HIV INFO + RESOURCES

HIV TODAY

What You Need to Know

We have lived with HIV and AIDS for more than 30 years, since it was first recognized as an unexplained pattern of illnesses in 1981.  The epidemic has undergone many shifts and changes.  We have moved from a time of terror and crisis, through years of struggle and activism, until today, when breakthroughs in medications and treatments mean that HIV is no longer a death sentence, but a manageable illness.

 

As the face and demographics of HIV and AIDS continue to change, most basic facts about the disease remain the same.  Methods of transmission, the importance of safer sex practices, the need for open communication with your partners are still vital.  Arming yourself with this basic information about HIV is the first step to keeping yourself and your partner(s) informed and healthy.

HIV transmission is preventable.

 

It is essential for us all to be aware and educated about HIV. Knowing even the most basic information can help you protect yourself, your sexual partner(s), and anyone in your life from transmission.

 
 
hiv 101

What is HIV?


HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system, decreasing the body’s ability to fight germs. Germs can cause life threatening infections to a person whose immune system has been weakened by HIV. If left untreated, HIV can progress to AIDS. There is no cure for HIV; however, medical treatment and care can help someone living with HIV stay healthy and improve their quality of life.




What is AIDS?


AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS is a serious condition in which the immune system has been severely weakened by chronic HIV. An individual diagnosed with AIDS is susceptible to a variety of infections that are less common in people with a healthier immune system. Medical treatment and care can help someone living with HIV and/or diagnosed with AIDS manage and possibly improve immune system function and overall health.




How is HIV transmitted?


HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), the virus that can lead to AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), is transmitted from a person living with HIV to another person through blood, semen, vaginal fluid, and breast milk. Fluids that contain HIV must get into the bloodstream in order for the person to acquire the virus. There is a high to moderate likelihood for acquiring HIV by:

  • Having unprotected vaginal or anal sex, with greater risk to a receptive partner.
  • Sharing needles with someone who is living with HIV. This could include injecting drugs, steroids, or vitamins; and sharing tattooing or piercing equipment.
  • Breast-feeding by a mother living with HIV.
  • Having unprotected oral sex with someone who is living with HIV.




What are the symptoms of HIV?


Sometimes individuals exposed to HIV will go through an acute stage of the infection. Acute HIV infection is the time between when a person is exposed to the virus and when they produce an antibody response. This stage may include flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, night sweats, rashes, diarrhea, etc. However, these symptoms also can occur with a variety of other viral infections unrelated to HIV. If you are concerned that you may have been exposed to HIV, call or email Carli Dean or Frank O’Caña at 303.444.6121 and carli@bcap.org or frank@bcap.org.




What type of HIV testing is available?


HIV antibody testing is the most common and accessible form of HIV testing, and is most likely to be available at reduced fees or free. Rapid HIV antibody testing, such as Alere, usually takes about 20 minutes. These tests use a small sample of blood and are conducted with the client present. Please visit our HIV Testing page for further details. ELISA and Western Blot tests are used for confirmatory testing. An ELISA test is highly sensitive to any recent antibody activity. A Western Blot test looks specifically for HIV antibodies. The ELISA/Western Blot combination is more costly due to the additional procedures needed to run the tests. A blood draw is required and it usually takes 3-10 days to receive results. In order for a serum sample to be confirmed HIV-positive, it must receive a positive ELISA test and a positive Western Blot test. Viral load testing actually tests for the virus itself, not HIV antibodies. This type of testing commonly is used on people living with HIV to monitor the progression of the virus. This type of testing is costly and is not used to diagnose HIV. Additionally, the FDA has approved 2 at-home HIV testing kits, which can be purchased for $45-$60 at local pharmacies. While HIV testing can come with a host of personal and social stigmatization, BCAP does not recommend home testing due to the value of in-person counseling. Receiving a reactive test result should not be done without the support of a trained counselor to help you handle questions, emotions, and what can be done next.




My HIV test came back Reactive. What does that mean?


Rapid HIV antibody tests are highly accurate. A reactive HIV antibody test means that the test administered to you likely identified HIV antibodies in your blood. To confirm a reactive test result, you will need to access confirmatory testing as soon as possible. While waiting for your confirmatory test results, make sure you take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally. Avoid surfing the internet for answers until your HIV status is confirmed. It is easy to psych yourself out with inaccurate information from websites, which could be mentally harmful during this time. For more information or support, call or email Carli Dean or Garrett Rose at 303.444.6121 and carli@bcap.org or garrett@bcap.org.




I think I may have been exposed to HIV. What should I do?


