Frequently Asked Questions

What is HIV?

HIV is the abbreviation for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This viral infection attacks and weakens your immune system. Over time, some times many years, HIV can develop into AIDS.

For more information about HIV, please visit: http://www.AIDSinfo.nih.gov/ed_resources

Or you can call Centers for Disease Control and Prevention`s National Hotline:

  • English: 800-342-AIDS (2437) - 24 hours
  • Spanish: 800-344-7432 (8 a.m. to 2 p.m., EST)
  • TDD Service for hearing impaired: 800-243-7889 (10 a.m. - 10 p.m., EST, Monday - Friday)
What is AIDS?

AIDS (Acquired Immuno Deficieny Syndrome) is a life-threatening illness that can develop if you have HIV. If you are HIV-positive and your body loses the ability to fight off serious infection, you have AIDS.

Only a doctor can tell if you have AIDS.it is a medical diagnosis.

For more information about AIDS, please visit: http://www.AIDSinfo.nih.gov/ed_resources

Or you can call Centers for Disease Control and Prevention`s National Hotline:

  • English: 800-342-AIDS (2437) - 24 hours
  • Spanish: 800-344-7432 (8 a.m. to 2 p.m., EST)
  • TDD Service for hearing impaired: 800-243-7889 (10 a.m. - 10 p.m., EST, Monday - Friday)
Where can I get basic information about HIV/AIDS?

Any AIDS agency, such as AIDS Outreach Center, public health department or Planned Parenthood should be able to give you information about HIV/AIDS. You can also get information from the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). You can reach AIDS Outreach Center by email at info@aoc.org

Your local public library will also be a source of basic information as will your family physician.

For more information, please visit:

How do you get infected with HIV?

You can get infected with HIV through sharing needles or works (drugs, body piercing and tattoos) with someone who is infected and/or having unprotected (no condom) sex (anal, vaginal or oral) with someone who is infected. A new mom who is infected can infect her baby through breast-feeding as well.

There are only four body fluids that transmit HIV from one person to another: blood, seminal fluid, vaginal fluid and breast milk. In order for someone to become infected, one of these body fluids must leave the body of the infected person and get inside the body of the uninfected person. Just getting the body fluid on your skin is not sufficient for transmitting HIV, UNLESS you have a cut or other opening in your skin that will allow HIV to enter your body.

Saliva (spit) does not transmit HIV, but it is possible to become infected through unprotected oral sex.

You cannot get HIV through the air or from casual contact. HIV is not spread by:

  • Living, working or going to school with someone with HIV infection
  • Shaking hands, hugging or kissing
  • Sneezing or coughing
  • Sharing food, plates, cups or forks
  • Toilets, tubs or swimming pools
  • Mosquitoes or other insects

For more information, please visit: http://health.yahoo.com/health/centers/hiv_AIDS/_101.html

How can I tell if someone is infected with HIV?

The only way to tell if someone is infected is for that person to get tested. There are no defining symptoms of HIV infection. You can NOT tell if someone is infected by the way they look, how they feel, where they work, where they live, where they go to school, where they shop, how much money they make, where they go to church, etc.

For more information, please visit: http://www.redcross.org/services/hss/tips/signssymptoms.html

What are the symptoms of HIV?

There are no defining symptoms of HIV infection. However, symptoms resembling the flu may be the first sign of HIV infection. Many infected persons do not seek medical help for these symptoms. The HIV virus can still be spread, even if the person doesn`t know that they are infected. Sometimes, it can take as many as 10 years or more before advanced symptoms develop.

If you are involved in high-risk behaviors, do yourself and your partner(s) a favor and get tested.

For more information, please visit:

Is it safe to live with someone who has HIV?

Yes. HIV is not a casual contact infection. That is, you can not get it by living in the same house with someone who has HIV. HIV is not passed through the air or on clothing, dishes, or furniture. You can not get HIV by sharing a bathroom or clothes. In most cases, normal household cleaning, clothes washing and dishwashing will keep everyone healthy. It is safe for children to live in the same house as well. You may want to take some precautions when cleaning up after a body fluid spill of someone who has HIV: wear latex gloves, keep children and others away from the area until it is cleaned, use a mild bleach solution.

For more information, please visit:

What happens if I get HIV?

It is important that you see a doctor who works with HIV patients as soon as you can after you find out you have HIV. The doctor will do some blood tests to determine how much HIV is in your system and how strong your immune system is. The doctor may or may not prescribe medications to slow the progress of HIV at this time. There are many factors that will have to be considered. You will need to take care of yourself and follow up with your doctor as recommended to maintain your health for the longest period of time. Many people live with HIV infection for a long time without much difficulty.

