What is HIV?

"One in eight people living with HIV don't know they have it."

What is HIV?

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus

HIV is a viral infection that weakens the body's immune system.

HIV can only be transmitted through:

  • Unprotected sex with an HIV infected person; the virus can be transmitted via sexual fluids, including vaginal fluid, semen, and anal fluid.
  • Transfusion using an HIV-infected person's blood.
  • Sharing needles, syringes, or sharp objects with a person living with HIV.
  • Mother to child, either while the baby is still in the womb, during childbirth, or during breastfeeding.

HIV, when left untreated, can develop into Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). AIDS is diagnosed when a person's white blood count (CD4/T cells) falls below 200. It takes between 7 and 10 years for HIV to transition to AIDS if untreated.

HIV Statistics

Quick Figures

1.2 million Americans are living with HIV.

1 in 7 people living with HIV are not aware of their infection.

HIV continues to have a disproportionate impact on certain populations, particularly gay and bisexual men and racial and ethnic minorities.

Click HERE for more HIV statistics. 


According to a 2018 study, 7,337 people are living with HIV in Kentucky.

  • There were 372 new cases in 2018 alone.

According to a 2018 study, 11,503 people are living with HIV in Indiana.

  • There were 512 new diagnosis in 2018 alone.

In 2018, Black Kentuckians made up roughly 8% of the state’s population, but represented almost 33% of all new HIV diagnosis. See resource HERE.

Nationally, 9% of HIV infections are attributed to injection drug use. See resource HERE.

HIV Symptoms

An HIV infected person can be asymptomatic (have no symptoms) for up to 10 years.

Typically newly infected persons will experience flu-like symptoms 2-3 weeks after infection, lasting for approximately 1 week, but many experience no symptoms after initial infection

The only way to determine one's HIV status for sure is by taking an HIV test.

HIV Prevention


Being monogamous to a committed sexual partner with a known HIV status

Consistent and accurate use of condoms (external, internal & flavored) and other barriers like dental dams.

You can also stay protected by taking PrEP, a once-daily pill proven to lower the risk of HIV contraction. For more information, see our page on PrEP.

Persons living with HIV can also protect their partners by consistently adhering to their anti-retroviral medications. Regular adherence greatly reduces the risk of passing HIV onto a partner.

HIV Treatment

HIV treatment is very accessible for individuals who are aware of their HIV infection. For most, taking 1-3 pills per day will greatly reduce the viral load, or the amount of virus in a person's body. People living with HIV who take their medications correctly and consistently often achieve "viral suppression," or are said to have an "undetectable" status. Many people living with HIV who correctly adhere to their medication live normal and healthy lives.

Being undetectable means the amount of HIV in the body has become so low that monitoring tests are unable to detect the virus in an HIV-positive person's blood. This, however, does not mean that the person is cured; a person infected with HIV will always be living with the virus. Individuals who are virally suppressed are at very low risk for passing the virus onto their sexual or needle-sharing HIV-negative partners.

You cannot treat what you do not know – get tested, know your status, stay happy and healthy