Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions about HIV

[expand title=”I just found out I have HIV. Does that mean I’m going to die soon?”]

No. HIV is no longer the death sentence it used to be. If it is left untreated, HIV can still be fatal; however, with the right medications and care from your provider, people living with HIV today can keep the virus under control and lead long, healthy, productive lives. This means it is very important that you get in to see your provider and get on HIV medications sooner rather than later. [/expand]


[expand title=”Now that I’m HIV-positive, will I get colds or other illnesses more often? Do I need to be extra careful who I come in contact with?”]

For someone living with HIV whose CD4 count (a measure of the health of the immune system) is greater than 200, the immune system should do a fair job of fighting off common illnesses like a cold. It wouldn’t be necessary to take extra precautions above and beyond what is normal.

For someone whose immune system is weak (CD4 count below 200) or very weak (CD4 count below 100), certain infections are more common and the immune system might take longer to fight off an illness like a cold. For someone whose immune system is weak, it is a good idea to talk with a medical provider about special precautions that might be helpful; nevertheless, most people should be able to carry on a normal, social life.

Regardless of your CD4 count, these are always good recommendations for staying healthy:

  • Make sure you’re taking HIV medications that keep the virus under control. Even if you have a low CD4 count, being on HIV medications can help lower the risks of illnesses and infections.
  • Practice good hand hygiene.
  • Avoid smoking, alcohol, and drug use which can make you more susceptible to illnesses. [/expand]


[expand title=”Is there a cure for HIV? Has anyone ever been cured of HIV? Is Magic Johnson cured?”]

No. There is not yet a cure for HIV. Magic Johnson is not cured of HIV. He takes HIV medications to stay healthy. (If you do not believe this, read this article and watch a video with Magic explaining that he is not cured here:

While there is no cure for HIV currently, there is promising research proposing several potential strategies that might lead us to a cure in the future.

There have been a number of cases of patients who have had extended “remissions” from HIV, meaning that it took much longer than expected for their HIV viral load to rebound after stopping their HIV medications in the context of a clinical study of treatment interruption. However, there is only one person considered by scientists around the world to be cured of HIV: Timothy Ray Brown.

Often referred to as “The Berlin Patient” because he was living in Germany at the time of his cure, Timothy is unique in the history of the HIV epidemic. Timothy had been living with HIV for a decade before he received another staggering diagnosis: acute myeloid leukemia (AML), which is a type of cancer. After trying chemotherapy unsuccessfully to treat his leukemia, Timothy needed a bone marrow transplant.

Timothy’s doctor in Germany, Gero Hütter, MD, had the idea to use a donor who was naturally resistant to HIV infection to treat both Timothy’s leukemia and his HIV.  They found a donor who had a specific genetic mutation that can protect a person against HIV infection. Because of this mutation, the virus is not able to enter its target, the CD4 cells. On February 7, 2007, Timothy was transplanted for the first time with these HIV-resistant donor cells. On that day he also chose to stop his antiretroviral treatment. Sixty-eight days later, they could find no more replicating virus in his blood or in tissues where we expect to find HIV.

Bone marrow or stem cell transplants are dangerous and complicated medical procedures for the recipients, so they will not work as a potential cure for people who are living well with HIV. The cure that Timothy Ray Brown has experienced has not yet been replicated in other people living with HIV who have received bone marrow transplants, but his story is proof that curing people of HIV is possible.

And it is Timothy’s story that inspires scientists around the world to figure out how we might replicate Timothy’s cure in a way that is safer, less expensive and accessible to everyone who needs it.[/expand]


[expand title=”How do we know HIV causes AIDS? Can any other health conditions cause AIDS besides HIV infection?”]

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the virus that causes AIDS, and no, nothing else causes AIDS except for HIV. AIDS is a stage of HIV infection and is sometimes described as “advanced HIV” or “late-stage HIV infection.” AIDS is the condition that happens if someone is infected with HIV and the virus weakens the immune system to the point that the body becomes vulnerable to infections.

