Health Services


HIV, which stands for human immunodeficiency virus, causes AIDS, but being infected with HIV is not the same as having AIDS. A person infected with HIV may not experience any symptoms for years. The average period of time from the date of infection to the onset of symptoms is about ten years.

However, people infected with HIV may progress slowly or quickly. They may be symptom-free for years, but they are still capable of transmitting the virus to others through blood, semen, vaginal fluids and breast milk. HIV cannot be transmitted through air, handshaking, hugging, toilets, food, water or mosquitoes. You cannot get HIV by donating blood. The virus can be transmitted through blood-to-blood contact, unprotected sex, (anal, vaginal or oral), sharing needles (for body piercing, tattooing and to inject drugs), pregnancy or breastfeeding.

AIDS, which stands for acquired immune deficiency syndrome, is a group of related disorders and symptoms that break down the body's immune or defense system. HIV causes a variety of conditions and symptoms, but AIDS is the most severe, life-threatening HIV infection. When symptoms develop, they are similar to the flu, except that they last longer and are more severe. Persistent tiredness, unexplained fevers, recurring night sweats, prolonged enlargement on the lymph glands and weight loss are most common.

When infected with AIDS, the body's ability to fight infection is decreased, and an average infection can become life threatening. Pneumocystis pneumonia, Kaposi's sarcoma, weight loss and problems with the nervous system are common symptoms of AIDS. There is currently no cure for AIDS, but there is treatment for the syndrome. Due to new medications, early diagnosis can be effective in treatment, increasing longevity and decreasing the symptoms.

The best way to protect yourself from HIV is to abstain from sex and I.V. drugs, and to avoid contact with other people's blood. If you do have sex, use a latex condom every time.

For additional information about HIV or testing, please call the HIV Hotline @1-800-541-AIDS or visit AVERT's website.

Additional information also is available on the New York State Department of Health website.