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Skidmore College
Health Services


What are HIV and AIDS and how does someone get HIV?

HIV is the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency virus). It is possible for a person to have the virus for months or years before any signs of illness appear. HIV spreads through contact with blood, semen, vaginal fluids, or breast milk from infected people. It can also come from sharing used needles and syringes. Infected women can pass the virus to their babies during pregnancy, childbirth, and breast feeding. It is also possible to become infected with HIV through blood transfusions, although now this is very rare. People do not become infected with HIV through everyday casual contact with people at school, work, home, or anywhere else. The virus is not spread from contact with sweat, tears, saliva, or a casual kiss from an infected person. Nor can people become infected from contact with forks, cups, clothes, phones, toilet seats, or other things used by someone who is infected with HIV. People do not become infected from eating food prepared by an HIV-infected person. People have not become infected with HIV through insect bites. There are 2 species of HIV that infect humans-HIV-1 and HIV-2. HIV-1 is more virulent. It is easily transmitted and is the cause of the majority of HIV infection globally. HIV-2 is less transmittable and is largely confined to West Africa.

HIV Risk Assessment Questionnaire

1. Have you or your sexual partner(s) had other sexual partners in the past year?
2. Have you ever had a sexually transmitted infection?
3. Are you pregnant or considering becoming pregnant?
4. Have you or your sexual partner(s) injected drugs or other substances and/or shared needles with another person?
5. Have you ever had sex with a male partner who has had sex with another male?
6. Have you ever had sex with a person who is HIV infected?
7. Have you ever been paid for sex and/or had sex with a prostitute/sex worker?
8. Have you engaged in behavior resulting in blood to blood contact (e.g. S & M, tattooing, piercing)
9. Have you or your sexual partner(s) received a blood transfusion or blood products before 1985?
10. Have you been the victim of rape, date rape or sexual abuse?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should consider having an HIV test.

How can I avoid being infected?

The best way to avoid getting HIV is to avoid activities that would allow the virus to be passed to you. By following these suggestions, you will lower your risk of getting HIV:

  • The only ways to avoid sexual exposure to HIV are to have sex with an uninfected partner or to abstain.
  • If you are not certain that your sex partner is uninfected, you should use a latex condom correctly every time you have sex.
  • Do not share needles or syringes.

Why should I get tested?

You cannot generally tell by looking at someone whether he or she has an HIV infection. A person can be infected with HIV and not know it. The virus may take time to show its effects. A person can have HIV for 10 years or more before the symptoms of AIDS appear. The only way to be confident you are not infected is to get an HIV test.

It is important to find out if you are infected with HIV so that you do not infect someone else. If you know you are infected with HIV, you can avoid any activity that may pass it on. It is also important to find out if you are infected with HIV so that you can receive good medical care. There are medicines that can help keep you healthy even though you are infected with the HIV virus.

Does Health Services provide HIV testing?

Health Services offers 2 types of HIV tests. One is the OraQuick Advance® test and provides a rapid HIV test result (usually within 20 minutes) from either a blood or an oral fluid specimen. The other is a blood test that requires you to wait about a week for your results. Per New York State law, pre and post test counseling must be given and you will need to give consent to have either test performed. An appointment is needed regardless of which test you choose to have done.

What is the OraQuick Advance Rapid HIV-1/2 Antibody test and how is it done?

The OraQuick Advance test is used to see if a sample of your blood or oral fluid contains HIV antibodies. The 1/2 in the name of the test means that is tests for both species of HIV, HIV-1 and HIV-2. If you decide to have an OraQuick test, your healthcare provider will take a small droplet of blood from your finger or assist you in obtaining an oral fluid sample, run the test, and give results to you during the same visit. The OraQuick test is very accurate. However, additional testing is necessary to confirm a preliminary positive response.

What does a preliminary positive result mean?

A preliminary positive result suggests that antibodies to HIV may be present in your blood. If you receive a preliminary positive result on the test, you will need to have another test to confirm the OraQuick test result. You will also be encouraged to take precautions to avoid any chance of spreading HIV until your test result is confirmed.

What does a negative result mean?

A negative result means that this test did not detect HIV antibodies in your blood or oral fluid sample. However, in some cases HIV infection cannot be ruled out completely. If you recently (within 3 months) had any high-risk contacts it is still possible that you are infected with HIV. This is because your body can take several months after you are infected to make HIV antibodies. If you became infected only recently, there may not have been enough time to develop antibodies that can be detected by the test. You should consider getting tested again in three to six months to be sure you are not infected. If you had none of the contacts that transmit HIV in the three months before your test, a negative test means that you were not infected with HIV at the time of testing. Ask your healthcare provider to help you understand what your result means for you.