In the early 1980s, AIDS was first described when young men started presenting to hospitals with health problems and symptoms that didn’t fit with any known illness. AIDS is a Syndrome, which means that when it was first described by doctors, it was just a combination of symptoms without a known cause. A couple years later, the HIV virus was discovered, and it wasn’t until a few years after that discovery that scientists had enough data to prove that HIV was actually the virus that causes AIDS.

Visit this National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases webpage to see an overview of the evidence that HIV is the cause of AIDS.[/expand]


[expand title=”I’ve heard that HIV-tests can be wrong (false-positives or false-negatives). Should I trust my HIV test results?”]

HIV tests approved by the FDA are generally highly accurate; however, inaccurate results (getting a false-positive or false-negative result) do happen occasionally. The rate of false-positive or false-negative results varies from test to test, but is typically less than 1 in 100 tests. Visit our page about Testing for HIV to read more about different types of HIV test. There are a couple of things to keep in mind when you get an HIV test:

  1. If your blood sample tests positive for HIV, it will always be tested a second time using a different type of HIV test for confirmation. That second, confirmatory test is done to make sure that the result is real (not a false-positive). If both HIV tests yield a positive result, then we can be very certain that the result is accurate. Anyone who receives an HIV diagnosis has had at least two different types of HIV test confirming their HIV diagnosis.
  2. If you have been exposed to HIV recently and have a very early HIV-infection, HIV tests may not be able to detect it yet. It can take anywhere from a couple weeks to a few months for different tests to be able to detect an HIV-infection consistently. If you’ve had a possible exposure to HIV, it is always good to get re-tested a few months after your exposure to feel certain that the test is accurate. [/expand]


[expand title=”What does it mean if my Viral Load is “Undetectable”? Does it mean I’m cured?”]

A viral load test measures how much HIV is present in the blood. The result tells you the number of individual HIV RNA molecules (there are 2 HIV RNA molecules in each HIV virion) in one milliliter of blood. The test we use at Madison Clinic is only sensitive enough to detect HIV if there are at least 40 copies of HIV RNA present in the sample of blood. If you have fewer than 40 copies (individual molecules) of HIV in your blood sample, the test will simply give a result that says “less than 40”, meaning there was a signal on the test but it was so low that it could not be counted OR “none detected,” which people typically call being “undetectable.”

Being undetectable doesn’t necessarily mean that there is zero HIV circulating in your body and it also does not mean that you are cured. People who stop taking their HIV medications generally see their viral load start to go up within a matter of days to weeks. [/expand]


[expand title=”What is a good CD4 count? What is a bad CD4 count?”]

It is hard to say what is “good” or “bad” for an individual; however, there is one major threshold we do keep in mind for people living with HIV. If your CD4 count drops below 200, then you are at higher risk for certain infections that we rarely see in people with healthy immune systems. You will need extra medication to help prevent some of those infections. If your CD4 count is above 200, that usually means your immune system should still be strong enough to fight those sorts of infections off.  A “normal” CD4 count at the Harborview laboratory, for someone who does not have HIV, can range from 740 – 2,250 cells.[/expand]


[expand title=”I’m HIV-positive and my CD4 count was below 200 for a while. It’s back above 200 now. Do I still technically have AIDS?”]

Yes. Anyone who is HIV-positive and has had a CD4 Count below 200 at any point has AIDS. Even if your CD4 count goes up and you are no longer at high risk for opportunistic infections, it is still a relevant part of your medical history that could help a medical provider understand what different health issues you might be at risk for.[/expand]


Madison Clinic Questions

[expand title=”How do I know that my HIV diagnosis will be kept private at the clinic?”]

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law that strictly protects patient confidentiality. HIPAA means that a clinic employee, such as your doctor, a nurse, or the front desk staff, cannot share any protected health information about you with anyone outside the clinic unless it is related to the continuity of your medical care. Protected information includes any details about your care, medical diagnoses (such as your HIV status), or the fact that you are a patient at the clinic. It also means that people who work at the clinic can only look at your medical record if it is related to your healthcare – they couldn’t look up your medical record just out of curiosity or just because they happen to know you personally.

