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What is HIV?
What are symptoms of HIV?
What causes AIDS?
What are symptoms of AIDS?
Where did AIDS come

How many people die from AIDS each year?
How do I get tested for HIV/AIDS?
How is AIDS transmitted?

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Most Frequently Asked
Questions About HIV & AIDS

Simple, straightforward answers to common questions about AIDS and HIV, presented together in one place for your convenience. Unless otherwise noted, all information presented here was obtained through the Center for Disease Control website.

What is HIV?
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. This is the virus that causes AIDS. HIV is different from most other viruses because it attacks the immune system. The immune system gives our bodies the ability to fight infections. HIV finds and destroys a type of white blood cell (T cells or CD4 cells) that the immune system must have to fight disease.

What causes AIDS?
AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection. It can take years for a person infected with HIV, even without treatment, to reach this stage. Having AIDS means that the virus has weakened the immune system to the point at which the body has a difficult time fighting infection. When someone has one or more specific infections, certain cancers, or a very low number of T cells, he or she is considered to have AIDS.

What are the symptoms of AIDS?
The only way to know whether you are infected is to be tested for HIV. You cannot rely on symptoms alone because many people who are infected with HIV do not have symptoms for many years. Someone can look and feel healthy but can still be infected. In fact, one quarter of the HIV-infected persons in the United States do not know that they are infected.

Where did AIDS come from?
Scientists identified a type of chimpanzee in West Africa as the source of HIV infection in humans. The virus most likely jumped to humans when humans hunted these chimpanzees for meat and came into contact with their infected blood. Over several years, the virus slowly spread across Africa and later into other parts of the world.

How many people die from AIDS each year?
HIV was first identified in the United States in 1981 after a number of gay men started getting sick with a rare type of cancer. It took several years for scientists to develop a test for the virus, to understand how HIV was transmitted between humans, and to determine what people could do to protect themselves.

In 2008, CDC adjusted its estimate of new HIV infections because of new technology developed by the agency.  Before this time, CDC estimated there were roughly 40,000 new HIV infections each year in the United States.  New results shows there were dramatic declines in the number of new HIV infections from a peak of about 130,000 in the mid 1980s to a low of roughly 50,000 in the early 1990s.  Results also shows that new infections increased in the late 1990s, followed by a leveling off since 2000 at about 55,000 per year. In 2006, an estimated 56,300 individuals were infected with HIV.

AIDS cases began to fall dramatically in 1996, when new drugs became available. Even so, according to the CDC, more than 14,000 people with AIDS in the U.S. die each year, with an estimated 15,529 AIDS deaths in 2010.

Today, more people than ever before are living with HIV/AIDS. CDC estimates that about 1 million people in the United States are living with HIV or AIDS. About one quarter of these people do not know that they are infected: not knowing puts them and others at risk.

How do I get tested for HIV/AIDS?
Once HIV enters the body, the body starts to produce antibodies—substances the immune system creates after infection. Most HIV tests look for these antibodies rather than the virus itself. There are many different kinds of HIV tests, including rapid tests and home test kits. All HIV tests approved by the US government are very good at finding HIV.

Many places offer HIV testing: health departments, doctors' offices, hospitals, and sites specifically set up to provide HIV testing.

You can locate a testing site by visiting the CDC HIV testing database or by calling CDC-INFO (formerly the CDC National AIDS Hotline) at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) 24 Hours/Day.  You do not have to give any personal information about yourself to use these services to find a testing site.

How is AIDS transmitted?
HIV is a fragile virus. It cannot live for very long outside the body. As a result, the virus is not transmitted through day-to-day activities such as shaking hands, hugging, or a casual kiss. You cannot become infected from a toilet seat, drinking fountain, doorknob, dishes, drinking glasses, food, or pets. You also cannot get HIV from mosquitoes.

HIV is primarily found in the blood, semen, or vaginal fluid of an infected person. HIV is transmitted in 3 main ways:

1. Having sex (anal, vaginal or oral) with someone infected with HIV;
2. Sharing needles and syringes with someone infected with HIV; and
3. Being exposed to HIV before or during birth or through breast feeding.

HIV also can be transmitted through blood infected with HIV. However, since 1985, all donated blood in the United States has been tested for HIV. Therefore, the risk for HIV infection through the transfusion of blood or blood products is extremely low. The U.S. blood supply is considered among the safest in the world.


• More than 1.1 million Americans have HIV, and almost 1 in 6 (15.8%) of those are unaware they are infected. Overall, an estimated 1,155,792 people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with AIDS.

• An estimated 56,300 Americans are infected each year, which averages to one new infection every 9 minutes.

• In 2011, an estimated 49,273 people in the U.S. were diagnosed with HIV infection. In that same year, an estimated 32,052 people were diagnosed with AIDS.

• More than 14,000 people with AIDS die every year. In 2010, an estimated 15,529 people with an AIDS diagnosis died.

• Among racial groups, African Americans face the most severe burden: they account for 46% of all people with HIV.

Source: CDC, November 2013:
click here for source file


Special Features

Letters From Clients:
A first-hand look at living with AIDS and how MAAS helps

A Woman in the Wilderness:
MAAS Founder and Executive Director Judy Warren

The Story of MAAS which sparked massive change in
West Texas AIDS awareness

Letters From Students:
Responding to MAAS' High School HIV/AIDS Prevention Education Program