Frequently Asked Questions on HIV

Basics about HIV/AIDS

What does HIV mean?

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus

  • Human: HIV specifically affects humans—not animals.
  • Immunodeficiency: It causes the immune system to be unable to combat diseases and infections effectively.
  • Virus: A type of organism that can only survive by taking over other cells to reproduce and spread throughout the body, similar to the common cold, influenza, and chickenpox.
  • HIV is the virus responsible for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
  • It's possible for someone to be HIV positive without having AIDS.

What is AIDS?

How does HIV make me sick?

How do I get HIV?

Preventing HIV

Preventing HIV

Who is at higher risk for contracting HIV?

Even though every sexually active person or intravenous drug user is at risk for contracting HIV, some populations are more vulnerable.

  • Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM):
    • MSM make up just 2% of the U.S. population but account for 66% of new HIV infections, 56% of total people living with HIV, and 55% of all AIDS-related deaths since the beginning of the HIV epidemic.
    • An estimated 12-13% of MSM in the U.S. are HIV positive.
    • The CDC estimates that 18% of gay and bisexual men with HIV are unaware of their status.
  • African Americans:
    • Both African American men and women bear the greatest burden of HIV infections throughout the United States.
    • African Americans represent 12% of the U.S. population but account for 44% of new HIV infections as of 2010.
    • The rate of new infections for African Americans is nearly 8 times that of whites and more than twice that of Latinos.
    • In 2010, HIV was the 5th leading cause of death for African American men and the 7th for African American women aged 25-44.
  • Intravenous Drug Users (IDUs):
    • Ten percent of HIV infections globally are attributed to intravenous drug use.
    • In the United States, IDUs account for almost 7% of HIV infections.
    • At the end of 2012, 5% of males living with HIV and 9% of females living with HIV were IDUs.

How do I reduce my chances of contracting HI

Where can I get tested for HIV?

Testing for HIV

What do I do if I think I have HIV?

It's important to know your status whether or not you may be at risk for contracting HIV. If you think you may have contracted HIV recently, visit our Testing Locations page to find a location nearby.

How often should I be tested?

What if I don't want others to know I'm being tested?

Information for Newly Diagnosed Individuals

What do I do if my test result is positive?

Don’t Panic! Since the development of Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy (HAART) in the 90s, the number of AIDS-related deaths has decreased dramatically, allowing people with HIV to live longer and healthier lives.

  • Take some time and write a list of all the questions you may have.
  • Begin to think of who you would like to tell.
    • Telling someone not only relieves the burden of secrecy but also opens up several ways to establish support systems and pathways to ultimately live a happy and healthy life.
  • Find a trusted physician whom you would be comfortable going to for treatment.
    • Visit the Where To Get Treatment page for a list of Ryan White HIV/AIDS Care Providers.
  • Find Community Organizations to help you with other needs you may have, including:
    • Transitional Housing/Shelter
    • Housing Assistance
    • Case Management
    • Mental Health and Counseling
    • Living a Healthy Lifestyle
    • Support Groups
    • Furniture/Clothing Resources

You can find information on these services by searching through the CAPUS Resource Directory.

Reduce your risk of transmitting HIV to others.

  • Use a condom for any future sexual encounters.
  • Do not share any used drug paraphernalia.
  • If you are in a discordant relationship (one partner is positive and the other is negative), look into using PrEP.
  • Always consider safer sex, safer drug use, and seek out resources to help with these.

For more information, see our section on HIV Prevention.

Information For Those Living With HIV

Living in the Atlanta metro area

If you live in the Atlanta metro area, below is a tool to locate resources in the Atlanta area for people living with HIV:

Download the AAOI Resource Book

Hepatitis and HIV

Tuberculosis and HIV

Other STDs/STIs and HIV

Opportunistic Infections and HIV

Pregnant Women and HIV

Homelessness and HIV

Source: CDC, WHO, NIH,

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