In order for anyone at the clinic to be able to share information about you or your health with others, such as family members, you would need to complete a Release of Information form specifying what information can be shared and with whom.

If someone were to break the law by sharing your information with a person who isn’t involved in your medical care, they could face serious legal consequences.

The law does allow doctors, nurses, or others at the clinic to discuss protected health information with other healthcare providers involved in your care to make sure that you get the safest and best quality care possible. For example, if you are admitted to a hospital or are seeing a specialist outside Harborview, your doctor will be able to discuss your healthcare with your provider at that healthcare facility in order to coordinate your care.[/expand]


[expand title=”The last time I came to Madison Clinic I had to see a Resident Physician. What is a Resident? What about a Fellow? Are they doctors? And if I’m seeing a Resident or a Fellow, how do I know if I am still getting the best quality care?”]

A Resident Physician is someone who has earned their medical degree, but who is in a post-graduate training program which means their care must be directly overseen by more experienced doctors. A Fellow is normally someone who has earned their medical degree and completed their residency training already, but who is working on becoming even more knowledgeable about a specialized field.

At Madison Clinic, we have both Resident Physicians and physicians who are Infectious Disease Fellows learning to become HIV doctors. Be assured that you are getting very good quality care even if you see a Resident or Fellow – your care is being directly overseen by a very experienced doctor who has been working in the field for many years. Both Residents and Fellows at Madison Clinic are directly overseen by an Attending Physician, who is a professor at the University of Washington. The Attending Physician will discuss your care with the Resident/Fellow, make recommendations, and approve all of their work. Sometimes, if you see a Resident or Fellow in the clinic, the Attending Physician will come in to meet you or discuss their recommendations with you. [/expand]


[expand title=”Why did my primary doctor at Madison Clinic change? Why would my doctor leave?”]

Some providers at Madison Clinic have been here with the clinic for more than 20 years; however, other doctors do come and go. Doctors who are with Madison Clinic because they are training to become HIV specialists (such as our Infectious Disease Fellows or Continuity Residents) may only be with the clinic for 2 years before finishing their training and moving on.  There are benefits and downsides to being a patient in a training clinic. One good thing is that here you will get to see doctors who are teaching and learning the most current knowledge about HIV and who may even be involved in cutting-edge HIV research. On the other hand, because we are committed to educating new HIV doctors, some turnover among our providers is inevitable as those in training move on, and that means you might have to switch to a new doctor sometimes.

The relationship you have with your primary care doctor is very important and only builds over time, so it can be hard when you have to switch to a new doctor! Your doctor should talk with you about their departure before leaving, and you can discuss with them what new doctor might be a good fit for you in the future. If continuity in your doctor is a very important factor for you, please do bring that up with your doctor or case manager, as some of our Attending Physicians (who are faculty at the University of Washington, and tend to stay with the clinic longer, some of them for decades) are accepting new patients.[/expand]


[expand title=”Do I have to come to Madison Clinic? Can I get HIV care elsewhere?”]

You always have a choice about where you get medical care. You do not have to come to Madison Clinic. If you decide you would rather find a different clinic or doctor, you can ask your HIV case manager or your doctor for recommendations for other clinics or private practitioners in your area. You can also visit and search for HIV care resources near you. It is important to keep in mind that you may have to do some research to find out where your health insurance is accepted.[/expand]


[expand title=”Why do I have a Social Worker/Case Manager assigned to me if I don’t need one?”]

You don’t have to have a Social Worker/Case Manager. Everyone who is living with HIV in the U.S. is entitled to medical case management, but not everyone chooses to or needs to take advantage of that. If you are a Madison Clinic patient and you live in King County, then you may have been automatically provided a Social Worker at Madison Clinic, but keep in mind that (1) you need only utilize your Social Worker if you decide you need to, and (2) you always have the option to seek case management elsewhere. If you are someone who never needs to see or call your Social Worker, that is always OK; however, if something comes up and you have a problem with insurance coverage, payment for HIV care or medications, or could use some help finding support or other resources in the community, you may find it is nice to be able to seek out your Social Worker![/expand]


Questions about HIV Transmission and Prevention

[expand title=”I’m HIV-positive. Is it safe to have children? Will they be born with HIV?”]

