During the COVID-19 outbreak, many hospitals and clinics need to emphasize the care of patients who are severely ill with COVID-19 or other conditions. We ask providers of sexual health care to take steps to prevent COVID-19 transmission while maintaining key HIV and STI services:
- Minimize clinical encounters.
- In clinical spaces, patients can be exposed to the 2019 coronavirus or expose others.
- Provide services by telephone or video conference when possible.
- For New York State Medicaid, services covered under a comprehensive insurance policy or contract must be covered when delivered via telemedicine.
- Submit prescriptions electronically and encourage use of mail-order pharmacies or pharmacies that offer home delivery.
- Discourage patients from stockpiling drugs to avoid exacerbating shortages.
- New York State has approved 90-day prescriptions for patients in Medicaid, Medicare, and the Uninsured Care Programs/ADAP.
- Share guidance with patients on enjoying safer sex during the outbreak.
- People should avoid close contact – including sex – with anyone outside their household or anyone who feels unwell.
We know sometimes it’s hard to ask questions about HIV / AIDS and often the search for answers is very long and the answers are complicated, but we here to help so you have the information you need.
What Is HIV?
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infects cells of the immune system and destroys or disrupts their function. This leads to progressive deterioration of the system and ends up producing an immune deficiency. There is talk of immunodeficiency when the immune system can no longer fulfill its role of fighting off infections and other diseases. Infections that accompany severe immunodeficiency are called “opportunistic” because the pathogens causing it exploit the weakness of the immune system.
What is AIDS?
AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) defines the most advanced stages of HIV infection. It is defined by the appearance of one of more than twenty opportunistic infections or HIV-associated cancers.
How is HIV Transmitted?
HIV can be transmitted through sexual intercourse (vaginal, anal or oral) without protection with an infected person; by transfusion of contaminated blood; and by sharing needles, syringes or other sharp objects. A person giving birth can transmit the infection to their child during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding.
How many people are infected with HIV?
According to UNAIDS In 2018, there were 37.9 million [32.7 million–44.0 million] people living with HIV. 36.2 million [31.3 million–42.0 million] adults. 1.7 million [1.3 million–2.2 million] children (<15 years). 79% [67–92%] of all people living with HIV knew their HIV status. About 8.1 million people did not know that they were living with HIV.
How soon does AIDS appear once someone is infected with HIV?
This period can vary greatly from one person to another. If not treated, most HIV-positive people show signs of disease after 5-10 years, although the period can be shorter. The time between infection with HIV and AIDS diagnosis can vary between 10 and 15 years, sometimes more. ARV therapy can slow evolution because it prevents the virus from multiplying and therefore decreases the amount of infected cells present in the individual (called “viral load”) virus.
Can I reduce my risk of infection in my sex life?
- Every time you have sex, use protective barriers. For example: male or female condoms, dental dams, and latex gloves.
- Refrain from unprotected sexual intercourse. Know your STI/STD status if you are active.
- People with multiple sexual partners may be at higher risk. It is helpful and important to be aware of the status of all partners, and/or use barriers, as well as limiting other risk behaviors.
What about condoms? Do condoms prevent HIV?
If used correctly in each act of intercourse, the condom is a method proven to prevent HIV infection across all genders. However, apart from abstinence, no protective method is totally 100% effective.
What is a “female condom”?
The female condom is the only barrier contraceptive specifically made for people with vaginas currently on the market. It is a transparent sheath, resistant and soft polyurethane that is inserted into the vagina before intercourse. When used correctly during each act of intercourse, it completely coats the vaginal cavity and protects against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
“Male Circumcision” and HIV Prevention?
Circumcising a penis removes an HIV entry point – the inner foreskin contains cells that HIV targets to enter the body. Small tears or genital ulcers on the foreskin can increase the risk of HIV infection. It does NOT reduce the risk of sexual transmission of HIV on to a partner.
Circumcision, for medical reasons, is an intervention that provides partial protection for life against sexually transmitted infections, especially caused by HIV. Always it has to be considered as part of a comprehensive set of preventive measures and should never replace other known methods, such as using condoms and other barriers and adhering to PrEP as prescribed by your doctor.
Is there a cure for HIV infection?
No, there is no cure for HIV infection. But ARV (antiretroviral treatment) therapy, followed exactly as directed, slows the progression of the infection almost to a stop. More and more people infected with HIV, even in countries with less access to medical care, can remain in good condition and continue to live long, fulfilling, healthy lives.
Why should I get tested?
Knowing your status with regard to HIV can have two important effects:
- If you find out that you are infected by the virus, you can take steps before symptoms appear for treatment, care and support, which can prolong life and prevent medical complications for many years.
- If it turns out that you are infected, you can take precautions to prevent transmission of HIV to others.
When should I get tested for HIV antibodies?
It is recommended in the following situations:
- If you are sexually active, the CDC recommends HIV testing every 3 to 6 months.
- If you have engaged in higher risk behavior. The test should be done once past the window period (from 6-8 weeks after high risk practice).
- When a new relationship starts (since it can pose a risk factor).
- If you want to have a child or are pregnant, to put in the appropriate means to prevent vertical transmission.
It is mandatory for donating blood, organs, semen, tissue or eggs.
Where can I get tested?
Click here to check out our HIV Testing Map!
Given the results of an analytical detection of antibodies, do I have the right to confidentiality?
Yes, the results, positive or negative, should always be confidential. This confidentiality must guarantee the privacy of the person being tested, this person has the right to demand appropriate professional secrecy for all those involved in the process.
Where can I get PrEP or PEP?
Tell me more about current ARV therapy
ARV stands for Antiretroviral Treatment.
At the end of 2014, 14.9 million people were receiving antiretroviral treatment worldwide. Until 2003, the high cost of medicines, weak or inadequate health infrastructure and the lack of money prevented the widespread use of treatment with a combination of these drugs in these countries. In recent years, increased political and financial attention has led to a dramatic expansion of access to treatment.
Can I stop taking any doses of medication?
Any prescribed dose of antiretrovirals should be taken continuously, and missing prescribed doses should be avoided. The virus takes advantage of any loophole to increase its replication and can become resistant to treatment. Remember that the success of treatment depends largely on proper compliance.
However if you miss a dose, taking more than the prescribed dose at one time is not recommended.
What are CD4 + lymphocytes and viral load?
The CD4 + lymphocytes are a variety of T4 + lymphocytes. T cells are the basic cells of the body defense system.
These cells are the primary target of the attack of the virus. The normal number in an uninfected person is between 1000 and 1500, although figures between 500 and 1000 can be seen with relative frequency among uninfected individuals to behave without risk of opportunistic infections CD4 + lymphocytes / mm3 of blood.
Viral load is the amount of virus circulating in the blood. It tells us what is the degree of activity of the virus in the body. Both parameters are used to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment and prognosis of infection.