be warning signs of infection with HIV:

* Rapid weight loss.
* Dry cough.
* Recurring fever or profuse night sweats.
* Profound and unexplained fatigue.
* Swollen lymph glands in the armpits, groin, or neck.
* Diarrhea that lasts for more than a week.
* White spots or unusual blemishes on the tongue, in the mouth, or in the throat.
* Pneumonia.
* Red, brown, pink, or purplish blotches on or under the skin or inside the mouth, nose, or eyelids.
* Memory loss, depression, and other neurological disorders.

However, no one should assume they are infected if they have any of these symptoms. Each of these symptoms can be related to other illnesses. Again, the only way to determine whether you are infected is to be tested for HIV infection.

Similarly, you cannot rely on symptoms to establish that a person has AIDS. The symptoms of AIDS are similar to the symptoms of many other illnesses. AIDS is a medical diagnosis made by a doctor based on specific criteria established by the CDC.

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I have read on the Internet several stories about people getting stuck by needles in phone booth coin returns, movie theater seats, and other places. One story said that CDC reported similar incidents about improperly discarded needles and syringes.

CDC has received inquiries about a variety of reports or warnings about used needles left by HIV-infected injection drug users in coin return slots of pay phones and movie theater seats. These reports and warnings are being circulated on the Internet and by e-mail and fax. Some reports have falsely indicated that CDC "confirmed" the presence of HIV in the needles. CDC has not tested such needles nor has CDC confirmed the presence or absence of HIV in any sample related to these rumors. The majority of these reports and warnings appear to have no foundation in fact.

CDC recently was informed of one incident in Virginia of a needle stick from a small-gauge needle (believed to be an insulin needle) in a coin return slot of a pay phone. The incident was investigated by the local police department. S everal days later, after a report of this police action appeared in the local newspaper, a needle was found in a vending machine but did not cause a needle-stick injury.

Discarded needles are sometimes found in the community outside of health care settings. These needles are believed to have been discarded by persons who use insulin or are injection drug users. Occasionally the "public" and certain groups of workers (e.g., sanitation workers or housekeeping staff) may sustain needle-stick injuries involving inappropriately discarded needles. Needle-stick injuries can transfer blood and blood-borne pathogens (e.g., hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV), but the risk of transmission from discarded needles is extremely low.

CDC does not recommend testing discarded needles to assess the presence or absence of infectious agents in the needles. Management of exposed persons should be done on a case-by-case evaluation of:

1. The risk of a blood-borne pathogen infection in the source, and
2. The nature of the injury.

Anyone who is injured from a needle stick in a community setting should contact their physician or go to an emergency room as soon as possible. The injury should be reported to the local or state health departments. CDC is not aware of any cases where HIV has been transmitted by a needle-stick injury outside a health care setting.

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How is HIV passed from one person to another?

HIV transmission can occur when blood, semen (including pre-seminal fluid, or "pre-cum"), vaginal fluid, or breast milk from an infected person enters the body of an uninfected person. HIV can enter the body through a vein (e.g., injection drug use), the anus or rectum, the vagina, the penis, the mouth, other mucous membranes (e.g., eyes or inside of the nose), or cuts and sores. Intact, healthy skin is an excellent barrier against HIV and other viruses and bacteria.

These are the most common ways that HIV is transmitted from one person to another:

* by having sexual intercourse (anal, vaginal, or oral sex) with an HIV-infected person;
* by sharing needles or injection equipment with an injection drug user who is infected with HIV; and
* from HIV-infected women to babies before or during birth, or through breast-feeding after birth.

HIV also can be transmitted through transfusions of infected blood or blood clotting factors. However, since 1985, all donated blood in the United States has been tested for HIV. Therefore, the risk of infection through transfusion of blood or blood products is extremely low. The U.S. blood supply is considered to be among the safest in the world.

Some health-care workers have become infected after being stuck with needles containing HIV-infected blood or, less frequently, after infected blood contact with the worker's open cut or through splashes into the worker's eyes or inside his or her nose. There has been only one instance of patients being infected by an HIV-infected health care worker. This involved HIV transmission from an infected dentist to six patients.

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Can I get HIV from kissing on the cheek?

HIV is not casually transmitted, so kissing on the cheek is very safe. Even if the other person has the virus, your unbroken skin is a good barrier. No one has become infected from such ordinary social contact as dry kisses, hugs, and handshakes.

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Can I get HIV from open-mouth kissing?

