HIV & AIDS Information and EducationWhat is HIV and AIDS?
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that that attacks a person’s immune system – the part of the body that helps fight off infections.
AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is a condition caused by HIV after it has already done serious damage to the immune system. Once the disease has progressed to the point that a person is diagnosed with AIDS, they are at risk of dying from infections that would be easy for someone with a healthy immune system to fight off, such as the common cold.
While there is no cure for HIV/AIDS, it is possible to keep the disease in check and live a long and happy life by taking HIV medications (called antiretroviral therapy or ART).
How does HIV testing work?
HIV is diagnosed by testing for the presence of antibodies to the virus using a small blood sample.
Testing for HIV is fast and accurate, and depending on the type of testing necessary, you can get your results in as quick as 30 minutes, or up to one week. There are also additional options to test for other STDs that are transmitted the same way as HIV.
Our Adult Health Services offers syphilis and HIV testing at two locations in Tarrant County. Testing and counseling sessions take approximately 30 minutes but can vary depending on your risk factors as well as the results of your test(s).
Rapid tests can also be purchased from a pharmacy and performed at home for relatively little cost.
To learn more about comprehensive STD screening, including testing for HIV, syphilis and other STDs, visit our Sexually Transmitted Disease (STDs/HIV) information page.
For more information on HIV testing, HIV treatment, and HIV prevention through Tarrant County Public Health, please visit:
HIV Testing Information
Why is HIV testing important?
If you are infected with HIV, it’s important to find out as soon as possible because there are things you can do to keep yourself healthy. Getting HIV treatment early on can help delay or even prevent you from developing AIDS. You can also take steps to prevent infecting other people with HIV.
If you are pregnant and infected with HIV, there are medicines you can take to reduce your baby’s risk of getting HIV, both during and after your pregnancy.
Who should get an HIV test?
Anyone who engages in one or more of the following activities should get tested for HIV on a regular basis (at least once per year):
How do you get HIV?
HIV is only transmitted through contact with blood, semen, vaginal secretions or breast milk from an infected person.
The 3 most common ways people get HIV are:
Other less common ways people can get HIV include:
How you WON'T get infected
It’s understandable to be afraid of catching HIV, but because of this fear, there are a lot of myths that have arisen about how you can catch the virus.
It’s perfectly safe to live, work, or go to school with someone who has HIV. The virus isn’t present in their saliva, mucus, tears, or sweat, so HIV cannot be transmitted through:
The HIV virus can’t live long outside of the human body, so it also can’t be transmitted through the air, on surfaces, or via insects like mosquitoes or ticks.
How can you avoid getting HIV?
Sex is the most common way most people get HIV, so the only sure way to avoid getting the disease this way is to not have sex. If you are going to have sex, stay with one partner who only has sex with you and make sure to use condoms every time you have sex.
It’s also a good idea to avoid using drugs or alcohol when you plan on engaging in sex, as these substances can make you more likely to engage in risky behavior.
If you inject drugs, it’s important to never share needles, syringes, or other equipment to inject or prepare drugs (such as a cooker). We highly recommend speaking to a counselor, doctor, or other care provider about getting treatment for substance abuse.
Low-cost or free substance abuse resources:
Free Rehab Centers (Fort Worth)
How can you tell if someone has HIV?
It is impossible to tell if someone has HIV just by looking at them. HIV symptoms depend on the stage of infection, with most people only experiencing flu-like symptoms in the early stages (2-4 weeks after infection).
After that, many people with HIV don’t have any symptoms and feel perfectly fine. They may not even know they have the virus – but they can still pass it on to others. Anyone can become infected with HIV, it has nothing to do with race, age, religion, nationality, or sexual orientation.
The only way you can find out if you’re infected with HIV is to get an HIV test. Tarrant County Public Health offers FREE HIV testing, see HIV Testing Information for details.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medications for HIV
If you engage in activities that put you at risk (such as having unprotected sex with multiple partners or those with HIV, inject drugs, or anything else), there are medications you can take to protect yourself from HIV.
Called PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) , when taken correctly, these drugs can be highly effective at preventing you from getting HIV.
How can you tell if someone is infected with HIV?
You cannot tell if someone has HIV or AIDS by looking at them. A person infected with HIV may look healthy and feel fine, but they can still pass the virus to you. An HIV antibody test is the way a person can find out if he or she is infected with HIV.
Anyone can become infected with HIV. It has nothing to do with race, age, religion, nationality or sexual orientation. People get infected with HIV because of what they do, not who they are.
How do you get infected with HIV?
HIV is spread through blood, semen, vaginal secretions and breast milk. Contact with these body fluids puts you at risk for HIV infection:
How you WON'T get infected.
You cannot get HIV through the air or from casual contact. HIV is not spread by:
How can you avoid HIV infection?
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