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HIV Prevention

District 4 Public Health - HIV Prevention
HIV is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system. Over time, HIV can destroy CD4 cells (or T cells), which help the body fight off infections and diseases.

Only certain body fluids from a person who has HIV can transmit HIV: blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids and breast milk. It CANNOT be transmitted through air or water, saliva, insects, or sharing food and drink.

HIV is most commonly transmitted through sexual behaviors and needle or syringe use. Risky sexual behaviors include having anal or vaginal sex with someone who has HIV without using a condom. People with another sexually transmitted disease (STD) are at increased risk of getting or transmitting HIV. It can also be spread when injecting drugs, if users share needles or works with someone who has HIV. The virus can live in a used needle up to 42 days.

Symptoms

A few weeks after infection, some people experience a flu-like illness with fever, chills, rash, muscle aches, fatigue or sore throat. However, some people may not show any symptoms at all. These signs could be caused by other illnesses, but if you have these symptoms after a potential exposure to HIV, see a health care provider and tell them about your risk.

If untreated, the HIV virus can allow opportunistic infections or cancers to take advantage of the weakened immune system, signifying the last stage of HIV, AIDS. AIDs, or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, is fatal without treatment and usually causes symptoms like chills, fever, sweats, weakness and weight loss.

Prevention and PrEP

A significant way to lower your risk of HIV is to practice safe lifestyle habits. You can protect yourself by not having sex, having sex with only one uninfected partner who only has sex with you, using a condom during each sexual encounter, and only using sterile needles or works.

If you are at very high risk for HIV from sex or injecting drugs, you can greatly reduce your risk of HIV infection by taking daily HIV medication, called pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP. PrEP prevents HIV from taking hold and spreading throughout your body. When taking daily, PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99%, reduces the risk of getting HIV from injecting drugs by 74%, and it is even more effective if combined with other preventative measures.

Testing

In Georgia, one in five individuals with HIV don’t know they’re HIV positive. The only way to know for sure whether you have HIV is to get tested. Knowing your status is important because it helps you make healthy decisions to prevent getting or transmitting HIV.

The CDC recommends everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care, and more often if you are at a higher risk of getting HIV. At our clinics, we provide blood tests and check swabs, with a completely confidential process.

There is no cure for HIV, but there are medications that can limit damage to the immune system, improve the health of people living with HIV, reduce their ability to transmit HIV, and allow people with HIV to live long, healthy lives.

Services

  • Confidential HIV test (provided for free)
  • Evaluation for PrEP
  • Condoms (provided for free)
  • Referrals for other services
  • Other testing as needed

We also partner with the Ryan White Clinic at AID Atlanta Newnan. At this location, patients can receive comprehensive support services such as medical case management, medication assistance, housing services, behavioral health, self-management, and a range of educational programs to increase client knowledge and life skills.

Patients

We offer this program to any individual who is mindful of their sexual health and wants to know their HIV status. Testing for HIV is free, and fees for our other clinic and lab services vary based on each individual’s health history.