HIV-positive people can and do become parents and can help keep their babies safe from HIV. You can read more on our page about conception, pregnancy and HIV.

HIV can be passed from an HIV-positive mother to her baby during pregnancy, labor and delivery, or through breastfeeding; however, less than 1 in 100 babies will get HIV from their HIV-positive mother if she stays on HIV medications, keeps her viral load undetectable throughout her pregnancy, and refrains from breastfeeding. HIV-positive men can also safely father children, whether the mother is HIV-positive or HIV-negative.

The main thing to keep in mind if you are thinking about starting (or expanding) a family is that planning a pregnancy when either parent is living with HIV can take a little extra preparation, so it’s a good idea for you (and your partner) to talk to your provider before you start trying to conceive. [/expand]


[expand title=”How can I avoid giving HIV to others? Is it safe for me to hug or kiss my child/niece/roommate?”]

In general, HIV is transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy or infancy, via direct blood-to-blood contact such as sharing needles to inject drugs, or through unprotected oral/anal/vaginal sexual intercourse. Read more about how to reduce the risk of giving HIV to others via sex, injection drug use, or from mother-to-child. HIV is not present in non-bloody saliva, sweat, tears, urine or feces so those body fluids pose no risk for transmitting HIV to others. That means that activities like hugging, kissing, skin-to-skin touching, cooking, sharing a water glass, or living in the same house do not spread HIV.[/expand]


[expand title=”I’m HIV-positive. What should I do if I get a cut and am bleeding?”]

Wash your cut with warm water and soap and put a bandage on it. Really, nothing else is needed!

If there is a large spill of blood or you need first aid help from someone else for a more serious wound, it’s a good idea to have your helper wear latex (or nitrile) gloves when handling the blood. Keep in mind that wearing gloves is a basic rule of first aid that helps to avoid transmission of other infectious diseases in addition to HIV. A standard bleach and water solution will also disinfect and kill HIV. In general, skin is a good barrier against HIV, so keep in mind that your blood would have to come into direct contact with a cut or sore on someone else’s skin, or a mucous membrane, in order for transmission to be possible. [/expand]


[expand title=”I’m HIV-positive. Does that mean it’s safe to have condomless sex with another HIV-positive person?”]

That is always for you and your partner to decide, but there are risks for you to consider:

  1. Different strains (slightly different versions) of HIV can be passed from person-to-person via sex. That means if your HIV-positive partner has a strain of HIV that is resistant to some HIV medications, you could get a new version of HIV that’s harder to treat. There are a couple of ways to protect yourself: condom use, and/or if both you and your partner have “undetectable” viral loads, the risk of transmitting or acquiring a new type of HIV is very low.
  2. Keep in mind that having HIV doesn’t protect you from other STDs like syphilis and gonorrhea, so you might want to consider using condoms or having both you and your partner get tested for STDs before you have sex.[/expand]


[expand title=”I’m HIV-positive. If my partner is on PrEP, is it safe to have condomless sex?”]

That is totally up to you and your partner.

No HIV prevention method is known to be 100% foolproof right now, but we do have a lot of really effective options these days and PrEP is one of them. PrEP is known to be highly effective if the person taking PrEP is taking it every day without missing doses (the more consistent you are, the better the protection is). Nevertheless, if you and your partner aren’t comfortable counting on just one method for protection, you can consider combining PrEP with other prevention methods to feel even more confident. For example, you could combine your partner’s PrEP with ensuring that you keep an “undetectable” viral load, using condoms, or if it is an option for you, having your HIV-negative partner avoid being the receptive partner during intercourse.

