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Public Health and HIV

HIV Communicable Disease Facts


According to current estimates, about 1 out of every 250 people in the United States carries HIV. About 40,000 people in the United States become infected with HIV every year.

What is HIV?

HIV is a virus that destroys the immune system and weakens the body's ability to fight disease and infection. HIV usually progresses to AIDS. This makes the virus the most dangerous sexually transmitted infection today. It is the fifth leading cause of death for persons under 40 years old.

What are symptoms of HIV?

*Important: Many people do not show any symptoms for extended periods of time.

  • Initial or acute infection may have symptoms that resemble mononucleosis or the flu.
  • Sore throat
  • Mouth sores
  • Aching or stiff muscles
  • Headaches
  • Swollen glands
  • Fevers
  • Fatigue
  • Rapid weight loss

How is HIV spread?

  • Sexual intercourse (anal, oral, and/or vaginal sex) with an infected person.
  • Sharing needles or drug injection equipment with an infected person.
  • From an HIV infected mother to her child before birth or through breast-feeding.
  • HIV can be spread through infected blood products. However, all donated blood in the United States has been tested for HIV since 1985.

How serious is HIV?

HIV is very serious. Most HIV infections progress to AIDS. HIV does not allow the immune system to work properly and causes a person to become very sick when exposed to other germs and viruses.

How is HIV diagnosed?

HIV is diagnosed by a blood test or by an oral swab test. These tests look for antibodies that indicate the virus is present in the body. It can take up to three months for the antibodies to appear, therefore tests may need to be taken again if a negative result was shown.

Is HIV curable/treatable?

HIV is not curable. There are many combinations of antiviral drugs and consistent health care available to treat HIV. These treatments are designed to help protect the body's immune system from developing further infections. These treatments do not cure the virus and persons still may become very ill while receiving treatment.

Can you have other sexually transmitted diseases at the same time?

Yes. HIV infected persons may acquire any other sexually transmitted disease. HIV affects the immune system. Therefore, persons with HIV are more likely to get other STDs. Already having a sexually transmitted disease can increase a person's risk of becoming infected with HIV.

Where can I learn more information about HIV?

You may contact a HIV counselor at 314-522-6410 or you can click on our Resource link for further information. The following resources can be contacted for further information relating to HIV. National STD and AIDS hotlines at 1-800-342-2437 or 1-800-227-8922. These hotlines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For more information you may use the following links: