Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

Infectious disease specialists provide patient-centered care and life-prolonging treatment for this disease

Early diagnosis and treatment of the condition may keep it from progressing, allowing many people with HIV to have normal life spans. Our highly skilled infectious disease specialists provide patient-centered care and treatment for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

HIV attacks the cells of your immune system, substantially decreasing your ability of fight off illness or infection. HIV actually changes the DNA in your immune cells by mixing its own DNA with yours. Treatments focus on stopping the virus from spreading its DNA by removing the proteins it needs to integrate its DNA into yours, or by keeping the virus from entering your immune cells.

After HIV becomes advanced, your body may have difficulty fighting off infection. When this happens your immune cells in your blood decrease to an extremely low number, and you may catch conditions like pneumonia or tuberculosis. Once HIV has progressed to this point, you have acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

Understanding HIV

HIV attacks the cells of your immune system, substantially decreasing your ability of fight off illness or infection. HIV actually changes the DNA in your immune cells by mixing its own DNA with yours. Treatments focus on stopping the virus from spreading its DNA by removing the proteins it needs to integrate its DNA into yours, or by keeping the virus from entering your immune cells.

After HIV becomes advanced, your body may have difficulty fighting off infection. When this happens your immune cells in your blood decrease to an extremely low number, and you may catch conditions like pneumonia or tuberculosis. Once HIV has progressed to this point, you have acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

To significantly reduce your risk of contracting HIV, you could begin taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a daily medication to prevent HIV. According to the CDC, PrEP is highly effective for preventing HIV when taken consistently. Studies show that taking PrEP daily can reduce your risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99%.

For more information about PrEP, please visit the CDC’s overview.

Should I be Tested for HIV?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all adults be tested once in their lifetime and more frequently for those with risk factors. If you answer yes to any of the following questions, the CDC recommends that you obtain an HIV test:

  • Are you a man who has had sex with another man?
  • Have you had sex—anal or vaginal—with an HIV-positive partner?
  • Have you had more than one sex partner since your last HIV test?
  • Have you injected drugs and shared needles or works (for example, water or cotton) with others?
  • Have you exchanged sex for drugs or money?
  • Have you been diagnosed with or sought treatment for another sexually transmitted disease?
  • Have you been diagnosed with or treated for hepatitis or tuberculosis (TB)?
  • Have you had sex with someone who could answer yes to any of the above questions or someone whose sexual history you do not know?

When Should I Get Tested?

A standard guideline to follow is that antibodies will not typically be present in the blood for up to 28 days. Antibodies will appear sometime between one and three months. In rare cases, antibodies may not be detectable for six months.

The earliest an antibody test will detect infection is three weeks. Most (approximately 97 percent) - but not all - people will develop detectable antibodies within three to 12 weeks of infection.

HIV Prevention

To significantly reduce your risk of contracting HIV, you could begin taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a daily medication to prevent HIV. According to the CDC, PrEP is highly effective for preventing HIV when taken consistently. Studies show that taking PrEP daily can reduce your risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99%.

For more information about PrEP, please visit the CDC’s overview.

Should I be Tested for HIV?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all adults be tested once in their lifetime and more frequently for those with risk factors. If you answer yes to any of the following questions, the CDC recommends that you obtain an HIV test:

  • Are you a man who has had sex with another man?
  • Have you had sex—anal or vaginal—with an HIV-positive partner?
  • Have you had more than one sex partner since your last HIV test?
  • Have you injected drugs and shared needles or works (for example, water or cotton) with others?
  • Have you exchanged sex for drugs or money?
  • Have you been diagnosed with or sought treatment for another sexually transmitted disease?
  • Have you been diagnosed with or treated for hepatitis or tuberculosis (TB)?
  • Have you had sex with someone who could answer yes to any of the above questions or someone whose sexual history you do not know?

When Should I Get Tested?

A standard guideline to follow is that antibodies will not typically be present in the blood for up to 28 days. Antibodies will appear sometime between one and three months. In rare cases, antibodies may not be detectable for six months.

The earliest an antibody test will detect infection is three weeks. Most (approximately 97 percent) - but not all - people will develop detectable antibodies within three to 12 weeks of infection.

IU Health experts provide treatment for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) to meet your individual needs. Your physicians will work with you to find medications for your needs, answer all your questions, manage your side effects and symptoms, and prevent infections.

To maintain your health with an AIDS diagnosis, it is important to stay engaged in your medical care, live a healthy lifestyle, and take care of your emotional health. To best serve you, your team at Positive Link offers a continuum of services to help meet these needs.

    You can also join support groups or seek counseling at IU Health to help you take care of your emotional health and find financial resources.

