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Indiana State Department of Health

HIV/AIDS in Indiana > Frequently Asked Questions > HIV Disease HIV Disease

Q:  What is HIV Disease?

A:  HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). The human body cannot get rid of HIV. Once you have HIV, you have it for life.

Q:  How can I tell if I’m infected with HIV?

A:  The only way to know if you are infected with HIV is to be tested. You cannot rely on symptoms to know whether you have HIV. Many people who are infected with HIV do not have any symptoms at all for 10 years or more.

Q: How is HIV passed from one person to another?

A: HIV is spread mainly by –·        

  • Sharing needles, syringes, rinse water, or other equipment (works) used to prepare injection drugs with someone who has HIV.
  • Having sex with someone who has HIV without taking precautions such as using a condom.

Q: Can I get HIV from casual contact, such as shaking hands, sitting on a toilet seat, drinking from the same glass, or being sneezed or coughed on by someone with HIV?

A: No. HIV is not spread by day-to-day contact in the workplace, schools, or social settings. HIV is not spread 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, cigarettes, pets, or insects. HIV is not spread through the air, and it does not live long outside the body.

Q: How can I prevent HIV?

A: In addition to never sharing needles, you can reduce your risk of getting HIV by limiting your number of sex partners and using condoms correctly every time you have sex.  You may also be able to take advantage of a new approach that use medicines that treat HIV to help people at higher risk reduce the chance of becoming HIV-infected.  This approach is known as PrEP (which stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis).  To find out if PrEP is a good option for you, speak to your doctor.  

Q:  Where can I get tested for HIV Disease?

A:  A list of Indiana counseling and testing sites is listed by county on the Indiana State Department of Health HIV/STD Division Web site.

Q:  How can I get assistance to pay for my doctor’s appointments and/or medications?

A:  All applications for HIV Medical Services through the Indiana State Department of Health must come through care coordination services at a sanctioned HIV Care Coordination site.  There are  Care Coordination sites throughout Indiana or call us toll-free at 1-866-588-4948 and select option 1 or 2.

Q:  How often should I see my primary care/infectious disease provider to get my blood work done?

A:  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends a person living with HIV Disease have their CD4 and viral load counts done every 3-4 months.  These lab tests are very important for managing your care and require a provider’s order.  However, your provider may want to see you more or less frequently depending on how HIV disease is impacting you specifically.  Remember, it is important to remain in contact with your provider on a regular basis.

Q:  My provider told me that now that my viral load is undetectable and my CD4 count is above 350 that I no longer have AIDS; is this true?

A:  Not according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Once a person has been diagnosed with AIDS, they retain the diagnosis of AIDS even when their health improves.

Q:  What is the best HIV screening test?

A:  EIA 1 / 2 combination; if the result is reactive, it should be followed by Western blot confirmation.  Viral load test is used sometimes.

Q:  Are there services available to help HIV infected people who have substance abuse issues?

A:  The HIV Special Populations Support Program at the Indiana State Department of Health provides intensive support services to individuals diagnosed with HIV disease and chemical dependency.  A listing of programs available can be found on the HIV/STD Division Web site.