Open-mouth kissing is considered a very low-risk activity for the transmission of HIV. However, prolonged open-mouth kissing could damage the mouth or lips and allow HIV to pass from an infected person to a partner and then enter the body through cuts or sores in the mouth. Because of this possible risk, the CDC recommends against open-mouth kissing with an infected partner. One case suggests that a woman became infected with HIV from her sex partner through exposure to contaminated blood during open-mouth kissing.

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Can I get HIV from performing oral sex?

Yes, it is possible for you to become infected with HIV through performing oral sex. There have been a few cases of HIV transmission from performing oral sex on a person infected with HIV. While no one knows exactly what the degree of risk is, evidence suggests that the risk is less than that of unprotected anal or vaginal sex. Blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, and vaginal fluid all may contain the virus. Cells in the mucous lining of the mouth may carry HIV into the lymph nodes or the bloodstream. The risk increases:

* if you have cuts or sores around or in your mouth or throat;
* if your partner ejaculates in your mouth; or ·
* if your partner has another sexually transmitted disease (STD).

If you choose to have oral sex, and your partner is male,

* use a latex condom on the penis; or
* if you or your partner is allergic to latex, plastic (polyurethane) condoms can be used. Research has shown the effectiveness of latex condoms used on the penis to prevent the transmission of HIV. Condoms are not risk-free, but they greatly reduce your risk of becoming HIV-infected if your partner has the virus.

If you choose to have oral sex, and your partner is female,

* use a latex barrier (such as a dental dam or a cut-open condom that makes a square) between your mouth and the vagina. Plastic food wrap also can be used as a barrier. The barrier reduces the risk of blood or vaginal fluids entering your mouth.

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Can I get HIV from someone performing oral sex on me?

Yes, it is possible for you to become infected with HIV through receiving oral sex. If your partner has HIV, blood from his or her mouth may enter the urethra (the opening at the tip of the penis), the vagina, the anus, or directly into the body through small cuts or open sores. While no one knows exactly what the degree of risk is, evidence suggests that the risk is less than that of unprotected anal or vaginal sex.

If you choose to have oral sex:

* use a latex condom on the penis; or
* if you or your partner is allergic to latex, a plastic (polyurethane) condom can be used. Research has shown the effectiveness of latex condoms used on the penis for preventing the transmission of HIV. Condoms are not risk-free, but they greatly reduce your risk of becoming HIV-infected if your partner has the virus. If you choose to have oral sex and you are female,
* use a latex barrier (such as a cut-open condom that makes a square or a dental dam) between their mouth and the vagina. Plastic food wrap can also be used as a barrier. The barrier reduces the risk of blood entering the body through the vagina.

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Can I get HIV from having vaginal sex?

Yes, it is possible to become infected with HIV through vaginal intercourse. In fact, it is the most common way the virus is transmitted in much of the world. HIV can be found in the blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, or vaginal fluid of a person infected with the virus. The lining of the vagina can tear and possibly allow HIV to enter the body. Direct absorption of HIV through the mucous membranes that line the vagina also is a possibility. The male may be at less risk for HIV transmission than the female through vaginal intercourse. However, HIV can enter the body of the male through his urethra (the opening at the tip of the penis) or through small cuts or open sores on the penis. Risk for HIV infection increases if you or a partner has a sexually transmitted disease (STD). If you choose to have vaginal intercourse, use a latex condom to help protect both you and your partner from the risk of HIV and other STDs. Studies have shown that latex condoms are very effective, though not perfect, in preventing HIV transmission when used correctly and consistently. If either partner is allergic to latex, plastic (polyurethane) condoms for either the male or female can be used.

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How effective are latex condoms in preventing HIV?

Studies have shown that latex condoms are highly effective in preventing HIV transmission when used consistently and correctly. These studies looked at uninfected people considered to be at very high risk of infection because they were involved in sexual relationships with HIV-infected people. The studies found that even with repeated sexual contact, 98-100 percent of those people who used latex condoms correctly and consistently did not become infected.

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Is there a connection between HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases?

Yes. Having a sexually transmitted disease (STD) can increase a person's risk of becoming infected with HIV, whether the STD causes open sores or breaks in the skin (e.g., syphilis, herpes, chancroid) or does not cause breaks in the skin (e.g., chlamydia, gonorrhea).

If the STD infection causes irritation of the skin, breaks or sores may make it easier for HIV to enter the body during sexual contact. Even when the STD causes no breaks or open sores, the infection can stimulate an immune response in the genital area that can make HIV transmission more likely. In addition, if an HIV-infected person also is infected with another STD, that person is three to five times more likely than other HIV-infected persons to transmit HIV through sexual contact.

