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Frequently Asked Questions

Looking For Answers?

Our goal is to provide you with answers to questions you might have about HIV, testing, or other educational, health care or community resources.

If you have questions about what PanWest does, or general questions about HIV / AIDS awareness, please check these Frequently Asked Questions. If you still can’t find the answer to your questions, please reach out to us.

What does HIV stand for?

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus.

What does AIDS stand for?

AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

What is the difference between HIV and AIDS?

HIV infects humans only and it attacks the immune system, rendering it deficient and unable to work as effectively as it should. AIDS develops when HIV has caused serious damage to the immune system. Symptoms of AIDS are related to the infections a person develops as a result of having a damaged immune system that can’t fight infections as well.

What’s a Viral Load?

Your doctor can order a viral load test to assess the level of HIV in your body. It measures the number of HIV virus particles in a milliliter of your blood. A low viral load is a sign of the virus copying itself in low amounts in the body. According to, HIV viral load is typically undetectable below levels of 40–75 copies/mL. The goal of HIV therapy is to lower your viral load below the detectable level.

What’s a CD4?

A CD4 count is a blood test that your doctor can order to check the level of CD4 cells in your body. CD4 cells are a type of white blood cell that play an important role in your immune system. They’re also called T-cells. A person without HIV can have anywhere from 500 to 1,200 CD4 cells. When the cells have dropped to 200, a person with HIV is considered to have AIDS.

Why is medication adherence especially important in managing HIV?

Medication adherence means sticking firmly to an HIV regimen—taking HIV medicines every day and exactly as prescribed by your physician. Adherence to an HIV regimen gives HIV medicines the chance to do their job: to prevent HIV from multiplying in your body and destroying your immune system. HIV medicines help people with HIV live longer, healthier lives. HIV medicines also reduce the risk of HIV transmission. Poor adherence increases the risk of drug resistance and HIV treatment failure.

Where do I get tested for HIV/STD?

Please refer to the “Know Your Status” page to find testing locations in your area.

What does it cost to get tested?

Some agencies offer free HIV testing, so be sure to call and ask beforehand. If you test at your local health department a fee for services in the STD clinic is $20 per person and includes routine testing for Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, Syphilis, & HIV. There is an additional $10 charge if you are referred to see the physician for treatment of certain STDs.

Is testing confidential?

“Confidential” testing means your name is on the test, and the results go in your medical records. Your doctors and insurance company may also see the results. If you test positive, your results are sent to your local health department so they know the rates of HIV in your area. But your results are protected by privacy laws, so nobody else can see them without your permission.

If my test shows I have HIV, what happens next?

Once you’ve tested positive for HIV, it’s important that your next step be to be linked to care with an HIV Service provider. Our Ryan White Part B HIV/AIDS Program agencies work closely with newly-diagnosed and out of care individuals to help them understand their HIV diagnosis, get them scheduled to see an HIV primary care doctor, and make referrals for other needed services.

I don’t have insurance. Is there help to pay for my doctor visits and medications?

There are plenty of resources and patient assistance programs available to help uninsured clients pay for their HIV treatment and medications. Please refer to our “Resources By Region” page for more information on how to contact your local Ryan White agency to determine your eligibility for services.