What an HIV
Diagnosis Means

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This means that HIV is a virus that attacks the body's immune system, decreasing the body's ability to fight germs. In a person whose immune system has been weakened by HIV, germs can cause life threatening infections and concerns. Currently, there is no cure for HIV, but medical treatment and healthy lifestyle changes can help you stay healthy and improve your quality of life.

HIV is a type of virus called a retrovirus, which infects people by coming into contact with tissues lining the vagina, anal area, mouth, or eyes, or through a break in the skin. HIV infection usually progresses slowly. The virus is present throughout the body at all stages of the disease.

Newly diagnosed checklist

This checklist will help you take the first steps toward managing a new HIV diagnosis.

Don't panic: Even though this news changes your life, today there are life-enhancing options.

Make a list: Prepare for your first visit with an HIV specialist or healthcare provider by organizing your thoughts and making a list of questions you'd like answered.

Learn more: Websites linked on this site, information available from healthcare providers, and community resources can all help you to understand what it means to be HIV-positive.

Find a care provider: Your care provider will be the person who partners with you to manage your HIV care. This person, usually a doctor or nurse, may be recommended to you, or may be a referral from the place that confirmed your HIV result. In some cases, you may need or want to find a provider on your own.

Get support: If you're not ready to turn to your friends or family, look for community resources and professional organizations offering one-on-one counseling, health education or support groups for those who are newly diagnosed. Start by checking the links under HIV Resources, on this site.

Be Prepared: Be sure to bring your list of questions with you to your first appointment. Being prepared for this meeting with your healthcare provider could help you deal with any anxiety you may be feeling.

Let people know: You don't need to tell everyone at once, but for now, you should share your HIV status with your healthcare providers, sexual partners, and anyone who may be at high risk for exposure

HIV care providers

You could be referred to an HIV specialist by your primary healthcare provider, or by a healthcare clinic. But if you are not, our Support Center (1-866-436-6527) offers live support available 24-hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year at 1-866-436-6527. Our highly trained, bilingual (English/Spanish) representatives can provide information on HIV/AIDS and the OraQuick HIV Test, help interpret results, and provide referral to follow-up and support..

Find counseling and care

HIV treatment options

The initial tests your provider may order will give a better understanding of how the HIV virus is affecting your immune system. Two of the most important tests will be a CD4 count and a viral load test. You may also take a drug resistance test to determine the best medical options for you. The results of all these tests will provide a standard to measure against for future tests.

Approximately 30 drugs have been approved to treat people living with HIV and AIDS, and more are under development. There are currently 5 different classes of HIV drugs. Each class attacks the virus at different points in its life cycle, so if you are taking HIV meds, you will generally take 3 different drugs from 2 different classes. That is the standard of HIV care — and it's important. That's because no drug can cure HIV, and taking a single drug, by itself, won't stop HIV from harming you. Taking 3 different HIV meds does the best job of controlling the amount of virus in your body, and protecting your immune system.