HIV 101 & FAQs


  • HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This virus attacks your immune system.
  • Over time and without treatment, the virus can drastically reduce your body’s ability to fight off infection and disease.
  • AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. This diagnosis signifies that your body’s immune system has been severely damaged. AIDS is the later stage of HIV infection.
  • It is NOT HIV/AIDS that can end your life, it is the opportunistic infections you are left open to that are life threatening.
  • Symptoms of an HIV infection vary from person to person. To learn more click here.
  • HIV has become a manageable infection when using antiretroviral therapies. Some people who begin therapy early on in their infection may never develop AIDS. Early detection and medication are key to living healthy full life spans with HIV.


  • HIV is NOT transmitted through casual contact.
  • Only four fluids carry enough of the virus to be considered transmissible:
    • Blood
    • Semen
    • Breast Milk
    • Vaginal Fluid
  • These fluids must come in contact with a portal of entry and/or a mucous membrane to enter your body.
  • HIV can be transmitted:
    • During vaginal, anal, and oral sex.
    • By sharing needles.
    • Breastfeeding.
    • From mother to baby during pregnancy and/or birth.
    • Exposure of a portal of entry to larger amounts of blood (cuts, scrapes, sores, etc.).

For more information click here.


  • Abstinence: 100% effective, and can be used in other contexts. Abstaining from drug and alcohol use leads to better decision making.
  • Monogamy or having sex only with a lifetime partner who does not have HIV and who only has sex with you.
  • Condoms, female condoms, and dental dams to prevent your partners’ semen, vaginal fluid, or blood from entering your body. Contact Us for free supplies!
  • Do not inject drugs; if you do, do not share needles or works.
  • Cleaning needles or works can decrease risk, click here for more details and instructions.
  • New and exciting discoveries continue to provide alternative methods for prevention. There is now a medication proven to reduce the risk of HIV infection by 92%! To find out more click here.


  • CDC estimates that 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV- and nearly one in six of those are not aware they are infected. Know Your Status (these words should be a link to testing information)
  • Every 9 ½ minutes someone becomes infected with HIV.
  • There are approximately 50,000 new HIV infections every year.
  • There is NO cure for HIV. Medical advancements have created a large range of treatments and therapies that can manage the virus, leading to people living a full life span.
  • Nearly 15,000 people with AIDS in the United States die each year.
  • To reduce the affect of HIV/AIDS we must look at the outside factors contributing to HIV risk. Poverty, discrimination, stigma, access to services, communication, and education all contribute to our community’s risk of infection. They also can be a part of the solution.

To find out more, click here.

Frequently Asked Questons (FAQs)

Is HIV really here in Montana? Isn't that a big city thing?

Yes, we have close to 600 Montana residents living with HIV/AIDS in the state of Montana. We are considered a low incident state comparatively, but the need for support and prevention continue to present themselves in our community. Each year we see approximately 20 new infections across the state. And new clients needing care, treatment, and support continue to reach out to us and access our agency as they relocate to our community. HIV is a COMMUNITY “thing”.

What's the difference between HIV and AIDS?

HIV is a virus. AIDS is a condition caused by the virus HIV.

You can have HIV without AIDS (even more common now), but you cannot have AIDS without HIV.

This diagnosis happens when you are found to have a low T-cell or CD4 cell count. Most often if the count drops below 200, an AIDS diagnosis will occur.

I've never been tested, and I don'r live a "risky" life. Could I have HIV?

YES, anyone who has ever had sexual intercourse, used a needle for drugs, or experienced a medical exposure could potentially be infected. HIV does NOT discriminate. It only knows the basics of transmission.

Isn't HIV a "gay" disease?

Absolutely not, it’s a human disease. Yes, in the United States, men who have sex with men (MSM) account for 52% of those living with HIV/AIDS; but globally, more than half of the 34 million people living with HIV/AIDS are women, according to the World Health Organization’s statistics.