What does "HIV-Positive" mean?
Being diagnosed as "HIV-positive" means that you have been exposed to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)and that two HIV tests—a preliminary enzyme immunoassay (EIA) test and a confirmatory Western blot test—have both come back positive for antibodies to HIV.
Being HIV-positive means that it is possible for you to pass the virus along to others, including your sexual partners. If you are female, you could also pass it along to your unborn child.
Once you have been infected with HIV, you will always carry it in your body. There is no cure for HIV. It is a serious, infectious disease that can lead to death if it isn't treated.
But many scientific and technological advances have made HIV a chronic manageable disease. Many people with HIV lead healthy, happy, and productive lives and learn how to cope with the disease.
This is why it is so important to know your HIV status. Knowing that you are HIV-positive gives you the ability to protect your own health and the health of your partners and children.
Being HIV-positive does NOT mean you have AIDS. AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV disease. Proper treatment can keep you from developing AIDS.
For more information, see NIAID's Diagnosis of HIV.
Fact Sheets & Print Materials
Related Topics on AIDS.gov
Frequently Asked Questions
If I am diagnosed with HIV, can a healthcare provider tell who gave me the infection?
No. HIV diagnostic tests cannot determine who passed the infection to the negative partner.
If I am diagnosed with HIV, can I tell when I got it?
In general, no. A skilled healthcare provider can generally estimate how long you have been infected by looking at the levels of virus in your body, your CD4 (T-cell) count, and whether or not you have had any opportunistic infections. If you are currently suffering from symptoms of acute HIV infection, a healthcare provider can usually conclude that infection occurred within the past few weeks.
Does being diagnosed with HIV mean that I have AIDS?
Not necessarily. A positive HIV test result means only that you are infected with the virus that causes AIDS—it doesn’t mean that you have AIDS right now. But if you don’t get treated for your HIV disease, it will damage your immune system and can progress to AIDS.
Am I going to die of AIDS?
While complications from HIV infection remain a possibility, current treatments and medications are giving people with HIV a positive prognosis and near-normal life-span. This makes patients living with HIV vulnerable to the same health conditions that affect all people as they age. This is why it is important to maintain good health throughout your life.
Last revised: 11/23/2009