HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency syndrome). People can have HIV without having AIDS. HIV is not transmitted by normal social contact with a person who has HIV. HIV is carried in the blood and most body fluids. The most common modes of transmission are through sexual contact and by contact with infected blood. Most often as a result of needle sharing. HIV can also be transmitted through the placenta from mother to fetus, and also through breast milk from mother to infant.

Groups of People at Risk for HIV Infection:

  • Men who have had sex with men
  • Intravenous drug users
  • People who have had sex with either of the two groups above
  • People who have been sexually active in countries where HIV is epidemic
  • People who have had a blood transfusion or blood products, or who have received a transplant of an organ, bone, or other tissue between 1977 and 1985.
  • Healthcare workers, emergency service personnel, or other persons who have experienced a substantial exposure to blood or body fluid secretions.
  • Men or women who have had sex with more than three partners in the past year.

The HIV antibody test is a blood test which determines people who have become infected with the HIV virus. It does not test for the virus itself, or for AIDS. If a patient belongs to any of the risk groups above, a test should be performed for the virus. A negative test means that antibodies to HIV cannot be detected. This usuallymeans that the person has never been infected with HIV and is not now carrying the virus. A negative test does not determine a person’s chance of getting AIDS in the future. It just means that HIV infection has not yet been detected or that an infection has happened so recently that the test has not turned positive. In the majority of cases, the blood test becomes positive within three months after infection occurs. It can take up to six months for a test to detect antibodies. As one can see, if a person was recently infected, a negative result could be inaccurate. A positive test means that HIV antibodies are detectable in the blood. It cannot determine the time of infection. A positive HIV test result does not mean a person has AIDS. A positive test result means that precautions must be taken to prevent infecting others. That means no donation of blood, plasma, semen, or organs.

Never have unprotected intercourse (always wear condom), and never share needles, sex toys, toothbrushes, razors, or other devices that could possibly come in contact with someone else’s blood, semen, or body fluids.

No test is 100% accurate. A HIV result that is positive is more than 99% accurate. If a test comes back indeterminate, there are other steps that can be taken in order to determine whether or not the patient carries the HIV virus.

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