What is HIV?

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the virus that causes AIDS. It attacks the human immune system. Over time (and without effective treatment), HIV gradually destroys the body's defenses against disease, leaving it vulnerable to many infections and cancers that would not normally develop in healthy people. Even without treatment, some people with HIV infection have no symptoms at all; some have mild health problems, while others have severe health problems associated with AIDS.

What is AIDS?

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is the late stage of HIV infection. By the time a diagnosis of AIDS is made, HIV will already have seriously damaged the body's immune system. Often, a person with an AIDS diagnosis will already have had a life-threatening infection or cancer.

Before the use of effective treatment, it commonly took 10 years or more from the time of initial HIV infection to a diagnosis of AIDS; and, on average, it would take another two to four years before death. However, new treatments are radically slowing the destruction of the immune system caused by HIV and lengthening life expectancy. Some people with HIV infection may never develop AIDS.

How is HIV transmitted?

HIV is transmitted when infected blood, semen, vaginal fluids, or breast milk enter another person's body. This most often occurs during unprotected sex or during injection drug use (when needles or other drug paraphernalia (“cottons” or “cookers”) are shared). Anyone who is infected with HIV can transmit it, whether or not they appear sick, have an AIDS diagnosis, or are taking effective treatment for their infection. Infected women who become pregnant can transmit HIV to their newborns and are much more likely to do so if they are not treated effectively.

HIV is spread in the following ways:

  • Unprotected sexual intercourse.
  • Injection drug use.
  • From an infected mother to her infant.

HIV is not transmitted by:

Casual contact.

HIV is not spread by casual contact. It dies quickly outside the body and is easily killed by soap and by common disinfectants such as bleach. There is no risk of HIV infection from:

  • donating blood
  • mosquito bites
  • toilet seats
  • shaking hands
  • hugging
  • sharing eating utensils
  • food or objects handled by people with HIV or AIDS
  • spending time in the same house, business, or public place with a person with HIV/AIDS

What is the HIV Antibody Test?

There are several types of HIV antibody tests used today. All are highly accurate at detecting HIV antibodies, specific proteins made in response to an HIV infection. After infection with HIV, however, it can take up to 3 months for HIV antibodies to develop. The City of Laredo Health Department offers three different types of HIV testing to include confirmation of HIV.

What are the symptoms of a new HIV infection?

Approximately 50-90% of people with new HIV infections have mild to severe "flu-like" symptoms approximately 2 weeks to 3 months after the HIV exposure. Some people do not have any symptoms. In general, symptoms are not a reliable indicator of HIV infection. Many people with HIV infection do not experience symptoms for many years after infection. Likewise, many people with the symptoms listed below do not have HIV infection. An HIV antibody test taken 3 months after a potential exposure can tell you if infection has occurred.

Many of the symptoms of HIV infection are the same as for other, less serious illnesses. People who may have been exposed to HIV should see a doctor promptly if the following symptoms occur within 3 months of the exposure:

  • A persistent fever of over 101 degrees that lasts for more than 2 days that is without a known cause.
  • Night sweats that soak your pajamas or sheets when the room is not hot and heavy covers are not being used.
  • A persistent rash of unknown cause.
  • Persistent swollen glands(lumps under the skin) which occur in several places at once (especially the neck, armpits and groin).
  • Sore throat
  • Constant tiredness

Is there a cure for HIV and AIDS?

No, but, in recent years, medical providers have become much better at identifying, monitoring, and treating HIV infection and AIDS. In particular, drugs known as protease inhibitors -- when used in combination with other antiretroviral drugs -- may dramatically improve the health and quality of life for many people living with HIV/AIDS.
While there is not currently a cure or vaccine for HIV/AIDS, there are many things that people infected with HIV can do to stay healthy and live longer. The first step for anyone who has HIV infection is to see a knowledgeable medical provider. This provider will be able to assess and monitor the infection, and, if appropriate, prescribe antiretroviral medicines.
The benefits of early diagnosis and treatment of HIV/AIDS are important reasons for people at risk for HIV infection to learn their HIV antibody status through testing. For people not infected, but at increased risk of infection, it is important to get tested regularly (every 3-6 months) for HIV antibodies. One purpose of regular testing is to assure that those who are newly infected with HIV may be assessed and treated at the earliest possible opportunity. Another purpose is to minimize the chance of HIV transmission when people are newly infected and highly infectious.


  • February 7- National Black HIV/ AIDS Awareness Day
  • February “2nd Week” - National Condom Week
  • March 10 – National Women/Girls Awareness Day
  • June 27 - National HIV Testing Day
  • October - National HIV/ AIDS Awareness Month
  • November 28 - AIDS Memorial Quilt
  • December 1st - World AIDS Day


  • 1981: The CDC diagnosed the first cases of AIDS-related disease among young gay men known as GRID (Gay Related Infection Disease).
  • 1982: The CDC formally establishes the term “Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
  • 1985: The Food and Drug Administration approves the first HIV Antibody Test.
  • 1987: The Food and Drug Administration approves the first antiretroviral medication, zidovudine (AZT) as an AIDS treatment.
  • 1991: Star Basketball player, Ervin “Magic” Johnson, announces that he is HIV positive.
  • 1992: AIDS becomes the leading cause of death among men between ages 25 to 44.
  • 1993: The Food and Drug Administration approves the female condom for sale in the U.S.
  • 1996: The Food and Drug Administration approves the viral load test, which measures the amount of HIV in blood.
  • 1997: AIDS related deaths in the U.S. decline by more than 40%, largely as a result of medications.
  • 2000: President Clinton implements the Millennium Vaccine Initiative to develop a vaccine for HIV.


  • 1985: The City of Laredo Health Department began providing HIV education and testing.
  • 1985: The City of Laredo Health Department diagnosed the first case of HIV in Laredo.
  • 1990: The City of Laredo Health Department began providing services to help treat HIV/AIDS.
  • 2008: As of December 2007, the City of Laredo Health Department has tested 31,318 individuals for HIV and 427 have tested HIV positive