Common Questions About HIV

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People have many questions about HIV, and there's no way we could answer them all on one website. If you don't see your question answered here, our health educators are experts in HIV. Give the AIDSLine a call at 612–373–AIDS (Metro) or 800–248–AIDS (Toll Free).

Where did HIV come from?

Since scientists first became aware of HIV in the early 1980s, they have explored how and where the disease originated. While there are many theories, the most scientifically supported theory has traced the roots of the most common type of HIV to a virus found in a subspecies of chimpanzees in Africa. It is now generally accepted that HIV is a descendent of this virus. It is believed that the virus was transferred to humans as a result of chimpanzees being killed and eaten or their blood getting into cuts or wounds of people during the hunting process.

Is there a way to prevent or cure HIV?

While there is no cure for HIV, there are a variety of medications that can slow down the progression from HIV to AIDS and reduce damage to the immune systems. These drugs can also significantly reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to others.

PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis. It means taking a medicine that can protect you from getting HIV if you have unprotected sex or share needles with someone who is HIV-positive. This medicine is Truvada, which is an HIV medication. When taken as prescribed, PrEP greatly reduces the risk of being infected when an HIV-negative person is exposed to HIV. This does not completely eliminate the risk of infection or protect against other sexually transmitted infections but is considered to be tool in prevention.

Can I get HIV from casual contact or mosquitoes?

No. HIV is a fragile virus and dies within seconds when exposed to light and air. HIV can only be transmitted through direct contact with blood, semen, vaginal and rectal fluid or breast milk. HIV can NOT be transmitted from hugging, kissing, shaking hands, sharing towels, sharing eating utensils or using public restrooms.

HIV transmission via mosquitos is not possible because mosquitoes do not ingest enough HIV-infected blood to transmit HIV to another person. Mosquitos also digest HIV. The virus cannot survive inside the insect and it cannot be passed onto the mosquito's next host.

Can I get HIV from a blood transfusion?

The blood supply in the U.S. is one of the safest in the world. Since March 1985, all blood and blood platelets (red blood cells) in the United States have been screened for HIV using an HIV antibody test. This practice has virtually eliminated the risk of HIV transmission through blood transfusion in the U.S. No other blood products are suspected of transmitting HIV.

Are condoms effective in preventing HIV transmission?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that correct and consistent use of a latex barrier for protection during sex greatly reduces the risk of transmitting HIV. Condoms can protect the mouth, vagina or rectum from HIV-infected semen. Latex, polyurethane or polyisoprene condoms are effective condom materials as the virus cannot get through it. Lambskin or natural condoms have pores small enough for HIV to pass through and do NOT prevent the spread of HIV. Using a water-based lubricant will also help in preventing condom breakage.