If you are concerned about a potential exposure to HIV, you may want to access Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP). PEP is HIV antiretroviral medication taken daily for 1 month to reduce the likelihood of acquiring HIV. This treatment is most effective if taken as soon as possible, but no later than 72 hours after potential exposure. The decision to take PEP is personal and can be complex. PEP treatment can include side effects that may impact your ability to conduct everyday work and social activities. Cost of the prescription is often upwards of $1,200 without insurance. However, PEP is covered by most insurances and can be accessed at local emergency rooms. Concerned about whether or not you should take PEP or need to assess a situation? Call or email Carli Dean or Garrett Rose at 303.444.6121 and carli@bcap.org or garrett@bcap.org.





prevention and risk

How can I reduce HIV transmission?


Before sexual or injecting activities:

  • Communicate openly with your partner(s).
  • Get tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
  • If you’re HIV negative, talk with your primary care provider to see if PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) is right for you.
  • If you’re living with HIV, access medical care and HIV antiretroviral medication to obtain a repressed viral load.
During vaginal and/or anal sex use:
  • A latex external condom with water-based or silicone-based lubricant.
  • A polyurethane external condom with water-based, silicone-based, or oil-based lubricant.
  • An internal condom with water-based, silicone-based, or oil-based lubricant.
When using needles:
  • Use new needles and equipment for each use.
  • Never share needles or injecting equipment with others.
  • Visit The Works Program to access needles, “works”, and resources.
During oral-vaginal, oral-penile, and/or oral-anal sex:
  • Use a latex barrier (“dam”).
  • Use a latex or polyurethane condom (assorted flavors available at BCAP).
  • Avoid brushing or flossing right before oral sex to prevent creating small cuts in the mouth.
During and after pregnancy:
  • Access prenatal care, including HIV testing.
If you’re living with HIV:
  • Start taking HIV treatment during pregnancy to decrease the amount of virus in the blood. (However, HIV will not cross the placenta through the umbilical cord. This cord acts as a “filter”, not allowing the mother’s blood to mix with the child’s).
  • Talk with your primary care provider(s) about the possibility of a c-section instead of a vaginal birth.
  • Use formula instead of breastfeeding.




How to use a condom


During vaginal and/or anal sex, follow these steps to correctly use a condom:

  • Make sure the condom is lubricated and made of either latex, polyurethane, or polyisoprene.
  • Check the expiration date. Squeeze the package to make sure there is a pillow of air. This indicates the condom is undamaged.
  • Carefully open the package; do not use teeth or scissors.
  • Position the condom so it resembles a sombrero hat.
  • Squeeze a few drops of water or silicone-based lubricant inside the tip of the condom. Do not use oil-based lubricants.
  • Pinch the condom at its tip, leaving a 1/2 inch space for semen to collect. Make sure to squeeze out any air.
  • Put the condom on the head of an erect penis. If this penis is uncircumcised, pull back the foreskin before putting on the condom. Then, unroll the condom to the base of the penis.
  • Smooth out any air pockets between the condom and the penis.
  • Add lubrication to the outside of the condom, and as needed throughout intercourse.
  • Use a new condom between anal and vaginal sex, as well as between different sexual partners.
  • Throughout intercourse, check to make sure the condom remains on the penis.
  • When done with intercourse, withdraw the erect penis gently while holding the rim of the condom at the base of the penis.
  • Gently roll the condom off the penis. Do this away from your partner’s body.
  • Tie a knot at the end of the condom, wrap in tissue, and throw it away in the trash.
Also check out the video, How to Put on a Condom, with Ms Eda Bagel. Special thanks to Greenworks Video, Fascinations, and, of course, the lovely Ms. Eda Bagel.




How is HIV transmitted?


HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), the virus that can lead to AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), is transmitted from a person living with HIV to another person through blood, semen, vaginal fluid, and breast milk. Fluids that contain HIV must get into the bloodstream in order for the person to acquire the virus. There is a high to moderate likelihood for acquiring HIV by:

  • Having unprotected vaginal or anal sex, with greater risk to a receptive partner.
  • Sharing needles with someone who is living with HIV. This could include injecting drugs, steroids, or vitamins; and sharing tattooing or piercing equipment.
  • Breast-feeding by a mother living with HIV.
  • Having unprotected oral sex with someone who is living with HIV.




How to use additional barriers


The use of a latex barrier (dam, latex square, or plastic wrap*) during oral-anal and oral-vaginal sex can reduce your chance of acquiring HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

  • Apply water-based lubricant on one side of the barrier. This side will be put against the skin of the receptive partner.
  • Put the lubricated side of the barrier up to your partner’s vagina or anus.
  • When finished with the oral sex, dispose of the latex barrier (not in the toilet).
  • Remember to use a new barrier for each act of oral-vaginal or oral-anal sex or if you decide to switch between areas.
  • Do not share barriers between partners, but instead use a new barrier for each person.
*Plastic food wrap may not provide a completely safe barrier, but is preferable to no barrier at all.




Where can I get condoms and other barriers?