Second, keep in mind that HIV isn’t the only STD out there – STDs like syphilis and gonorrhea are no fun and if either you or your partner has one, it can make HIV transmission a lot more likely. You might want to consider using condoms or having both you and your partner get tested for STDs before you have sex. [/expand]


[expand title=”I’m HIV-positive and my viral load is undetectable. Is it safe for my HIV-negative partner and me to have condomless sex?”]

That is totally up to you and your partner.

No HIV prevention method is known to be 100% foolproof right now, but we do have a lot of really effective options these days and Treatment as Prevention (having an “undetectable” viral load) is one of them. Treatment as Prevention is known to be very effective at protecting others from HIV if the HIV-positive partner is taking their HIV medications every day without missing very many doses and as long as their viral load is being monitored regularly by their doctor. Nevertheless, if you and your partner aren’t comfortable counting on just one method for protection, you can consider combining Treatment as Prevention with other methods to feel even more confident. For example, you could use condoms, your partner could get on the HIV-prevention pill called PrEP, or if it is an option for you, you could have your HIV-negative partner avoid being the receptive partner during intercourse.

Second, keep in mind that HIV isn’t the only STD out there – STDs like syphilis and gonorrhea are no fun and if either you or your partner has one, it can make HIV transmission a lot more likely. You might want to consider using condoms or having both you and your partner get tested for STDs before you have sex. [/expand]


[expand title=”I’m HIV-positive. Can I give HIV to someone else through oral sex?”]

Probably, but the risk is low.

It is difficult to estimate the risk of HIV transmission via oral sex alone partly because the risk is much lower than with vaginal or anal intercourse. Nevertheless, transmission via oral sex has been documented. Experts think transmission from oral sex could be more likely if you (the HIV-positive partner) are receiving rather than giving oral sex, if you (the HIV-positive partner) have a high viral load, or if your HIV-negative partner has sores or cuts in their mouth or throat or if they recently had an oral procedure or have gum disease. [/expand]


[expand title=”I’m HIV-negative. Can I get HIV from a toilet seat/mosquito bite/kissing/sharing a drinking glass?”]No.[/expand]


Questions about HIV Medications

[expand title=”I feel well and don’t have any symptoms of HIV. Do I really need to take HIV medications?”]

Yes. HIV medications are highly recommended for all people living with HIV, regardless of whether or not they have any noticeable symptoms caused by HIV/AIDS. The sooner HIV medications are started after a person is infected with HIV, the better their long-term health outlook is. So, delaying HIV medications until your immune system is weak or until you start feeling ill can be harmful in the long run. Also, HIV medications have many benefits for your health besides just preventing symptoms of HIV. First, HIV medications help prevent HIV from progressing and getting worse in the future. Second, HIV medications may help reduce the risk for cancer, heart disease, and other health issues that can be caused by long-term HIV infection. Third, HIV medications greatly reduce the risk that someone with HIV can transmit the virus to others. [/expand]


[expand title=”Will HIV medications make me sick? Will they cause side effects that would be visible to others?”]

You may have side effects from your HIV medications; however, the medicines we use to treat HIV today are generally much easier to take and much better tolerated than HIV medications that were used 20 (or even 5) years ago. Someone diagnosed with HIV today can expect to take “one or two pills, once per day” and keep their HIV under control. Generally, side effects are fairly mild and the most common ones are nausea, diarrhea, and headache. Often people say that those side effects get better or even dissipate completely after a couple of weeks. Older HIV medications did sometimes cause visible side effects like abnormal fat distribution, but we generally don’t have to resort to using those medications to treat HIV today.[/expand]


[expand title=”I’ve heard there are natural/alternative treatments for HIV. Can herbal remedies/diet and exercise/cannabis/other methods keep my HIV under control without the usual HIV medications?”]

HIV medications remain the only proven method to keep HIV under control at this time; however, many people take HIV medications and also seek other forms of natural, herbal, or alternative treatments to help keep themselves in good mental and physical health. It is always a good idea to discuss any herbs or other medications you take with your doctor or pharmacist as some herbs do interact with HIV medications.[/expand]


[expand title=”What should I do if I miss a dose of my HIV medications?”]

