Symptoms of the initial HIV infection can mimic those of influenza and other viral infections. The only reliable way to tell if someone is infected is to get tested. Many people with HIV do not experience symptoms for years after the initial infection or have symptoms that are very similar to symptoms of other illnesses. For more, see this CDC web page: HIV/AIDS Basics - Questions and Answers.
The term AIDS applies to the most advanced stages of HIV infection. According to the CDC, AIDS is diagnosed when a person's CD4 T-cell count drops below 200 cells per cubic millimeter of blood or when a person has HIV and an AIDS-related illness such as tuberculosis. For more information, see this article from CDC's MMWR.
Yes. If you test positive for HIV, it is important that you tell your health care providers as well as all current and future sex partners and/or anyone with whom you share needles. Counseling services are often available from the clinic that performed the test or from your health care provider that will help you to inform the people who need to know.
Your HIV status, like other medical conditions and test results, is protected by the HIPAA Privacy Rule and cannot be shared with friends, family, or employers without your written permission. Your HIV status may be shared with your health care providers who have a "need to know" in order to treat you. Also, in order to determine the incidence of HIV and to provide appropriate prevention and care services, all new cases of HIV are reported to state and local health departments.
Certain testing centers provide either anonymous (your name is never given) or confidential (your name is given but kept private) HIV testing and counseling. The FDA has approved one home testing device that allows you to remain anonymous and to get confidential results. You can also contact your state, county, or city health department to find out where testing may be available.
This article was last reviewed on July 22, 2012. | This article was last modified on February 24, 2015.
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