What is HIV?

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is similar to other viruses, including those that cause the “flu” or the common cold. But there is an important difference – over time, your immune system can clear most viruses out of your body. That isn’t the case with HIV – the human immune system can’t seem to get rid of it.

HIV can hide for long periods of time in the cells of the body and it attacks a key part of the immune system – T-cells or CD4 cells. The body has to have these cells to fight infections and disease, but HIV invades them, uses them to reproduce itself, and then destroys them.
Over time, HIV can destroy so many CD4 cells that the body can’t fight infections and diseases anymore. When that happens, HIV infection can lead to AIDS.

At this pint in time, with proper care and treatment, an HIV+ person is expected to live their normal life-span. People with a supressed viral load are unlikely to transmit HIV.

How is HIV Transmitted?

HIV is spread primarily by:

  • Unprotected anal, vaginal and oral sex. Unprotected means without a condom or other latex barrier.
  • Having multiple sex partners & unprotected sex.
  • Infection with other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can increase the risk of HIV infection during unprotected sex.
  • Sharing needles, syringes, rinse water, or other equipment used to prepare injection drugs.

When to Get Tested?

Knowing when to get tested is really thinking about behaviors and assessing risk. Think about the following questions. Have you had:

  • Anal, oral, or vaginal sex without using a condom or other barrier;
  • Sex while drunk or using drugs;
  • Sex with an anonymous person;
  • Sex with a person who is using needles to inject drugs;
  • Sex with a man who has sex with men;
  • Sex with a person who is HIV+;
  • Sex with someone for drugs, money or something you needed; or,
  • Have you used injection drugs?

The Test Can Be...


In a confidential test, your results become part of your permanent medical record and are kept confidential along with your other medical data. If you test positive, your name will be reported to the NJ State Health Department. Confidential testing is done at Rutgers Health Services.

There are two options for testing at RHS:

  1. Rapid-Result, finger-prick testing: Rapid-Result testing is done every month during the semester at RHS-H.O.P.E., 8 Lafayette Street, CAC and other locations. Testing is first -come, first-served and results are ready in 15 minutes. A RU ID is required. Check the H.O.P.E. Calendar for testing dates at http://rhshope.rutgers.edu/events/
  2. Traditional blood-draw: students can make an appointment at any RHS student health center to have blood drawn. Results are available in 3-5 days.


At an anonymous test site, your name is not taken and no other personal identifier is used. Usually you are given a unique number or code that you must present to obtain your results. The only people who will know your results are those whom you choose to tell. Anonymous testing is done at some clinics and hospitals including:

  • Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (New Brunswick)
  • Eric B. Chandler Health Center (New Brunswick)
  • St. Michael’s Medical Center (Newark)
  • Cooper Medical Center (Camden).

Make sure you know what the policy is before you get tested at a particular site. Students who receive anonymous testing can still use the Rutgers Health Services for counseling and health care.

Important points to remember about HIV and the Test

  • It can take up to three months after infection to develop antibodies. So a negative test result during that period may not accurately indicate whether or not you have been infected. This is called the “window period.”
  • A positive test result does not mean that you AIDS. It means you have an HIV infection and you should seek medical attention, early treatment and support.
  • If you are HIV positive, you can infect others. You have a responsibility to yourself and to others not to transmit the virus. Avoid unprotected sexual contact and sharing injection needles.
  • Safer sex means using a latex condom for every act of intercourse: vaginal, anal and oral (flavored condoms are available for giving a male partner oral sex). Use a “dental dam,” or a sheet of non-microwaveable plastic wrap, for protection during cunnilingus and oral-anal sex.

What is the Difference between HIV & AIDS?

In order to have AIDS, a person must be HIV+ and have their T-cell count drop below 200 or have had an opportunistic disease. Once this happens, someone now has AIDS – Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

The Test is Negative. Now What?

  • Use latex condoms and dental dams consistently when having vaginal, anal and/or oral sex;
  • Use lubricants to make sexual penetration more comfortable and help reduce the risk of condom breakage during sex;
  • Use dental dams and/or plastic wrap for oral/vaginal or oral/anal sex;
  • Avoid sharing sex toys. If sharing, use a condom or wash the sex toy between partner use;
  • Avoid sharing needles, syringes, or any sharp object for cutting, tattooing or piercing; and,
  • Talk to partners about sexual health, safer sex, and HIV status.

These local organizations offer general information, referrals and support services

Hyacinth AIDS Foundation
(732) 246-0204

New Jersey Women & AIDS Network
(732) 846-4462

The Following offer anonymous testing or can help you find anonymous testing in your area:

  • NJ State AIDS Hotline (800) 624-2377
  • Hyacinth AIDS Foundation (800) 433-0254
  • Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, New Brunswick (732) 235-7114
  • Eric B. Chandler Health Center (732) 235-6700
  • East Camden Health Center (609) 365-AIDS (2427)
  • St. Micheal’s Medical Center, Newark (973) 877-5525