The answer may vary based on which HIV medications you take, whether you take other medications, and if you have other health conditions, so it’s a good idea to consult with your provider or a pharmacist to decide what you should do in case of a missed dose.

Nevertheless, here is some general advice. First, don’t “double up” your HIV medications by taking two doses at once. Second, if you’ve only missed one dose of medications, don’t worry too much. Adherence is very important with HIV medications, but no one is perfect. Missing one dose, especially if it happens infrequently, is not the end of the world. If you’ve only missed one or two days, try to get back on track as soon as you can and take the opportunity to think about ways to avoid missing a dose in the future. Some people find it useful to set an alarm, keep an extra dose of their medications in a purse or backpack, or have a roommate or partner remind them. Especially if you’ve missed more than just one or two days of medications, it’s important to check with your provider or a pharmacist about what to do.[/expand]


[expand title=”Why does my provider ask me about my medication adherence (taking my medications) every time I see them?”]

Adherence to HIV medications (taking your HIV medications every day as prescribed) is a really important part of staying healthy while you are living with HIV. So, it is very normal for a provider to check-in with you regularly about how you’re feeling on your medications and how you’re doing with taking the medications as prescribed.

If you miss doses frequently or start and stop your medications very often, then it makes it more likely that your HIV can develop drug resistance which could make your HIV medications less effective and your HIV more difficult to treat. Keep in mind that if you start to struggle with remembering to take your medications there is no shame in that! Your provider, the clinic pharmacists, your case manager, and the clinic’s Health Educator are all resources that can help you brainstorm ways to make adherence to your HIV medications easier.[/expand]


[expand title=”What should I do if I run out of my HIV medications?”]

Try to plan ahead to avoid running out of medications. Some people set a reminder to get their refill on their calendar or set up automatic refills with their pharmacy to help make sure they get refills on time. Keep in mind that it is important to visit your provider regularly to make sure that the medications are working and are not causing any unsafe effects in your body. If it’s been too long since you’ve seen your provider they may not feel comfortable refilling your medications.

But, sometimes, running out of medications is just unavoidable.

If you are unable to get a refill of your HIV medications or are going to run out for any other reason, it is always better to take your medications up until you run out and stop them all at once.

  • Never take less than your full HIV regimen. If your “cocktail” or HIV medications is two or three pills instead of just one, stop them all if you run out of any one of them. HIV medications are meant to work together; taking less than the full regimen can cause HIV to develop drug resistance that could make your medications less effective and your HIV harder to treat.
  • Never ration your medications by taking them every other day or by skipping some doses in order to make your limited supply “last longer.” Taking HIV medications intermittently in that way can cause HIV to develop drug resistance that could make your medications less effective and your HIV harder to treat.[/expand]


[expand title=”Aren’t HIV medications expensive? Who will pay for them?”]

Generally, yes, HIV medications are expensive in the U.S. Luckily there are many programs that can help ensure that someone living with HIV gets access to HIV medications. There is a federal program called the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program that has been in effect for over 25 years and is designed to help ensure all people living with HIV in the U.S. can get the care and medications they need. If you are HIV-positive and you live in the U.S., you are entitled to medical case management services. Talk with your case manager to find out more about programs that are available in your area to help with insurance, co-pay, or medications costs. Visit this website to see which organizations provide HIV medical case management within Washington State.[/expand]


[expand title=”What are the long-term health effects of taking HIV medications?”]

We don’t have a very good answer to that question right now. Most HIV medications that we use today are very effective, well tolerated, and have few short-term health consequences; however, most of the HIV medications we use today have not been around long enough for scientists to study the long-term health effects of taking the medications for many years.[/expand]


[expand title=”Is it safe to use alcohol or cannabis (marijuana) with my HIV medications?”]

