HIV: The Basics

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus.

If left untreated, HIV can lead to the disease AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).

Unlike some other viruses, the human body can’t get rid of HIV completely. So once you have HIV, you have it for life.

HIV attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the CD4 cells (T cells), which help the immune system fight off infections. If left untreated, HIV reduces the number of CD4 cells (T cells) in the body, making the person more likely to get infections or infection-related cancers. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infections and disease. These opportunistic infections or cancers take advantage of a very weak immune system and signal that the person has AIDS, the last stage of HIV infection.

AIDS: The Basics

AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome:

  • Acquired means you can get infected with it;
  • Immune Deficiency means a weakness in the body’s system that fights diseases.
  • Syndrome means a group of health problems that make up a disease.

AIDS is caused by a virus called HIV and is the final stage of HIV infection, and not everyone who has HIV advances to this stage.

AIDS is the stage of infection that occurs when your immune system is badly damaged and you become vulnerable to opportunistic infections. When the number of your CD4 cells falls below 200 cells per cubic millimeter of blood (200 cells/mm3), you are considered to have progressed to AIDS. (The CD4 count of an uninfected adult/adolescent who is generally in good health ranges from 500 cells/mm3 to 1,600 cells/mm3.)  People with HIV/ AIDS need medical treatment to prevent death.

HIV: Transmission

You can get or transmit HIV only through specific activities. Most commonly, people get or transmit HIV through sexual behaviors and needle or syringe use.

HIV is not spread easily. Only certain body fluids from a person who has HIV can transmit HIV:

  • Blood
  • Semen
  • Pre-seminal fluid
  • Rectal fluids
  • Vaginal fluids
  • Breast milk

These body fluids must come into contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue or be directly injected into your bloodstream (by a needle or syringe) for transmission to occur.

Resources from other services

Brevard County

Central Florida AIDS Planning Consortium
The Ryan White Planning Body for Brevard County and the Orlando Metropolitan Area

Salvation Army
A variety of social services, disaster relief, emergency shelter.

Yellow Umbrella
Parenting and anger management classes, domestic abuse and child abuse prevention.

Central Brevard Sharing Center
Community kitchen, food pantry, financial assistance, prescription assistance.

United Way of Brevard County
Information about social service agencies funded by United Way, as well as disaster relief.

Brevard County 211
Crisis intervention, information, and referral service.

Daily Bread
Serves hot meals daily, showers and laundry.

The Women’s Center
Counseling, transitional housing, services for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse.

Crosswinds Youth Services
A range of support and residential services for at-risk youth.

Housing Authority of Brevard County
Services for low-income homebuyers and renters.

Brevard Job Link
Services for job seekers and employers.

Healthy Start Coalition of Brevard County
Prenatal care, child development, parenting.

Coalition for the Hungry & Homeless
Housing services and case management.

Treasure Coast Counties

The Care Network of the Treasure Coast (CNTC)
The Ryan White planning body for Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin, and Okeechobee Counties

Indian River County Health Start Coalition
Prenatal care, child development, parenting.

Catholic Charities
Counseling, services to Haitian immigrants, elder services.

Salvation Army–Martin County
A variety of social services, disaster relief, emergency shelter.

Salvation Army—St. Lucie, Indian River, Okeechobee Counties
A variety of social services, disaster relief, emergency shelter.

Mustard Seed Ministries
Food, clothing, household goods and financial assistance for utilities and prescription drugs

AIDS Research and Treatment Center of the Treasure Coast
HIV outpatient medical care

Associates In Infectious Disease
HIV outpatient medical care

Florida Community Health Centers
Community clinic and HIV outpatient medical care.

Planned Parenthood
Birth control, treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, annual exams, pap tests.

St. Lucie County Housing Authority
SHIP program– provides funding to assist first time homebuyers with down payment/closing cost assistance

St. Lucie County Emergency Services
Local disaster preparedness information.

Treasure Coast 211
Crisis intervention, information, and referral service.

United Ways

United Way of Brevard County
United Way of Indian River County
United Way of St. Lucie County
United Way of Martin County
United Way of Okeechobee County

Health Departments

Brevard County Health Department
Indian River County Health Department
St. Lucie County Health Department
Martin County Health Department
Okeechobee County Health Department

HIV Organizations–National Advocacy Organizations

National Minority AIDS Council
Community Based Organization database, useful links, conferences and trainings.
National Association of People with AIDS
A non-profit membership organization. Advocacy, National Testing Day resources, and other information for People with HIV/AIDS
AIDS Action
Political action and advocacy
The AIDS Institute
Political action and advocacy

HIV Organizations – HIV/AIDS And Its Treatment

Project Inform
PI Perspective, a monthly treatment newsletter, and other treatment information
AIDS Infonet
Specializes in fact sheets on hundreds of topics, such as salvage therapy and body composition tests.
Positively Aware
Positively Aware, a monthly treatment publication, and an annual HIV drug guide online.
Gay Men’s Health Crisis
Publishes GMHC Treatment Issues, a monthly newsletter providing commentary on treatment andresearch issues.
The Body
A comprehensive on-line resource for HIV/AIDS information.
Check drug interactions, graph your labs, check new drugs in development and more.
Daily news, resources for newly diagnosed people, database of online news and information.
AIDS Treatment Data Network
Treatment information, hepatitis information, bilingual (Spanish) pages.
Headlines and basic FAQs about HIV/AIDS.
HIV InSite
Medical, prevention, and policy resources from the University of California, San Francisco
National AIDS Treatment Advocacy Project (NATAP)
Research and Treatment newsletter on HIV and hepatitis

HIV Organizations For African Americans

Black AIDS Institute
News, publications on subjects such as youth, women, and parenting, public policy.
Balm in Gilead
A national organization that strives to involve the black church in HIV/AIDS work
National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS
Policy, research, and advocacy. Publications for AIDS service organizations.

HIV Organizations For Hispanics

Latino Commission on AIDS
Dedicated to improving and expanding health promotion, research, treatment and other services to the Latino community

HIV Organizations For Youth

Advocates for Youth
Sexual health information for youth, and links to Advocates for Youth’s sites for gay and lesbian youth, young women of color, and Latino gay and lesbian youth.