HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)

HIV weakens a person’s immune system by destroying cells used to fight disease and infection.

About HIV

  • HIV is transmitted through bodily fluids, including semen, vaginal fluid, anal fluid, breastmilk and blood. 

  • Injecting drugs and sexual activity are the primary way people in the U.S. acquire HIV.

  • HIV is easily treatable and people living with HIV can lead long, healthy lives. 

  • When HIV is undetectable, it cannot be transmitted. HIV become undetectable by using medications to reduce the amount of virus in someone’s blood (viral load).

  • Confidential testing is available at Points West at no cost. It is a very quick test requiring one drop of blood, with results in about 30 minutes  

HIV prevention tools:

  • Get tested regularly for HIV, HCV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Other STDs can increase transmission of HIV and HCV because they often cause inflammation, leaving tissues more vulnerable to abrasion or microtears and giving bloodborne pathogens an easy way into the body.

  • Using sterile syringes, safer smoking supplies and other tools like those at Points West.

  • Trying different drug routes like snorting or smoking.

  • Avoiding sexual activity involving fluid exchange.

  • Use barriers appropriate for the sex you have, like condoms, internal condoms or dams.

  • Considering personal lube to reduce microtears in tissue.

    • Water-based lube is generally allergy-free and safe for anybody. Additionally, it is easy to wash off and can be reconstituted with a bit of water if it becomes sticky or dry.

    • Silicone lube is often favored by individuals who practice anal sex because it lasts longer and doesn’t dry out. This is key as the anus doesn’t lubricate.

    • Oil-based lube such as baby oil, lotion or Vaseline etc. can damage condoms and is not recommended.

  • Take PrEp or PEP. PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is medicine people at risk for HIV take to prevent HIV. PEP(post exposure prophylaxis) is a medicine to help prevent HIV after a possible exposure. Learn more about PrEP and PEP.