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What is HIV & AIDS?


HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) affects the immune system, which is responsible for fighting infections throughout the body. When people have untreated HIV infection, they can easily become sick because their immune system cannot fight off many infections. However, many effective medications are available for those diagnosed with HIV that strengthen the immune system and support a healthy life for many years.


AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) is a term used in healthcare to describe the stage of HIV infections once the immune system is weakened substantially.

HIV can be transmitted by direct contact with certain body fluids such as blood, semen, pre-ejaculation, rectal and vaginal fluids, and breast milk. Sexual contact and needle sharing are two of the most common transmission methods for spreading HIV from person to person. Infected mothers passing to their children through pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding can also occur less frequently.

HIV is not spread from people who are HIV positive by hugging, shaking hands, sharing drinking glasses or dishes, or passing through saliva, tears, sweat, mosquito bites, and sharing public space (i.e., school, church, restaurants).

What are HIV & AIDS symptoms?

Symptoms can vary between different people depending on the active stage of HIV infection.

Stage 1: Acute HIV Infection

Within two to four weeks of exposure, an infected person may experience fever, chills, night sweats, rash, muscle aches, sore throat, diarrhea, tiredness, and swollen lymph nodes.

Stage 2: Chronic HIV Infection

Those in this stage may not display any symptoms, but they can still transmit HIV infection to another person if their viral levels are not controlled with medication.

Stage 3: AIDS

For those HIV positive and not on HIV treatment, the virus will weaken the immune system over time and will progress to AIDS. Symptoms of AIDS include rapid weight loss, recurring fever or profuse night sweats, extreme tiredness, diarrhea that lasts for more than a week, pneumonia, sores of the mouth/anus/genitals, and dark-colored blotches on or under the skin or inside mouth/nose/or eyelids.

Do not rely solely on symptoms for HIV/AIDS diagnosis. The only way to be certain of infection status is to get tested. Use the HIV Service Locator to find an HIV testing site near you or order at-home testing kits at a pharmacy or online.

How are HIV & AIDS prevented?

There is currently no cure or vaccine available to prevent HIV transmission. However, please consider the following prevention methods:

If you are HIV positive:

Contact your healthcare provider and discuss an HIV treatment regimen to reduce the amount of virus in your blood. People who have an undetectable viral load have no risk of transmitting the virus sexually.

If you are HIV negative:
  • Get tested. Knowing your status can protect your health and the health of others.
  • Practice safe sex. Condoms and lubricants can significantly reduce the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections if used correctly and consistently.
  • Reduce drug-injection risk. Never share needles, syringes, or other “works.”
  • Take PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) medications regularly if you are involved in at-risk behavior. Take post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to prevent HIV infection after recent possible exposure to the virus.

Kroger Specialty Pharmacy has access to all PrEP and PEP regimens and understands the care and urgency required for successful treatment.

How are HIV & AIDS treated?

Research indicates that HIV-positive patients who begin an early treatment regimen with antiretrovirals can expect an average life expectancy. Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about what combinations would work best based on your staging, needs, and preference. A full list of medications available from Kroger Specialty Pharmacy is accessible, here.

For complete prescribing information on individual drugs, please visit dailymed.nlm.nih.gov.

Kroger Specialty Pharmacy Clinical and Patient Advocacy Teams are Here to Support You

We have access to the latest HIV/AIDS and PrEP medications, including antiviral drugs, growth factors, and long-acting injectables for all stages of HIV and AIDS.

Our highly experienced clinical and patient care teams provide the expertise and guidance needed to ensure the highest benefit and results from your treatment regimen. In addition, our clinical team can help you monitor drug interactions and manage challenging side effects that you may experience on your HIV medications.

We understand that adhering to the strict dosing of HIV medications is critical to a treatment plan and offer unique services such as medication dispensed in blister packs and special pillboxes to keep you organized and on track for a successful healthcare journey.

What are some support resources?

The following websites are trusted sources of information if you require more material on HIV/AIDS:

  • AIDSinfo: hivinfo.nih.gov
    This website was developed by the Department of Health and Human Services and is a trusted source for all the information needed to manage the disease. It contains medical guidelines, research studies, educational materials, and commonly prescribed medications. AIDSinfo can also be reached toll-free at 800.448.0440.
  • GetTested: www.gettested.cdc.gov
    This website was developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It provides users with locations for HIV, STD, and hepatitis testing and access to hepatitis vaccines around the nation. Their hotline for testing referral and information is 800.342.2437 (English) and 800.344.7432 (Spanish).
  • AIDS Clinical Trials Information Service: www.actis.org
    ACTIS provides current information on federally and privately sponsored clinical trials being conducted to evaluate drugs and therapies to treat all stages of HIV in adults and children. AIDS Clinical Trials Information Service can also be reached toll-free at 800.874.2572.
  • AIDS Drug Assistance Program: www.adap.directory
    ADAP is a state-run program that provides prescription drugs to low-income patients with little or no health insurance coverage.

Kroger Specialty Pharmacy has access to all PrEP and PEP regimens and understands the care and urgency required for successful treatment.