HIV Basics

Knowing Is Protection

It’s not uncommon to be a little nervous about any medical test. Put yourself at ease by familiarizing yourself with the process of an HIV test using the information toggles below to learn the basic facts about HIV testing.


What is HIV?

HIV is the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV affects the immune system, specifically the T-Cells or CD4 cells which fight infections. Simply put, the virus destroys the T-cells so that the immune system of a person with untreated HIV infection is not able to fight off diseases and infections.

What is AIDS?

AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS is caused by HIV and is a late stage of infection. A person can live many years virus without experiencing any symptoms. When enough T-cells have been destroyed under the influence of HIV human body loses ability to fight infections and diseases, a person’s diagnosis can progress to AIDS.

How HIV is Transmitted

HIV is transmitted through the following bodily fluids:

  • Blood
  • Semen
  • Breast Milk
  • Vaginal fluids and Anal mucous

When you have sex with a HIV-positive person the virus can enter your system through your vagina, anus, penis or – rarely – small tears in your mouth. Open sores on mucous membranes and skin caused by sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) such as herpes and syphilis or gonorrhea can make it easier for HIV to enter your system.

If you are an injection drug-user, HIV can be transmitted when your blood comes into contact with another person’s blood through sharing syringes or needles.

HIV can pass from mother to child while a woman is pregnant or through breast milk. In rare cases, healthcare workers, police officers and rescue service employees may be at risk of infection during the contact with blood.

Effective screening has made HIV infection via blood transfusion or organ donation extremely rare.

HIV is NOT transmitted through the following bodily fluids:

  • Saliva
  • Vomit
  • Feces
  • Tears
  • Sweat
  • Urine

How to Prevent Infection

There is no cure or vaccine which could fully cure HIV. However, HIV is treatable and preventable.

Here’s how you can minimize your risk for infection:

  • Always use condoms: If you are sexually active, always use a condom during vaginal and/or anal intercourse. Condoms are absolutely effective in preventing HIV transmission.
  • Use clean syringes and needles: If you inject drugs, use new, sterile injection tools.
  • Knowing the HIV status of your partner will enable you to take steps in time to prevent transmission, like using condoms. About 50% of infected people in Ukraine do not know their HIV status.
  • Get tested together with your partner.
  • Get tested for other STDs: Having a sexually-transmitted disease (STD)—such as Chlamydia, herpes, gonorrhoea or syphilis—can increase your risk of getting infected with HIV. Many STDs do not have obvious symptoms.
  • Abstain from casual sexual contacts and/or have fewer partners: Having fewer sexual partners will decrease your risk for contracting HIV or other STDs.


Many people with HIV do not experience any systems until the late stages of the disease. In fact, the virus can live in your body for as many as 10 years – or more – without causing any obvious symptoms. Extreme fatigue, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, fever and wasting syndrome can be some of the symptoms experienced at the late stages –when the disease has progressed. These symptoms are most often caused by the opportunistic infections that a weakened immune system has been unable to fight off.

In the first 2 weeks to 30 days after infection, some may experience severe flu-like symptoms. It’s important to remember that not everyone who gets infected experiences these symptoms.

If you are HIV-positive

While HIV infection is a serious disease, it is important to remember that it is very treatable. Many people with HIV and AIDS live long, healthy, productive lives. HIV is no longer a “death sentence.” Since 1995, there have been medications known as anti-retroviral treatment (ART) that effectively combat the disease. In fact, the treatment is so effective that some who regularly and consistently take their medications is so small that they do not even have a detectable level of virus in their system.

If you have HIV, you can get necessary medical and psychological help. Treatment of HIV infection in Ukraine is free and is provided in specialized healthcare institutions in each of the regions of Ukraine.

Click on the link to find out addresses of public healthcare institutions that provide ART.