Not having (abstaining from) sexual intercourse is the most effective way to avoid STDs, including HIV. For those who choose to be sexually active, the following HIV prevention activities are highly effective:

* Engaging in sex that does not involve vaginal, anal, or oral sex,
* Having intercourse with only one uninfected partner, or
* Using latex condoms every time you have sex.

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Why is injecting drugs a risk for HIV?

At the start of every intravenous injection, blood is introduced into needles and syringes. HIV can be found in the blood of a person infected with the virus. The reuse of a blood-contaminated needle or syringe by another drug injector (sometimes called "direct syringe sharing") carries a high risk of HIV transmission because infected blood can be injected directly into the bloodstream.

In addition, sharing drug equipment (or "works") can be a risk for spreading HIV. Infected blood can be introduced into drug solutions by:

* using blood-contaminated syringes to prepare drugs;
* reusing water;
* reusing bottle caps, spoons, or other containers ("spoons" and "cookers") used to dissolve drugs in water and to heat drug solutions; or
* reusing small pieces of cotton or cigarette filters ("cottons") used to filter out particles that could block the needle. "Street sellers" of syringes may repackage used syringes and sell them as sterile syringes. For this reason, people who continue to inject drugs should obtain syringes from reliable sources of sterile syringes, such as pharmacies. It is important to know that sharing a needle or syringe for any use, including skin popping and injecting steroids, can put one at risk for HIV and other blood-borne infections.

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How can people who use injection drugs reduce their risk for HIV infection?

The CDC recommends that people who inject drugs should be regularly counseled to:

* Stop using and injecting drugs.
* Enter and complete substance abuse treatment, including relapse prevention.

For injection drug users who cannot or will not stop injecting drugs, the following steps may be taken to reduce personal and public health risks:

* Never reuse or "share" syringes, water, or drug preparation equipment.
* Only use syringes obtained from a reliable source (such as pharmacies or needle exchange programs).
* Use a new, sterile syringe to prepare and inject drugs.
* If possible, use sterile water to prepare drugs; otherwise, use clean water from a reliable source (such as fresh tap water).
* Use a new or disinfected container ("cooker") and a new filter ("cotton") to prepare drugs.
* Clean the injection site prior to injection with a new alcohol swab.
* Safely dispose of syringes after one use.

If new, sterile syringes and other drug preparation and injection equipment are not available, then previously used equipment should be boiled in water or disinfected with bleach before reuse. Injection drug users and their sex partners also should take precautions, such as using condoms consistently and correctly, to reduce risks of sexual transmission of HIV.

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Can I get HIV from getting a tattoo or through body piercing?

A risk of HIV transmission does exist if instruments contaminated with blood are either not sterilized or disinfected or are used inappropriately between clients. CDC recommends that instruments that are intended to penetrate the skin be used once, then disposed of or thoroughly cleaned and sterilized. Personal service workers who do tattooing or body piercing should be educated about how HIV is transmitted and take precautions to prevent transmission of HIV and other blood-borne infections in their settings. If you are considering getting a tattoo or having your body pierced, ask staff at the establishment what procedures they use to prevent the spread of HIV and other blood-borne infections, such as hepatitis B virus. You also may call the local health department to find out what sterilization procedures are in place in the local area for these types of establishments.

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Are health care workers at risk of getting HIV on the job?

The risk of health care workers getting HIV on the job is very low, especially if they carefully follow universal precautions (i.e., using protective practices and personal protective equipment to prevent HIV and other blood-borne infections). It is important to remember that casual, everyday contact with an HIV-infected person does not expose health care workers or anyone else to HIV. For health care workers on the job, the main risk of HIV transmission is through accidental injuries from needles and other sharp instruments that may be contaminated with the virus. Even this risk is small, however. Scientists estimate that the risk of infection from a needle jab is less than 1 percent, a figure based on the findings of several studies of health care workers who received punctures from HIV-contaminated needles or were otherwise exposed to HIV-contaminated blood.

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Are patients in a dentist's or doctor's office at risk of getting HIV?

Although HIV transmission is possible in health care settings, it is extremely rare. Medical experts emphasize that the careful practice of infection control procedures, including universal precautions, protects patients as well as health care providers from possible HIV infection in medical and dental offices. In 1990, the CDC reported on an HIV-infected dentist in Florida who apparently infected some of his patients while doing dental work. Studies of viral DNA sequences linked the dentist to six of his patients who were also HIV-infected. The CDC has as yet been unable to establish how the transmission took place. Further studies of more than 22,000 patients of 63 health care providers who were HIV-infected have found no further evidence of transmission from provider to patient in health care settings.

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Should I be concerned about getting infected with HIV while playing sports?

