Frequently asked questions on HIV/AIDS.

Can I transmit HIV to my partner if I pull out my penis before orgasm?


You can still transmit HIV to your partner if you pull out your penis before orgasm. HIV is in the fluid that comes out of the penis before orgasm (pre-cum) and can therefore be transmitted to your partner. Using a new condom is a better protection and can increase the likelihood of safer sex. Please see our safer sex page for more information and ideas to protect your partner.

Can you tell if someone has HIV/AIDS by looking at them?

Absolutely not. This is a common myth. You cannot tell if someone has HIV/AIDS by looking at them, and in fact, many people do not know themselves if they have HIV because the virus doesn’t always exhibit obvious symptoms. The only way to know if you or someone you know has HIV is to get an HIV test.

Do mosquitoes transmit HIV?

No, mosquitoes do NOT transmit HIV. This is a common myth. There are several reasons for this.

  1. When mosquitoes bite, they do not inject their own blood or the blood of another human or animal previously bitten; they inject saliva that does not contain HIV.
  2. Mosquitoes take a while to ingest their meal, so they wait a while before moving on to another feeding.
  3. Their mouth parts do not hold enough blood on their surfaces to transmit HIV.
  4. HIV does not replicate in insects.
If HIV is not transmitted through saliva, why do you use oral fluid for testing?

Yes, it’s true – saliva is NOT one of the 5 fluids that transmits HIV.

In fact, we are not collecting saliva when we test for HIV; we are collecting something called “oral mucosal transudate” from the mucus membranes in the gums. We are also not testing for the virus itself; we are testing for antibodies to the virus.

Antibodies are a part of the immune system and are formed when a virus (or any germ) enters the bloodstream. Antibodies are your body’s response to the HIV virus if you are infected.

Check out our HIV testing page for more information on what to expect when you come in for a test and find our testing locations around Vermont.

If my partner is HIV positive and is taking medications, does that mean I am safe and not going to get HIV?

There have been a lot of advances with HIV medication therapy in recent years and we have found out a lot more about how much taking HIV medications daily can reduce the risk of transmission.

Simply put, HIV medication, when taken as prescribed, does dramatically reduce someone’s risk of spreading HIV.  In fact, the CDC now says “that people who take [medications] daily as prescribed and achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load have effectively no risk of sexually transmitting the virus to an HIV-negative partner.”

But it’s not impossible.  

There are several factors to think about: are they taking their HIV medications as prescribed? How well are the medications working to slow HIV? A better way to assess how the virus is doing in the body is to ask the question, “What is the viral load?” which assesses how much virus is present in the body. Studies have shown that those with undetectable viral loads are much less likely to transmit HIV to someone else. However, we caution against using this as the only protection method, as it is not shown to be 100% effective. Becoming educated on your partner’s viral load with their doctor is an important step, as is protecting yourself with barriers. See our Condoms 101 page for correct usage on using condoms/barriers for safer sex.

What is the difference between confidential and anonymous testing?

Anonymous testing means that the person’s identity is not recorded or reported, regardless of results. In order to provide the test, the person’s test sample is assigned a random numeric code. Vermont CARES and several other sites offer anonymous testing. See our HIV testing page for more info.

Confidential testing means the person’s results are recorded in a medical file and kept confidential per HIPPA regulations. Positive test results and client’s names are reported to the Vermont Department of Health and kept confidential. Extra security measures are in place for HIV infection and names aren’t reported to the CDC.


Where did HIV/AIDS come from originally?

This is something scientists have been trying to figure out for quite some time. They now believe that HIV mutated from a disease found in primates, particularly chimpanzees, called Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV). Humans have long hunted primates for food and it is likely that at some point humans came into contact with SIV infected blood. Over decades, the virus slowly spread across Africa and later into the rest of the world.