School of Medicine

Wayne State University School of Medicine


HIV/AIDS Frequently Asked Questions

What is HIV/AIDS?
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This virus weakens your immune system and makes it difficult for your body to fight illness. AIDS, however, stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.  AIDS is a series of infections that result from a weakened immune system and is caused by HIV.
How is HIV different from AIDS?
HIV causes AIDS.  As with any virus, HIV cannot grow and multiply by itself and requires a host to reproduce. The human body is the host for HIV. Once the virus is in the body, it reproduces, and eventually makes the immune system not work properly.

AIDS is a serious condition resulting from HIV in the body.  The body’s defense (immune) system cannot fight or break down illnesses. Without AIDS, the body can fight illness much easier.  A person with AIDS can get many different kinds of diseases because their immune system is weakened.

How is HIV transmitted?
HIV can be transmitted from an infected person to another through the following:

  • Semen,
  • Breast milk,
  • Direct blood contact like a blood transfusion and use of drug needles,
  • Mother-to-baby contact (before or during birth, or through breast milk).
  • HIV cannot be spread through normal contact such as coughing, sneezing, hugging, or kissing.
What can I do to protect myself against HIV?
There are many ways to protect yourself from HIV. You can:
  • Have safe sex by using a barrier method contraceptive (male or female condom)
  • Use a clean sterilized needle. Do not reuse or share needles.
  • Talk openly to your sexual partners about your current and past sexual history.
  • Abstain from having sex.
How long does it take for HIV to cause AIDS?
The time it takes between being infected with HIV and being diagnosed with AIDS depends on each person.  Lots of people do not know exactly when they were infected so the time between HIV infection and then being diagnosed with AIDS can vary.
How do I know if I have HIV?
Sometimes a person who has HIV is asymptomatic, which means the person does not show any symptoms. The only way to know is to get tested.
What is an HIV test?
The HIV test looks for antibodies to HIV. Antibodies are produced by your body to fight off certain infections.
How do I get tested?
The Horizons Project provides free and confidential testing services. The Horizons Project uses Orasure®, an oral test that is over 99 percent accurate. 
How many people are HIV positive?
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 1 million people living with HIV in the United States.  Approximately 18.1% (1 in 5)  are unaware of their infection. New infections occur at far too high a level - 50,000 Americans are infected annually.  
  • African Americans account for 44% of all new infections.
  • Men who have sex with men (MSM) account for 63% of all new infections.
  • Males account for 78% of all new infections.
HIV/AIDS in Michigan
HIV/AIDS is plaguing communities across the nation and continues to be a significant health concern in Michigan. The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) estimates that as of April 2011, there are 19,800 Michigan residents living with living with HIV/AIDS with the majority of cases (12,970) in the Detroit metropolitan area (DMA). Comprised of the Wayne, Macomb, Oakland, Monroe, Lapeer and St. Clair counties, this area is home to only 44% of the population, yet accounts for 64% of all HIV/AIDS cases in the state. Although the city of Detroit accounts for 9% of the total state population, the city accounts for 46% of all cases in the DMA and 39% of all HIV/AIDS cases within the state.
HIV/AIDS continues to disproportionately plague African-Americans more than any other racial/ethnic group. The Michigan Department of Community Health estimates that while African-Americans comprise only 14% of the total state population, they account 58% of all persons living with HIV/AIDS as of April 2013. MDCH estimates that 8,280 African-Americans are living with HIV/AIDS in metro Detroit. The estimated HIV infection rate among African-Americans is 614 per 100,000 persons - almost 7½ times greater than the rate among Whites.
The racial disparities for HIV/AIDS in Michigan are astounding:MDCH estimates that 1 out of every 110 African-American men in Michigan may be infected with HIV, compared to 1 out of every 330 Hispanic men and 1 out of every 720 White men. Michigan women are also severely affected: MDCH estimates that 1 out of every 310 African American women may be infected with HIV, compared with 1 out of every 960 Hispanic women and 1 out of every 4,900 White women.
HIV/AIDS in Youth and Young Adults
As of April 2013, MDCH estimates that there are currently 3,980 youth and young adults, ages 13-24, living with HIV/AIDS in Michigan. Approximately 2,050 of these youth were residing the Detroit metropolitan area at the time of diagnosis. Of the youth diagnosed in the DMA, 85% are of those ages 13-19 and 75% of those 20-24 are African-American. Between 2004 - 2008, the rate of new HIV diagnoses increased for those ages 13-24 as HIV/AIDS remains a significant public health concern for teens and young adults in Michigan.
For more information about HIV in Michigan, please visit the following links:,1607,7-132-2940_2955_2982_46000---,00.html