HIV 101

The Basics about HIV. 

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that can be transmitted when one of four body fluids (blood, semen, vaginal secretions, breast milk) from one person enters into the bloodstream of another.  Not everyone who is exposed to HIV contracts HIV.  There are a number of factors for this, including the amount of active virus in the body fluid. 

Once the HIV virus takes hold, it replicates at a very rapid rate.  The newly-infected person does not necessarily exhibit symptoms.  High replication rate and lack of awareness are the lethal combination for spreading the virus.  Having multiple sexual partners during early infection cause rapid spread of HIV. This is a global fact that is often not acknowledged.  There are many ways to decrease the risk of exposure to HIV including using protective barriers during sex (including condoms for anal, vaginal and oral sex) and medications that lower viral loads.  Vaccine research continues, but no vaccine is on the near horizon.  

Here is a detailed diagram of how HIV lifecycle works.

More local and international information about epidemiology and statistics can be found at the following websites:

AIDS Infonet



Centers for Disease Control

AIDS Foundation of Chicago

DuPage County (IL) Health Department

Canticle Ministries

Kaiser Family Foundation

The Body

Metro Teen AIDS (DC)

If you would like to add your organization here, please contact us