Polk County Health Department

HIV/AIDS Information

This link to CDC site has HIV prevention messages that may not be appropriate for all audiences as HIV is spread primarily through sexual practices and sharing needles.

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. The virus attacks a person’s immune system, so that they can’t fight off other infections.

How You Catch HIV:

  • HIV is spread by sexual contact (intercourse, anal sex) with an infected person. IV drug users can catch it by sharing needles and/or syringes with someone who is infected. Babies born to HIV-infected women may become infected before or during birth or through breast-feeding after birth.

Should You Be Tested for HIV?

  • There are no symptoms with the HIV virus. But if you have the virus you can pass the disease on to others. Only the test will tell you if you are infected. The test is available at Polk County Health Department. The HIV antibody does not show up in the blood for 90 days. Test results within less than 90 days of exposure are not always conclusive.

Symptoms of AIDS:

  • Typical Symptoms include fever, weight loss, severe tiredness, swollen glands, and diarrhea or flu like symptoms. They all tend to last a long time and gradually get worse.
  • The virus breaks down a person’s immune system that ordinarily protects you from disease. People with the virus can get many different diseases. Common ones are a form of pneumonia and a cancer called Kaposi’s Sarcoma, but any sickness from a cold to measles to yeast can threaten the life of a person who has the virus.


  • Many people who have the virus in their bodies don’t know it, because they haven't been tested. They go on having sex, getting pregnant, or sharing drug needles with other people. Numbers are now low for babies infected by the mother but, the babies that are born to infected mothers usually die within 2 to 3 years.


  • A mouth swab test may show antibodies to the virus. Doctors will look for disease that are rare in most people with AIDS. People can be tested confidentially at clinics in many areas in Iowa. Confidential testing means that the doctor or clinic keeps information about your test in a separate, confidential file.


  • There is not a cure for HIV infection. There are drugs that can help fight the diseases the infected people get because their immune system is not working. The sooner an infected person starts using these drugs, the longer they will stay healthy. For this reason, a person who thinks that he or she might be infected should get tested.


  • You can’t tell who is infected with HIV/AIDS by looking at them. The only way to be sure you are safe is to have sex with only one person who is not infected, and who only has sex with you. Using a condom every time you have sex will lower your risk. Anal sex, and sex when you or your partner has another STD is more dangerous because the virus can get into your blood through little tears in your bowel or sores from any other infection. And, of course, NEVER share needles used for shooting drugs or steroids.

HIV/AIDS Content Notice

Contact Us

Phone: (515)-286-3798
Fax: (515)-286-2033
Toll free: 866-209-1300

Address: 1907, Carpenter Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50314