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What is HIV?

The basics

What is HIV?

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks cells that help the body fight infection, making a person more vulnerable to other infections and diseases. It is spread by contact with certain bodily fluids of a person with HIV, most commonly during unprotected sex (sex without a condom or HIV medicine to prevent or treat HIV), or through sharing injection drug equipment.

If left untreated, HIV can lead to the disease AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). The human body cannot get rid of HIV and no effective HIV cure exists. So, once you have HIV, you have it for life.

How can I prevent HIV?

Today, you have more options, than ever, to prevent HIV. You can use strategies such as abstinence (not having sex), limiting your number of sexual partners, never sharing needles, and using condoms the right way every time you have sex. You may also consider the use of newer HIV prevention medicines such as PrEP.

At AH, we have four key suggestions and strategies to preventing HIV: PrEP, condoms, HIV Treatment, and HIV Testing.

What can I do if I am HIV positive?

If you have HIV, there are many actions you can take to prevent transmitting it to others. The most important is taking HIV medicine (called antiretroviral therapy, or ART) as prescribed. If you take HIV medicine as prescribed and maintain undetectable viral load (or stay virally suppressed), you can stay healthy and have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to an HIV-negative sex partner.

National HIV Testing Day is June 27!
Free HIV Testing throughout the Keys!

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