    All medications for HIV may cause side effects such as anemia, headaches, nausea and vomiting. We will work with you to manage these side effects and find treatments that work for you. Options include:

    • Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs). Because HIV gets worse as the virus multiplies and kills your immune cells, you must stop the processes the virus uses to spread. NNRTIs block the protein the virus needs to copy itself.
    • Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs). HIV needs certain proteins to duplicate. Oral medications called NRTIs replace these proteins with faulty versions so the virus cannot replicate. When the virus does not replicate, it will not kill your immune cells, keeping your immune system stronger for a longer period of time.
    • Protease inhibitors. Protease inhibitors block protease, a protein the virus needs to make copies of itself, so that it cannot grow and multiply.
    • Entry or fusion inhibitors. This class of oral medications blocks HIV from entering your immune cells. Outside of your immune cells, HIV cannot multiply or harm your immune system, slowing the progression of the disease.
    • Integrase inhibitors. Integrase is a protein the virus uses to inject its DNA into your cells. When it cannot put DNA into your cells, it cannot make copies of itself and will not kill your immune cells.

    Other services and treatments include:

    • HIV testing. All IU Health hospitals have HIV testing available. These tests use a small blood sample to detect the presence of the antibodies that try to fight off the virus. Some locations offer results before you leave the testing facility, while others deliver your results within 48 hours.
    • Clinical trials. While treated by IU Health Infectious Diseases physicians you will have access to clinical trials and the latest research for all stages of HIV/AIDS. These trials provide new hope for slowing the progression of the illness and helping you live longer, healthier lives.
    • Coordinated care. We offer coordinated care for HIV patients to help you navigate the healthcare system and get emotional and financial support. We will refer you to support groups, counselors, financial resources and other expert physicians to manage all aspects of your health.

    HIV Treatment

    IU Health experts provide treatment for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) to meet your individual needs. Your physicians will work with you to find medications for your needs, answer all your questions, manage your side effects and symptoms, and prevent infections.

    To maintain your health with an AIDS diagnosis, it is important to stay engaged in your medical care, live a healthy lifestyle, and take care of your emotional health. To best serve you, your team at Positive Link offers a continuum of services to help meet these needs.

      You can also join support groups or seek counseling at IU Health to help you take care of your emotional health and find financial resources.

      All medications for HIV may cause side effects such as anemia, headaches, nausea and vomiting. We will work with you to manage these side effects and find treatments that work for you. Options include:

      • Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs). Because HIV gets worse as the virus multiplies and kills your immune cells, you must stop the processes the virus uses to spread. NNRTIs block the protein the virus needs to copy itself.
      • Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs). HIV needs certain proteins to duplicate. Oral medications called NRTIs replace these proteins with faulty versions so the virus cannot replicate. When the virus does not replicate, it will not kill your immune cells, keeping your immune system stronger for a longer period of time.
      • Protease inhibitors. Protease inhibitors block protease, a protein the virus needs to make copies of itself, so that it cannot grow and multiply.
      • Entry or fusion inhibitors. This class of oral medications blocks HIV from entering your immune cells. Outside of your immune cells, HIV cannot multiply or harm your immune system, slowing the progression of the disease.
      • Integrase inhibitors. Integrase is a protein the virus uses to inject its DNA into your cells. When it cannot put DNA into your cells, it cannot make copies of itself and will not kill your immune cells.

      Other services and treatments include:

      • HIV testing. All IU Health hospitals have HIV testing available. These tests use a small blood sample to detect the presence of the antibodies that try to fight off the virus. Some locations offer results before you leave the testing facility, while others deliver your results within 48 hours.
      • Clinical trials. While treated by IU Health Infectious Diseases physicians you will have access to clinical trials and the latest research for all stages of HIV/AIDS. These trials provide new hope for slowing the progression of the illness and helping you live longer, healthier lives.
      • Coordinated care. We offer coordinated care for HIV patients to help you navigate the healthcare system and get emotional and financial support. We will refer you to support groups, counselors, financial resources and other expert physicians to manage all aspects of your health.

      Patient Stories for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

      AIDS.gov

      This website provides the latest news on HIV/AIDS and links to federal resources dedicated to helping patients with HIV and HIV researchers.

      StepUp

      This website provides outreach, education and care coordination for patients with HIV, assisting you with all needs that affect your health such as having health insurance, eating well and getting to and from appointments.

      Resources

      AIDS.gov

      This website provides the latest news on HIV/AIDS and links to federal resources dedicated to helping patients with HIV and HIV researchers.

      StepUp

      This website provides outreach, education and care coordination for patients with HIV, assisting you with all needs that affect your health such as having health insurance, eating well and getting to and from appointments.