HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system. Over time, HIV can destroy CD4 cells (or T cells), which help the body fight off infections and diseases.
Only certain body fluids from a person who has HIV can transmit HIV: blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids and breast milk. It CANNOT be transmitted through air or water, saliva, insects, or sharing food and drink.
HIV is most commonly transmitted through sexual behaviors and needle or syringe use. Risky sexual behaviors include having anal or vaginal sex with someone who has HIV without using a condom. People with another sexually transmitted disease (STD) are at increased risk of getting or transmitting HIV. It can also be transmitted while injecting drugs, if users share needles with someone who has HIV. The virus can live in a used needle up to 42 days.
A few weeks after infection, some people experience a flu-like illness with fever, chills, rash, muscle aches, fatigue or sore throat. However, some people may not show any symptoms at all. These signs could be caused by other illnesses, but if you have these symptoms after a potential exposure to HIV, see a health care provider and tell them about your risk.
If untreated, the HIV virus can allow opportunistic infections or cancers to take advantage of the weakened immune system. This last stage of an HIV infection is known as AIDS or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. Without treatment, AIDS usually leads to death. Early symptoms of AIDS include chills, fever, sweats, weakness and weight loss.
In Georgia, one in five individuals with HIV don’t know they’re HIV positive. The only way to know for sure whether you have HIV is to get tested. Knowing your status is important because it helps you make healthy decisions to prevent getting or transmitting HIV.
The CDC recommends everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care, and more often if you are at a higher risk of getting HIV. At our clinics, we provide blood tests with a completely confidential process.
There is no cure for HIV, but there are medications that can limit damage to the immune system, improve the health of people living with HIV, reduce their ability to transmit HIV, and allow people with HIV to live long, healthy lives.
Prevention and PrEP
A significant way to lower your risk of HIV is to practice safe lifestyle habits. You can protect yourself by not having sex, having sex with only one uninfected partner who only has sex with you, using a condom during each sexual encounter, and only using sterile needles or works.
If you are at high risk for HIV from sex or injecting drugs, you can greatly reduce your risk of HIV infection by taking daily HIV medication, called pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP. PrEP prevents HIV from taking hold and spreading throughout your body. When taken daily, PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99%, reduces the risk of getting HIV from injecting drugs by 74%, and is even more effective if combined with other preventative measures.
In-Home HIV Test
The OraQuick In-Home HIV Test is the only HIV test approved by the FDA that people can use to test themselves at home or in a private location. OraQuick was approved in 2012 for sale in stores and online to anyone age 17 and older.
The kit does not require sending a sample to a lab. It tests fluid from the mouth and delivers results in 20 to 40 minutes.
The test checks for antibodies to HIV. Antibodies are proteins the body makes to fight off an infection.
The kit contains a test stick you use to swab your upper and lower gums to collect an oral fluid sample from your mouth. The stick is then placed in a tube with a testing solution. After 20 to 40 minutes, one line will appear if the test is negative. Two lines indicate that HIV antibodies were detected and that you may be HIV positive.
If the home test is positive, a follow-up laboratory test will need to be done to confirm the results. For more information, call 678.373.8245.
Test kits can be picked up in person or shipped.
Our HIV/AIDS prevention specialists offer the following services:
- Confidential HIV test (provided for free)
- Free latex and non-latex condoms (male & female)
- Free Condoms by Mail
- Free at-home HIV self-test kits
- Evaluation for PrEP nPEP(non-occupational Post Exposure Prophylactic)
To speak with a member of the HIV Prevention team about PrEP/nPEP referrals, call 470.618.4045.
In-Clinic HIV Testing
Free HIV testing is offered at our Clayton County Health District Forest Park Annex Clinic, 685 Forest Parkway, Forest Park, GA 30297 Monday – Friday 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. Testing for HIV is free, but fees may apply for other clinic and lab services.
Preparing for Your Testing Appointment
To speed-up your clinic visit, you may print out, complete and sign the following form:
In addition to the Intake Application Part 1, please bring proof of identity(for other services, you may need to provide proof of residence and income).