There are no documented cases of HIV being transmitted during participation in sports. The very low risk of transmission during sports participation would involve sports with direct body contact in which bleeding might be expected to occur. If someone is bleeding, their participation in the sport should be interrupted until the wound stops bleeding and is both antiseptically cleaned and securely bandaged. There is no risk of HIV transmission through sports activities where bleeding does not occur.

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Can I get HIV from casual contact (shaking hands, hugging, using a toilet, drinking from the same glass, or the sneezing and coughing of an infected person)?

No. HIV is not transmitted by day-to-day contact in the workplace, schools, or social settings. HIV is not transmitted through shaking hands, hugging, or a casual kiss. You cannot become infected from a toilet seat, a drinking fountain, a door knob, dishes, drinking glasses, food, or pets.

A small number of cases of transmission have been reported in which a person became infected with HIV as a result of contact with blood or other body secretions from an HIV-infected person in the household. Although contact with blood and other body substances can occur in households, transmission of HIV is rare in this setting. However, persons infected with HIV and persons providing home care for those who are HIV-infected should be fully educated and trained regarding appropriate infection-control techniques. HIV is not an airborne or food-borne virus, and it does not live long outside the body. HIV can be found in the blood, semen, or vaginal fluid of an infected person. The three main ways HIV is transmitted are:

1. Through having sex (anal, vaginal, or oral) with someone infected with HIV.
2. Through sharing needles and syringes with someone who has HIV.
3. Through exposure (in the case of infants) to HIV before or during birth, or through breast feeding.

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Can I get infected with HIV from mosquitoes?

No. From the start of the HIV epidemic there has been concern about HIV transmission of the virus by biting and bloodsucking insects, such as mosquitoes. However, studies conducted by the CDC and elsewhere have shown no evidence of HIV transmission through mosquitoes or any other insects -- even in areas where there are many cases of AIDS and large populations of mosquitoes. Lack of such outbreaks, despite intense efforts to detect them, supports the conclusion that HIV is not transmitted by insects.

The results of experiments and observations of insect biting behavior indicate that when an insect bites a person, it does not inject its own or a previously bitten person's or animal's blood into the next person bitten. Rather, it injects saliva, which acts as a lubricant so the insect can feed efficiently. Diseases such as yellow fever and malaria are transmitted through the saliva of specific species of mosquitoes. However, HIV lives for only a short time inside an insect and, unlike organisms that are transmitted via insect bites, HIV does not reproduce (and does not survive) in insects. Thus, even if the virus enters a mosquito or another insect, the insect does not become infected and cannot transmit HIV to the next human it bites.

There also is no reason to fear that a mosquito or other insect could transmit HIV from one person to another through HIV-infected blood left on its mouth parts. Several reasons help explain why this is so. First, infected people do not have constantly high levels of HIV in their blood streams. Second, insect mouth parts retain only very small amounts of blood on their surfaces. Finally, scientists who study insects have determined that biting insects normally do not travel from one person to the next immediately after ingesting blood. Rather, they fly to a resting place to digest the blood meal.

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What should I know before I get tested?

Your healthcare provider is the best person to answer your questions about HIV and testing options. You have a choice of the type of test to use. When you are tested for HIV, the presence of HIV antibodies in your body means that you have been infected with the virus that causes AIDS. You should be aware that the presence of HIV antibodies can be detected in many ways. Ask your healthcare provider for the information you need to make good choices.

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How does someone get HIV?

HIV spreads through contact with blood, semen, vaginal fluids, or breast milk from HIV infected people. Contact can come from unsafe sex. It can also come from sharing used needles and syringes. Infected women can pass the virus to their babies during pregnancy, childbirth, and breast feeding. It is also possible to become infected with HIV through a blood transfusion, although this is now very rare.

People do not become infected with HIV through everyday casual contact with people at school, work, home, or anywhere else. The virus is not spread from contact with sweat, tears, saliva, or a casual kiss from an infected person (Deep, or "French" kissing is not advised). Nor can people become infected from contact with forks, cups, clothes, phones, toilet seats, or other things used by someone who is infected with HIV. People do not become infected from eating food prepared by an HIV-infected person. People have not become infected with HIV through insect bites.

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How can I avoid becoming infected?

The best way to avoid getting HIV is to avoid activities that would allow the virus to be passed to you. By following these suggestions, you will lower your risk of getting HIV:

* The only way to avoid sexual exposure to HIV is to have sex with an uninfected partner or to abstain.

* If you are not certain that your sex partner is uninfected, you should use a latex condom correctly every time you have sex.

* Do not share needles or syringes.

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What are my options for HIV testing?