Also, there are many agencies, like AIDS Outreach Center, that can help you by providing support services. You may want to find one close to you and connect with them for non-medical support.

For more information, please visit: http://www.stopAIDS.org/resources/std_info/positive_now_what.html

For more information about choosing a doctor, please visit: http://www.docboard.org/md/DOCTOR.HTM

What if my partner is HIV positive?

If your partner has HIV it is very important that both of you take steps to protect yourselves. Use latex condoms/dams every time you have any kind of sexual contact. Do not share needles or works or other sharp objects that may allow body fluids and HIV to transmit from one person to the other. Your partner needs to protect him/herself from getting any other infections including other STDs. It is possible to be re-infected with HIV because there are different strains of HIV. Even if both of you are positive, you need to protect yourselves.

For more information, please visit: http://health.yahoo.com/health/centers/hiv_AIDS/_10.html

Isn't HIV/AIDS a "gay" disease?

No. Anyone can get infected with HIV if they are participating in activities that put them at risk for getting infected. In fact, in 2003, over 34 percent of people diagnosed with HIV were heterosexuals. (2003 HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report, Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

High-risk behaviors include sharing needles for drugs, vitamins, body piercing, or tattoos; having unprotected sex (anal, vaginal, oral) with someone who has HIV; babies can get infected through the birth process or through breast-feeding.

If you are involved in high-risk behaviors, do yourself and your partner(s) a favor and get tested.

HIV does not discriminate by age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, social status, or anything else. It`s not who you are that can lead to infection; it`s what you do.

For more information, please visit: http://redcross.org/services/hss/tips/gaydisease.html

What is a clinical trial?

Clinical trials are the human testing phase of medications. In order for medications to get to this stage of testing, they have passed the laboratory and animal testing phases and show possibilities of being able to help people. Most clinical trials include free doctor visits, lab work and medications. Different clinical trials have different criteria that have to be met for participation in the trial.

For more information, please visit: http://www.clinicaltrials.gov

How can I keep from getting infected?

Do not have sex. This is the only sure way to avoid getting HIV through sex. Do not share needles and syringes to shoot drugs or for anything else. Use a latex condom every time you have sex unless you are sure your partner is not infected. When used correctly, condoms can help prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Stay with one partner who has sex only with you. Use condoms unless you are sure your partner is not infected with HIV.

For more information, please visit: http://www.thebody.com http://www.aegis.com, click on Key Topics
How do I use a condom?

Condoms have expiration dates. Check this date out BEFORE you use it. Never fold condoms, place them in wallets or store them in hot places. If in doubt, throw it out! If you need free condoms, personal lubricant or HIV/STD related counseling and live in the Fort Worth, Texas area, call AIDS Outreach Center at 817-335-1994. If you are a student, you may also contact your college or university health center. The Planned Parenthood office in your area or public health department may also assist you.

To use a condom:

  • Make sure that your penis is hard.
  • To increase sensitivity, add a few drops of water-based lube inside the tip of the condom.
  • If you are uncircumcised, pull back the foreskin.
  • Squeeze the reservoir tip of the condom to remove the air. (Air in the condom could cause it to break.)
  • Roll the condom all the way onto the penis.
  • After coming, pull out the penis while it is still hard. Hold onto the rim of the condom as you withdraw so nothing spills.
  • Throw the condom away. Never re-use a condom! Avoid any more sexual contact with your partner until both of you wash your sex organs and other areas that have come into contact with body fluids.

For more information about condoms, please visit:

http://www.redcross.org/services/hss/tips/condeff.html http://www.avert.org/usecond.htm, click on Key Topics

Why should I get tested for HIV?

You should think about getting tested for HIV if you have:

  • Had multiple sex partners, male or female (the more partners you have, the greater your risk)
  • Had sex without a condom (anal, vaginal or oral) with a person whose HIV status you do not know
  • Had sex with a prostitute (male or female)
  • Shared needles or syringes or had body piercings or tattoos, especially if done in an unclean environment
  • Received blood products between 1978 and 1985
  • Had sex with anyone who has done any of these things.
  • Visit http://www.hivtest.org to take a quiz to see if you should be tested.

    For more information about testing, please visit: http://www.redcross.org/services/hss/tips/test.html

Where can I get an HIV test?

AAIDS Outreach Center offers testing at our office location. You can also get tested at Planned Parenthood, your local public health department or through your doctor. AIDS Outreach Center offers blood draw tests. Results take 2 weeks.

For more information please call the office below:

Blood-spot: finger-poke blood test. Results take 2 weeks and is available at all office locations.