BCAP, Boulder County Public Health, and Boulder Valley Women’s Health Center all offer condoms and other latex barriers at no cost. Condoms may be purchased at area pharmacies, grocery stores, and adult bookstores. Prices vary.





 
PREP & PEP

What is PEP?


Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) is an intensive four-week medication regimen to be taken within 72 hours after exposure to HIV. The sooner PEP is started within the 72-hour window period, the better. When taken as directed, it is a very effective strategy to reduce HIV transmission. PEP is prescribed to be taken once or twice daily for 28 days. PEP is safe, but involves a high concentration level of anti-retroviral medications. As a result, side effects like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, and fatigue are common; however, these can all be treated. Though adherence is challenging, it’s imperative to follow the regimen as prescribed for maximum efficacy. When considering PEP after possible or known exposure to HIV, seek the nearest urgent care provider or emergency room doctor right away. There also is a 24-hour PEP Hotline that can be reached toll-free at 1-888-448-4911.




What is PrEP?


Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is a new and exciting HIV prevention strategy in the form of a one-a-day medicine (Truvada®). When used daily as prescribed, it is more than 92% effective in preventing HIV transmission. For an individual on PrEP, HIV infection can become practically non-existent if it’s taken correctly alongside condoms and other prevention strategies. Efficacy depends on the user. For maximum protection, it is recommended to take the medication once a day. It takes 7 days for Truvada® to become effective in rectal tissue and 20 days in vaginal or urethral tissue. If a dose of Truvada® is missed, the protection level will decrease. Side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and headaches may occur in the first two weeks of starting Truvada®. Fortunately, these effects tend to go away shortly and don’t necessarily happen to everyone. More serious side effects are rare. PrEP is recommended for men who have sex with men (MSM), transgender women, and people in sero-discordant relationships. Nonetheless, anyone at increased risk of exposure to HIV may benefit from Truvada® as PrEP. To access PrEP, it is recommended to have a consultation with a medical professional. In Boulder, the Beacon Center for Infectious Diseases has a long history of providing quality HIV care to the community. This clinic also has experience in providing consultation, navigation, and medical care to people who are interested in accessing PrEP. Contact the Beacon Center for Infectious Diseases at 303-415-8850 for more information or to set up an appointment.




More questions about PrEP or PEP?


Watch the video: Demystifying HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis





additional resources
 

Colorado Resources

 

National HIV Resources

 

Legislation and Advocacy

 

Health Care & Insurance

 
CO AIDS SERVICE ORGAnizations

Boulder County AIDS Project (BCAP)
Serves Boulder, Broomfield, Gilpin, and Clear Creek Counties.
Web: www.bcap.org
Address: 2118 14th Street, Boulder, CO 80302
Phone: 303.444.6121
Español: 303.444.7181
Fax: 303.444.0260
Email: info@bcap.org

Denver Colorado AIDS Project – Colorado Health Network

Serves the greater Denver metro area, including Denver, Arapahoe, Adams, Jefferson, Broomfield, and Douglas Counties.
Web: www.denvercap.org
Address:  6260 E. Colfax Avenue, Denver, CO 80220
Phone: 303.837.0166

Northern Colorado AIDS Project (NCAP)
Serves the counties of Larimer, Weld, Morgan, Logan, Sedgwick, Phillips, Yuma, and Washington.
Web: www.denvercap.org/northern-colorado-aids-project
Address: 400 Remington, Suite 100, Fort Collins, CO 80524
Address: 2017 9th Street, Greeley, CO 80631
Phone: 970.484.4469 (Fort Collins)
Phone: 970.353.1177 (Greeley)

Southern Colorado AIDS Project (S-CAP)
Serves the counties of Alamosa, Baca, Bent, Chaffee, Cheyenne, Conejos, Costilla, Crowley, Custer, El Paso, Elbert, Fremont, Huerfano, Kiowa, Kit Carson, Las Animas, Lincoln, Mineral, Otero, Park, Powers, Pueblo, Rio Grande, Saguache, and Teller.
Web: www.denvercap.org/southern-colorado-aids-project
Address: 1301 South 8th Street, Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80905
Address: 505 West 8th Street, Pueblo, CO 81003
Phone: 719.578.9092 (Colorado Springs)
Phone: 719.924.8925 (Pueblo)

Western Colorado AIDS Project (WCAP)
Serves the counties of Moffat, Routt, Jackson, Rio Blanco, Garfield, Eagle, Summit, Grand, Lake, Pitkin, Mesa, Delta, Gunnison, Montrose, Ouray, San Miguel, Dolores, San Juan, Hinsdale, Montezuma, La Plata, and Archuleta.
Web: www.denvercap.org/western-colorado-aids-project
Address: 805 Main Street, Grand Junction, CO 81501
Phone: 970.243.2437

2118 14th Street    Boulder  CO  80302

515 Kimbark Street    Longmont  CO  80501

info@bcap.org     303.444.6121

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