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  • HIV/AIDS

    Learn about HIV/AIDS.

    HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is an infection that spreads when you come into direct contact with certain body fluids from a person with HIV who has a detectable viral load. These fluids are:

    • Blood.
    • Semen and pre-seminal fluid.
    • Rectal fluids.
    • Vaginal fluids.
    • Breast milk.

    For transmission to occur, the HIV in these fluids must get into the bloodstream of an HIV-negative person through a mucous membrane (found in the rectum, vagina, mouth, or tip of the penis); open cuts or sores; or by direct injection.

    HIV destroys white blood cells, which are key to the immune system or your body’s natural ability to fight disease. If left untreated, HIV develops into AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), a stage of the illness in which you have a very weak immune system that makes you more susceptible to life compromising illnesses.

    There is no cure for HIV. However, HIV treatment does a good job of suppressing the virus, slowing or stopping disease progression. If you take medication as prescribed, you can achieve an undetectable viral load. Once undetectable, research shows you cannot transmit the HIV to others.

    People who are disproportionately impacted by HIV:

    • Men who have sex with men.
    • Trans women who have sex with men.
    • People who inject drugs.
    • People who exchange sex for drugs or money.
    • People disproportionately exposed to racism, particularly those who are foreign-born Black, Black/African American, and Latinx.
    • People 25–29 years old.

    Want more info?

    Know your status—get tested for HIV.

    When?

    • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 13–64 years old get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care.
    • If you’re at increased risk, get tested every 3–6 months.

    How?

    • Talk to your healthcare provider.
    • Most providers charge a fee for testing. Health insurance may cover the costs. If you do not have insurance, ask about fees first.
      • If you’re under 18, ask if an explanation of benefits detailing your HIV testing will be sent home to your parents. 
    • If you have trouble finding testing or treatment, call us at (253) 649-1418 for help.

    Where?

    You can get tested at your provider’s office or a community testing site:

    Connect to HIV Care.

    Community Health Care’s Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program offers multidisciplinary primary and specialty HIV care to patients in their Hilltop Regional Health Center in downtown Tacoma.

    Prevent HIV transmission.

    More resources

    Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)

    For providers

    Harm reduction referral sources

    LGBTQI community

    Youth