HIV, or Human Immunodeficiency Virus, is the virus that is responsible for AIDS, the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. Once you have AIDS, HIV destroys your immune system, you develop infections which you cannot fight, and you become very ill and die. There are treatments which can help suppress the virus and prolong health, but there is no cure for AIDS and nothing which will eradicate the virus from your body.
Anyone can be infected with HIV. HIV is present in the blood of infected individuals, and infected people can be healthy for up to 10 years without any sign of illness. The most common way to be exposed is to have unprotected sex (sex without a condom) with someone who is infected with HIV, or to share a needle and syringe to inject drugs with someone who has HIV. HIV infections should be a concern for college students.
The best way to protect yourself is to not be exposed to the virus:
- do not inject drugs or share needles used to inject drugs or for tattoos
- abstain from sexual intercourse, or, if you choose to be sexually active, be in a mutually monogamous relationship in which both partners have been tested and are negative for HIV infection (and other sexually transmitted infections)
- use latex condoms with every sexual encounter (although condoms are not 100% effective)
- the more sexual partners you have, the greater the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections
- don’t share razors or toothbrushes because of the possible exposure to blood
You may have HIV and have no symptoms. To be certain, you should be tested. The testing can be performed at the Student Health Service and includes rapid testing with fingerstick blood with results provided at the visit and conventional testing with venipuncture or Orasure™, an oral mucosal transudate test, with results provided at a follow up visit in two weeks. All of these tests measure antibodies produced against the HIV virus. These antibodies will be present 2 weeks to 3 months after the exposure to HIV. All eligible students can request testing, and it can be performed anonymously or confidentially for a nominal charge. Each student requesting testing will be counseled about the test and risk reduction.
You can call the Student Health Service (766-2130) to set up an appointment for testing.
Alternative sites for HIV testing include Albany County Public Health (721-2561) and Laramie Reproductive Health (745-5364).
For further information about HIV, please see:
Center for Disease Control - HIV/AIDS
US Department of Health and Human Services AIDS information