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HIV is a virus that weakens the immune system. The immune system is responsible for fighting off illnesses and germs that cause diseases.



Not all individuals with HIV have symptoms when they first contract the virus. If they do show symptoms, it is usually within the first 2 to 12 weeks after they have contracted the virus. Initial symptoms look similar to mononucleosis, better known as Mono, or the Flu and include symptoms such as; fever, swollen glands, poor appetite, and feeling tired. Individuals rarely contribute these symptoms to sexual behavior. These symptoms are likely to last from 2 to 14 days after which the body goes through an asymptomatic phase. At this point an individual can feel healthy, yet they still carry the HIV virus and can spread it to others. The immune system is still in operation, yet it is being attacked by the virus. Once the immune system is greatly weakened the virus has developed into the systematic phase known as the HIV disease. At this point an individual will require medical attention to handle their existing illness and to take preventative measures against other illnesses.

Individuals with HIV may develop symptoms such as:

  • Swollen lymph nodes - Persistent Generalized Lymphadenopathy (PGL)
  • Oral Thrush - white spots on the tongue or in the mouth (very painful)
  • Shingles - outbreak of blisters or a rashe on more than one area of the body
  • Frequent Fever over 101F and reoccurring diarrhea
  • Idiopathic Thrombocythopenia Purpura - reduction of blood platelets leading to bleeding into the skin, mucous membranes, internal organs, and other tissues with slight injury
  • Hairy Leukoplakia - white spots or patches on the mucous membranes of the tongue or mouth


HIV can only live in human body fluids and tends to be prevalent in fluids with the greatest concentration of white blood cells. These fluids include; blood, semen, fluid from a woman's vagina and/or cervix, breast milk, and fluids from inside the body around the brain, joints, lungs, heart, belly, and amniotic fluid in the womb. Other fluids that are NOT associated with the spread of HIV due to their low concentration of white blood cells include; saliva, sweat, tears, urine, and feces.

HIV can be spread through:

  • Sexual behaviors such as vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the virus
  • Sharing needles or syringes with someone who has the virus
  • A baby being exposed to the virus through pregnancy, birth, or breast feeding from a mother who has the virus
  • Through transfusion with HIV infected blood or blood products

HIV is NOT spread through:

  • Doorknobs
  • Clothes
  • Food
  • Hugging
  • Toilet seats
  • Telephones
  • Handshakes
  • Sharing cigarettes
  • Beds
  • Mosquitoes
  • Water fountains
  • Coughing

Diagnosis and Treatment

Although the most common form of testing for HIV is through a blood sample, there are a multitude of types of antibody tests that can be performed to determine whether you have the virus.

HIV tests include:

  • Traditional Blood Antibody Tests: This test involves a simple blood sample taken by your doctor and is relatively inexpensive. Your doctor will analyze the blood for antibodies that are characteristic of individuals with HIV to determine if you have the virus.
  • Home Blood Antibody Tests: Similar to traditional blood antibody tests, blood is used to determine if the individual has HIV. The difference is that the blood is drawn from inside the home and mailed to a lab for analysis.
  • Rapid Antibody Tests (i.e. SUDS): The Single Use Diagnostic System is a blood antibody test that is performed in the doctor's office while you are there. Blood is drawn and analyzed and the results are known within 15 to 30 minutes. If the results are positive then a traditional blood antibody test is recommended.
  • Saliva Antibody Tests: This test involves analysis of a sample of mucosal transudate, which is a substance in your mouth that is similar to saliva. The saliva antibody test is performed by a health care provider and is suggested for individuals who do not enjoy or cannot have blood drawn.
  • Urine Antibody Tests: Similar to saliva antibody tests, urine antibody test
    analyze urine for antibodies characteristic of individuals with HIV. This test is
    also recommended for individuals who do not enjoy or cannot have their blood
Local Testing Available:
  • EIU Health Service: Oraquick cheek swab
  • Coles County Health Department: Orasure cheek swab - Free and Confidential
    • 825 18th Street, Charleston, IL 61920
    • Phone: (217) 348-0530 Fax: (217) 348-5322
  • Champaign-Urbana Public Health Department Walk-in STI Clinic:Free with a suggested $20 donation
    • 710 N Neil Street, Champaign, IL 61820
    • Phone: (217) 352-7961


There is no known cure for HIV. Due to this fact, the goal of treatment is to prolong an individual's time within the asymptomatic phase. Medications are used to prevent the infection of illnesses associated with HIV by lowering the viral load and increasing the Thelper cell count.