OraQuick® ADVANCETM provides a rapid HIV test result (in as little as 20 minutes) and in some settings a result is needed quickly, such as in hospital emergency rooms. However, in settings where a rapid HIV test is not needed, alternative tests can be done. You also have a choice of having another type of test that would require you to wait about a week for your results. This type of test can be done using a sample of blood taken from your vein, a sample of oral fluid taken from your mouth, or a sample of urine.

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What is the OraSure® HIV-1 Collection Device?

The OraSure® HIV-1 Oral Specimen Collection Device is a device used to collect oral fluid from the mouth in only a few minutes without using needles. The oral fluid is tested to see if it contains HIV antibodies.

If you decide to have an OraSure® HIV-1 sample tested for HIV antibodies, a trained collector will ask you to place the OraSure® HIV-1 Oral Collection Pad between your lower cheek and gum and gently rub the pad back and forth until it is wet, then leave it in place for two minutes. The collector will ask you to put the pad in a vial and snap off the stick. Your sample will be sent to a laboratory for HIV-1 antibody testing.

OraSure® HIV-1 specimen collection is painless and involves no needles. There will be no visible sign that you have been tested. Having an OraSure® HIV-1 sample tested for HIV antibodies is a very accurate method. Blood testing, however, is even more accurate. Be aware that you have a choice of having either a blood specimen or an OraSure® HIV-1 sample taken for HIV testing.

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What is the OraQuick® ADVANCETM Rapid HIV-1/2 Antibody Test and how is it done?

The OraQuick® ADVANCETM Rapid HIV-1/2 Antibody Test is used to see if a sample of your oral fluid or blood contains HIV antibodies. If you decide to have an OraQuick® ADVANCETM test, your healthcare provider will collect an oral fluid sample or take a small droplet of blood from your finger, or daw blood from your vein, run the test, and give the results to you during the same visit. The OraQuick® ADVANCETM test is very accurate. However, additional testing is necessary to confirm a preliminary positive result.

Complete information about the OraQuick® ADVANCETM Rapid HIV-1/2 Antibody Test is available from your testing counselor or healthcare provider.

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What does a PRELIMINARY POSITIVE result mean?

A PRELIMINARY POSITIVE result suggests that antibodies to HIV may be present in your blood or oral fluid. If you receive a PRELIMINARY POSITIVE result on the test, you will need to have another test to confirm the result. You will also be encouraged to take precautions to avoid any chance of spreading HIV until your test result is confirmed.

If you are found to be infected, you may benefit from special medical care. New treatments can help keep you healthy, even though you are infected with HIV. See a doctor, even if you don't feel sick. A doctor can help you to live longer. Other tests can tell you how strong your immune system is and what treatments might be best for you. Some people stay healthy for a long time with HIV. Others may become ill more rapidly. Be careful not to pass HIV on to others.

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What does a NEGATIVE result mean?

A NEGATIVE result means that this test did not detect HIV antibodies in your blood or oral fluid. However, in some cases HIV infection cannot be ruled out completely. If you recently (within 3 months) had any of the contacts described in the "How does someone get HIV?" section of this page, it is still possible that you are infected with HIV. This is because your body can take several months after you are infected to make HIV antibodies. If you became infected only recently, there may not have been enough time to develop antibodies that can be detected by the test. You should consider getting tested again in three to six months to be sure you are not infected. If you had none of the contacts that transmit HIV in the three months before your test, a negative result means you were not infected with HIV at the time of testing. Ask your healthcare provider to help you understand what your result means for you.

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How is the HIV infection prevented?

If you have any questions, ask your healthcare provider. You can also call the National AIDS Hotline at 1-800-342-AIDS (1-800-342-2437) to talk with an HIV specialist. They can give you quick, private answers at any time, day or night. Your local health department is another place to go for information. An AIDS service organization such as BASIC NWFL can also be a good source for information, education, and help.

If you are not infected now, and you abstain from sexual intercourse and drug use, there is virtually (nearly) no risk of infection with HIV. Other steps that help prevent the spread of the virus are:

* Use latex condoms, barrier protection for all vaginal, anal and oral sexual activities, unless you are certain that both you and your partner are not infected;
* Condoms are the best means now available for preventing sexual transmission for those of you who do not practice abstinence and have not formed a mutually faithful, monogamous relationship, but are not foolproof. They must be used correctly and everytime you have sex.
* Do not use drugs. If you do, do not share needles or "works." Any kind of needle sharing is dangerous, including tatooing and body piercing.
* Avoid sexual practices which injure body tissue, such as anal sex. Limit your number of sexual partners.
* Do not come in blood to blood contact with another person.