  • Main Office
  • 400 North Beach Street
  • Fort Worth, TX 76111
  • 817-335-1994

You may also contact your local public health office.

If I come to AIDS Outreach Center for testing, what should I bring with me?

Basically, just yourself. Please allow 30-40 minutes for testing.

Why do I need counseling if I'm HIV positive?

Most people experience shock and anxiety when they find out they have HIV. Counseling can help reduce these feelings as well as provide support and guidance as you deal with your illness. Counseling is also available for your partner and/or family.

For more information about testing, please visit: http://www.thebody.com/cdc/counsel.html#5

If there isn't a cure, how do I stay healthy?

By seeing your HIV doctor as recommended, taking your medications as prescribed, eating healthy, drinking plenty of water, getting some exercise, and getting plenty of rest. You also need to protect yourself from getting other infections and from getting re-infected with HIV. Discontinuing alcohol and drug use/abuse will help keep you healthy. You also need to take care of your mental health by seeing a counselor or attending a support group.

For more information, please visit:

How is HIV/AIDS treated?

There is no cure for HIV. However, there are medications available to help suppress (slow down how fast it replicates) HIV in your system and help boost your immune system. When or if you begin these medications is something that you and your doctor will decide based on your blood work results and your lifestyle.

There are many sources for information concerning treatment options. Your local library should have some materials available for your use. You can also visit the following websites:

What other disease(s) can I get?

People with HIV can have many different symptoms as the infection progresses. As the immune system weakens, people with HIV are more susceptible to a variety of infections. Some of these include: PCP (pneumonia), bacterial infections, cancers (such as lymphoma), severe oral or genital herpes, Tuberculosis, diarrhea, neurological disorders, etc.

In addition, people with AIDS may also have trouble with certain body organs, such as the lungs, liver, kidneys, intestines and heart. Each person with AIDS may have a distinct set of signs and symptoms.

Where do I go for help?

AIDS Outreach Center can help you connect with many of the services you will need. We have a list of private physicians in Fort Worth who work with HIV patients. We can also direct you to clinics that treat people who do not have insurance for medical treatment. AOC has counselors on staff and we have several support groups that meet at our agency. AOC also has connections to other agencies that provide HIV services that we do not.

If you live outside of the Fort Worth, TX area, AOC can make referrals via resource guide to HIV agencies/services is your area.

I've heard about a vaccine for HIV. What is that about?

Currently, there is no vaccine for HIV available. However, there is research going on to develop a vaccine. Initially the vaccine would not be for people who are already infected; it would be to keep people from getting infected. The research is at the human trial stage, meaning that it is being tested on people. It has passed the laboratory and animal phases and has been approved to test in people.

The trials need your help. The only way to test the vaccine in people is for people to volunteer to participate in the research. In most cases, the doctor appointments and vaccines are free. Sometimes they even offer incentives to get people to participate in the research. The trials are safe - you will not become infected with HIV by participating in the vaccine research. This vaccine is man-made. There is no HIV, dead or alive, contained in the vaccine.

What is a vaccine: A vaccine is a substance that when introduced into the body, "teaches" the immune system to recognize and defend against a virus (such as HIV), bacteria or other disease-causing agent. Vaccines work by triggering your body to make more antibodies, which is your body`s normal response to fight off an infection. Since there is no infection present in your body, the antibodies find a place to sit in reserve. If you are infected with the same infection as the antibodies you have in reserve, then your body has a "jump start" to fighting that infection.

For more information about the HIV vaccine contact AOC`s Info Line.

For more information about research participation visit these web sites:

How can AOC help me?

AOC provides a range of support services. These include: testing, education, case management, counseling, support groups, non-criminal legal services, Nutrition Center, transportation, housing assistance, insurance continuation program and youth services. AOC also provides referrals for medical care and support services offered by other agencies.

You can reach AIDS Outreach Center by email at info@aoc.org.

What is the Nutrition Center?

The Nutrition Center is a mini grocery store where clients can "shop" for groceries to supplement their nutritional needs. There is currently no charge for these services but you must qualify to participate in the program.

You can reach AIDS Outreach Center by email at info@aoc.org.

Can AOC help me in an emergency?

Yes, if you are a client and meet certain criteria, you may be eligible for emergency aid if funding is available. Each situation will be evaluated on an individual basis. For more information, contact your Case Manager.

Community Resources

AOC partners with numerous agencies throughout North Texas to be sure that our clients and the citizens of our region are able to find the life-saving assistance they need to maintain a healthy, stable lifestyle and remain in medical care. Below is a list of area partners with links to their websites, if available.