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Sexually Transmitted Disease Specialists

 Confidential and expert care                                                                                                                      703 532-1100


Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus which affects the immune system. HIV is present in the blood, semen and vaginal fluids of people who are infected. Any person who has the virus can pass it on through these fluids. A person who does not have the virus can become infected by contact with any of these fluids from an infected person.

Once infected, a person remains infected - and infectious - for life. People with HIV infection may have no symptoms for many years. The virus, however, slowly damages the person's immune system. Ultimately, the immune system becomes ineffective and serious infections and/or cancers develop. This disease is known as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

HIV is diagnosed with a blood test. It can take up to 6 months after being infected with the HIV virus before the blood tests becomes positive. If the test is positive, it means you have acquired the HIV infection and are infectious to others. HIV is now a treatable long-term condition, and there are many support services for people living with HIV.