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The Florida Department of Health works to protect, promote & improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county, & community efforts.

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HIV/AIDS Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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  •  850-595-6500 x1505
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    Mailing Address

    Fairfield Service Center, 1295 West Fairfield Drive, Pensacola, Florida 32501 

     

     

     

1. What is HIV?

HIV is a viral infection that if left untreated, causes damage to the immune system so that a person becomes vulnerable to all kinds of infections. If untreated, HIV also causes constant inflammation which damages the body.

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2. What is AIDS?

AIDS is a collection of life-threatening infections and cancers that occur when a person’s immune system is damaged by untreated HIV infection. AIDS is deadly if not treated.

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3. How is HIV transmitted?

In order to cause infection, the HIV virus has to somehow enter a person’s bloodstream. It can enter through a tiny tear in the skin or through a mucous membrane like the eyes, mouth, vagina or rectum.

  • HIV is most commonly transmitted through unprotected sex with an infected person that involves contact with blood, semen, vaginal fluid or other body fluid containing blood cells. Having another sexually transmitted disease (STD) can make it easier to get HIV. Having HIV can make it easier to get another STD.
  • Persons sharing needles for injecting drugs can transmit HIV from one person to another.
  • A person may get HIV by receiving a body-piercing or tattoo from equipment that is not properly cleaned and sterilized.
  • An HIV-infected woman can transmit HIV to her baby during pregnancy and childbirth, and through breastfeeding.
  • HIV can also be transmitted through receiving HIV-infected blood or tissue, such as a blood transfusion or an organ transplant. This type of transmission is very rare in the U.S. today, due to improved HIV testing and screening requirements.

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4. How is HIV prevented?

The first and most important thing to do is to be tested and learn your HIV status. If your results are negative, HIV can be most effectively prevented by abstaining from sex or having only one sex partner who is not infected with HIV and staying faithful. 

Ask your doctor about PrEP, a pill taken once daily to prevent HIV if you are at risk for HIV.  For more information about PrEP or to make a PrEP appointment call 850-595-6345. 

Using safer sexual practices including correct and consistent use of condoms can also help prevent infection. Intravenous (IV) drug users can prevent HIV transmission by not sharing needles when injecting drugs. Pregnant women can prevent transmitting the disease to their children by getting proper care and treatment during pregnancy.

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5. What happens if I am HIV positive?

With proper care, HIV infection can be managed, preventing the development of AIDS. Both the length and the quality of life can be greatly improved by testing and treating HIV as early as possible. Today’s HIV treatments can enable infected persons to live a normal life if they follow their doctor’s instructions.

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6. Where can I get free condoms?

All DOH-Escambia County clinic locations have free condoms available to the public.

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7. What is the difference between a rapid-HIV test and traditional HIV test?

The major difference between a rapid-HIV test and traditional HIV tests is the amount of time it takes for the results to be available. A rapid HIV test can provide a result in as little as 20 minutes. A traditional HIV test can generally take about two weeks for the result to be returned. Although they are very accurate and reliable, rapid tests are for screening only. A reactive rapid test needs to be confirmed with additional testing before a final result is determined.

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8. Are rapid-HIV tests available at all DOH-Escambia County clinic locations?

The DOH-Escambia County is currently not offering rapid-HIV testing. AIDS Healthcare Foundation, HIVevolution, and the SHAPE Program provide rapid-HIV tests in Escambia County.

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9. Where can I go for testing?

To find out where to be tested, view ‘HIV Counseling & Testing Sites Area 1 Florida’ under Printed Materials or contact your local health department HIV program. All community-based HIV test sites offer FREE testing. The Florida Department of Health in Okaloosa County also offers free HIV testing. Call other Health Departments for information about their fees.

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10. How long does it take for HIV to show up on a blood test?

Today’s HIV screening tests will detect the infection within an average of 25 days after exposure and infection. It can sometimes take longer for HIV to be detected in a blood sample, but in most cases, detection can be made within three months (90 days) from the time of exposure and infection.

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11. How long does it take to develop AIDS after infection with HIV?

Without treatment, most people will develop AIDS within ten years after infection with HIV. Some people may develop AIDS sooner and some later. Factors such as genetics, age, lifestyle, the presence of other health problems and drug or alcohol use can affect how long it takes to develop AIDS.

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12. I have HIV and no medical insurance. Where can I get help with medical visits, medication, housing, food, etc.?

Please contact the Area 1 Lead Agency, Lutheran Services Florida, at 850-497-7157.

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13. What number do I call to make an ADAP appointment?

850-595-6767

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14. What if I am pregnant? Is my baby going to get HIV too?

If a pregnant woman has HIV, she can take medication during pregnancy to prevent her baby from becoming infected. After birth, the baby will be given medicine for the first six weeks of life to make sure he or she is not infected. HIV-exposed babies should receive medical care from a HIV doctor until it is certain that the baby is not infected. HIV-infected women should not breastfeed in order to prevent transmitting the infection to infants.

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