Yes, in general, alcohol and marijuana can be used in moderation when you are on HIV medications and should not prevent you from taking your HIV medications. Heavy alcohol or marijuana use may make it more difficult to remember to take your medications as prescribed. In addition, some people have other health conditions, such as hepatitis, that make it risky to consume alcohol, even in moderation. HIV causes many changes in your body and that can impact how alcohol or drugs affect your body or how they make you feel – take a look at this website for a better overview of the topic.

Also, keep in mind that it is always important to be honest with your provider or pharmacist about any medications or drugs that you use, as many prescription medications and some street drugs do interact with HIV medications.[/expand]


[expand title=”What should I do if I’m planning to take an extended trip out of state and won’t be able to pick up my medications?”]

Be sure you talk with the Madison Clinic pharmacy and/or your outside pharmacy at least a month or more before your planned trip as getting coverage for more than a month of medications can be a challenge. The Madison Clinic Pharmacy can be reached at 206-744-5151.[/expand]


[expand title=”Why do some people have just one pill per day to treat their HIV when others have to take two or three (or more)?”]

That could be for different reasons. If you want to try to reduce the number of pills you take for HIV, talk with your provider; sometimes it is possible to simplify your regimen and sometimes it isn’t.

HIV can develop drug resistance which can make the virus more complicated to treat. Drug resistance can happen different ways but is especially common in people who are long-term HIV survivors, who started on HIV medications many years ago when HIV medications just weren’t as good. When drug resistance is present, sometimes it takes more or different medications to treat HIV.  Those medications often don’t come co-formulated as a “one pill, once per day” regimen.

Other times, people have to take medications for prophylaxis in addition to treating their HIV. If a person’s CD4 count is very low, it is recommended that they take medications to treat their HIV (antiretrovirals) as well as other medications such as antibiotics to help protect them from infections.

Finally, there might be other medical reasons why someone can’t be on a simple “one pill, once per day” regimen. Some people have to have their HIV medications specially dosed for their kidneys; other times there might be interactions between the other prescriptions that a person needs and certain HIV medications that would cause them to be on a more complicated HIV treatment regimen.[/expand]


Questions about Relationships and HIV

[expand title=”Are there ways to meet other people who are HIV-positive for friendship, support, or dating?”]

Yes. There are a number of ways to meet other people living with HIV. Many organizations serving people living with HIV have support groups or more informal social meet-ups. In Seattle, Seattle Area Support Groups holds support groups and social meetings for people living with HIV who are recovering from addiction, newly diagnosed or newly dealing with their diagnosis, or who have an interest in books or games. BABES Network with the YWCA hosts lunchtime peer support groups for women living with HIV. Lifelong AIDS Alliance also hosts a support group. There are also many ways that people meet others via the internet. There are forums and chatrooms for people living with HIV, and there are also dating websites designed just for people living with HIV (for example, and for men or women living with HIV and specifically for men seeking other men).[/expand]


[expand title=”Am I obligated to tell anyone that I’m HIV-positive? (What about my boss/parents/sex partner(s)?)”]

In Washington State, you are legally obligated to disclose your HIV status to any sex or needle sharing partners. It is your choice whether or not to disclose your HIV status to anyone else, such as roommates, parents, employers, and friends. It is generally a good idea to tell doctors and dentists about your HIV status as it might impact how effectively they can diagnose and treat health conditions. Social support is very important and most people find that there are benefits to having at least one close friend, partner, or family member who knows about their HIV status; however, how, when, where, and with whom you share your HIV diagnosis is a decision that only you can make and you don’t need to rush into it.

Sometimes you will interact with individuals who may be at some risk of being exposed to your blood if they make an error or if there is an accident or failure in their protections. These people could include a dentist, dental hygienist, a person who draws your blood or gives you an injection, or a tattoo artist. People who work in these fields take universal precautions to protect themselves from various blood borne pathogens, including HIV, hepatitis, and others. If someone in a healthcare or law enforcement field is accidentally exposed to your blood, they can be legally informed of your HIV status so they can get the correct Post-Exposure treatment; however, they would be strictly required by the law not to share your name with others.  [/expand]