Protect Yourself: Read the HIV/AIDS Q&A

By L.K. Regan

Below you will find frequently asked questions about HIV, with links to reputable resources that can give you the information you need. Be safe, every time.

Defining HIV/AIDS
Here you will find resources addressing general questions about the virus, and the syndrome associated with it.

  1. What is HIV?
    HIV is the human immunodeficiency virus, the transmittable virus that causes AIDS. For more on the biology and history of HIV, see these resources:
    The Center for Disease Control and Prevention's "What is HIV/AIDS?"
    NIH Researchers Recall the Early Years of AIDS

  2. How is AIDS different from HIV?
    AIDS is the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, and is caused by the HIV virus. For more on AIDS, see these links:'s "What Is AIDS?"
    San Francisco AIDS Foundation's "What is AIDS, HIV, and HIV Disease?"

  3. If HIV is a virus, is there a vaccine?
    There is currently no vaccine for HIV, but many are in research. For info on the state of HIV vaccines, see:
    National Institutes of Health
    The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI).

  4. Where can I read more about HIV/AIDS in general?
    There are many sites that can be useful for this. Here are some good ones:
    San Francisco AIDS Foundation's "AIDS 101"
    The Body's Resource Center for Gay Men
    Project Inform

AIDS Prevention
The key to HIV prevention for gay men is safer sex. Here are resources on relative risks of different behaviors, and on correct condom use.
  1. How is HIV transmitted?
    For basics on how the virus is spread, including via sex and needle-sharing:
    Centers for Disease Control
    San Francisco AIDS Foundation: Prevention for a variety of population-specific resources.

  2. What is "safer sex," and how can I practice it?
    San Francisco AIDS Foundation's Reducing the Risk of Getting HIV From Sexual Activities
    UCSF's HIV InSite

  3. How do I use a condom correctly?
    Maybe you think you already know—but correct condom use saves lives. Here are some good tutorials:'s "Using Condoms"
    Mayo Clinic's Condom How-to's
    The Lesbian & Gay Foundation

Getting Tested
There is a lot of misinformation about testing out there; before you head to the clinic, take a few minutes to learn about the types of tests and their outcomes.
  1. What are the different kinds of tests?
    There are a number of types of tests that differ in expense and accuracy. Check out:
    National HIV and STD Testing Resources's "HIV Testing FAQ"
    OraQuick's recently approved Home Oral HIV Test can offer fast results
    San Francisco AIDS Foundation's "What Are HIV Antibody Tests?"

  2. Which tests are the most effective?
    See the San Francisco AIDS Foundation
    Also, their primer on HIV testing, written for RealJock.

  3. Where can I get tested?
    Enter your zip code on National HIV and STD Testing Resources to locate a testing site near you.

  4. How often/when should I get tested?
    The CDC's HIV Testing Q&A's "Comprehensive Guide to HIV Testing"

  5. What if I can't afford to get tested?
    There are free testing sites in many major cities; to find one near you, enter your zip code in

Getting Treatment
  1. Is HIV/AIDS treatable?
    There are treatments for HIV/AIDS that can be very effective. To learn about the different options, check out the following resources:
    NIH Recommended HIV Treatment Regimens
    NIH Fact Sheets: HIV/AIDS Treatment

  2. Where can I find a gay-friendly doctor?
    Whether you are HIV+ or not, you need a doctor you can speak to openly about your sexual health. Here are resources for finding a gay-friendly doctor.
    The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association
    The POZ Directory
    The American Academy of HIV Medicine

  3. What if I can't afford treatment, or don't have insurance?
    This can be tricky; but there are resources out there to help people afford treatment for HIV/AIDS. Investigate these as a start:
    San Francisco AIDS Foundation's Financial Benefits Program

  4. Where can I find emotional/psychological support?
    There are hotlines that can talk you through a crisis, or refer you to a licensed, experienced counselor:
    California's AIDS Hotline Database's Hotline List
    Gay Friendly