Do you have a question about HIV/AIDS that you’d like to ask our experts? Email us and then check back to see if your question has been chosen. Please note that not all questions will be selected.
I just visited your website (it’s great, by the way!) and saw your notice about an HIV Awareness Day for Women and Girls. As a woman I never really thought of myself as being at great risk for HIV, but the fact there’s a “National Day” for it makes me wonder. How big a problem is this for females?
Here’s the deal: females are absolutely at risk for HIV. According to the CDC, nearly 25% of those diagnosed with HIV in the U.S are female. Among those who get HIV through heterosexual (“straight”) contact, two-thirds are girls and women.
When women think about sexual health, HIV testing and prevention should certainly be part of it. CDC recommends HIV testing for everyone ages 13-64. HIV testing is especially important for pregnant women (the earlier in the pregnancy, the better): pregnant women who have HIV and are treated early and appropriately have a small risk of transmitting the virus to their babies.
For more on HIV testing (and to find a clinic near you), visit the National STD and HIV Testing Resources site.
—The STI Resource Center Staff
How accurate is a negative HIV test after 40 days of possible HIV exposure? Currently, it has been over 8 weeks since my possible HIV exposure. I don’t have any symptoms. Should I keep testing for HIV until the six month window is over or was the HIV-1 RNA PCR result at 40 days enough?
The second test you mentioned is the HIV 1 RNA PCR. This is an additional test sometimes performed for people with a high-risk exposure and symptoms of acute HIV disease. An exposure would be considered high-risk, for example, if the partner was known to be HIV positive. If this test was negative at 40 days after exposure, you did not become infected from the exposure you mentioned.
Having said that, I suggest considering how you will plan for HIV testing in the future. Depending on your circumstances, perhaps routine testing every 3-6 months would appropriate. This is because it is sometimes very difficult to determine how risky a given exposure might be. This would also be a good time to request screening for other sexually transmitted infections, and to review recommendations for immunizations (for example, for hepatitis B and HPV) with your doctor.
–J. Dennis Fortenberry, MD, MS
I know this is probably stupid but, I was fingering someone last Saturday night and I had a hangnail on my finger. The area was not bleeding, but I am wondering is this a possible HIV concern or is the chance of it too remote?
Viral STIs such as HPV or HIV is spread primarily through anal and vaginal sex. Injecting drug users who share dirty needles and syringes are also at risk for HIV and, while it happens less often, someone who performs oral sex on an HPV or HIV-positive partner may also contract the virus.
According to the CDC, you should have an HIV test if you’ve injected drugs, have had unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex, or have had multiple partners. You should also be tested if you’ve been diagnosed with an STI.
–Versie Johnson-Mallard, PhD, RN, APRN, WHNP-BC
What are the symptoms of AIDS, and how soon would you know you have it (if you are infected)?
A person with HIV may look healthy and feel well, but they can still pass the virus on, especially early on in their infection. That’s why you can’t tell if someone has HIV by just looking at them. Over time, however, the HIV virus can develop into AIDS. This typically takes 10-15 years as HIV continues to destroy a person’s immune system, making them more likely to get many different kinds of infections. Once a person with HIV develops any one of a number of infections–such as herpes, tuberculosis, pneumonia, fungal infections–or cancer that causes tumors in the body, they are said to have AIDS, the syndrome of HIV-related immune deficiency.
AIDS affects various parts of the body in different ways. Common symptoms include: fatigue, weight loss, thrush (white patches in the mouth), recurring fever, and diarrhea. Other body systems, such as the brain, kidneys, heart, and genital organs can also be affected by AIDS and will have symptoms specific to that system. As always, if you are unsure about your status it’s always best to get tested for HIV to know for sure because AIDS can be prevented by taking a combination of antiviral medications.
–Will Wong, MD
I am an 18 year old African American female. I only had sex 3 times in my life. All different partners. Each encounter was in 2011. The 3rd time I caught mono. I am deathly scared that i may have HIV/AIDS too? Is there any correlation between the two? I know I should just get tested if I am so scared about it but i have overly strict & very controlling parents & I desperately need advice on what to do.
HIV transmission can occur when infected blood, semen (including pre-cum), and/or vaginal secretions enter the bloodstream. Using condoms is a great way to reduce the chance of transmission. Most people infected with HIV do not know they do not feel ill immediately after infection. However, some people do experience an illness with fever, rash, joint pains, and enlarged lymph nodes. HIV and all other STI tests are extremely confidential so your parents will not be able to access your testing information or whether or not you were tested at all. Costs for HIV testing vary from free to around $40.00. Many planned parenthoods will work with you to come up with a payment that works for you. Use your Zip Code in this website to find a testing center near you. Once you find one, call ahead of time to make an appointment and to see what you need to bring with you (many Planned Parenthoods and other clinics ask you to bring your picture ID or birth certificate). Remember, your visit to a clinic and your test results are extremely confidential and the nurses and staff there are trained to keep all information (even the fact that you were there) a secret. I know you’re scared but you’re doing all the right things in reaching out for information and getting tested.
Call our Sexual Health Resource Center Mon-Fri 9-5 if you have any other questions: 919.361.8488
—Sexual Health Resource Center Staff