Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)


What is HIV?

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the virus that causes HIV infection. HIV affects the immune system by attacking and destroying CD4 cells. The CD4 cells are part of your immune system that help in fighting infections. Without CD4 cells, it hard for your body to fight serious infections and certain cancers, making those infected more susceptible to getting sick.1

If left untreated, HIV can destroy the immune system and can lead to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), which is the most advanced stage of HIV infection.1

How common is HIV?

About 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV. This includes approximately 161,800 people who are unaware of their infection (14%). There were 37,968 new infections diagnosed in 2018.2

How is HIV transmitted?3

HIV is transmitted through contact with HIV-infected body fluids, including blood, semen, pre-seminal fluids, vaginal fluids, rectal fluids, and breast milk. HIV is mainly spread by:

  • Anal or vaginal sex with an HIV infected person without using a condom or taking medications to prevent or treat HIV
  • Sharing injection drug equipment, such as needles, with an HIV infected person
  • Mother-to-child transmission can occur from a woman with HIV to her child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding

HIV cannot be transmitted by:

  • Shaking hands or hugging a person who has HIV
  • Sharing objects such as dishes, toilet seats, or doorknobs used by a person with HIV
  • HIV is not spread through the air or in water or by mosquitoes, ticks, or other blood-sucking insects

Can I reduce my risk of getting HIV?

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is also an option for people who are at high risk of becoming infected. PrEP entails taking a medication daily to prevent HIV infection and requires your health care provider to determine if you are a candidate.

Questions regarding your HIV therapy?

You can reach your Accredo HIV care team, anytime, day or night, seven days a week.

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  • HIV/AIDS: The Basics. <a href="" target="_blank"></a>Updated Sep 24, 2020. Accessed Mar 12 2021.
  • 2CDC HIV Surveillance Report. Statistics Overview. <a href="" target="_blank"></a> Accessed 4/2/21.
  • 3CDC HIV Transmission. <a href="" target="_blank"></a> Accessed 4/2/21.


What are the symptoms of HIV infection?1

At about 2-4 weeks after infection with HIV, the virus multiplies rapidly and some people develop flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, and rash. After this stage, the virus continues to multiple, but at very low levels. People may not have any symptoms at this point. It can take several years before signs of severe infection and opportunistic infections* develop. Without treatment, HIV advances to AIDS in about 10 years (can be more or less in some people). At this point, the immune system is typically severely damaged. HIV transmission can occur at any stage after infection, even if the person has no symptoms.

* Opportunistic infections are infections that occur more frequently and are more severe in people with weakened immune systems, including people with HIV.

How is it diagnosed?2, 3

The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 13 to 64 years old get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care. Annual testing is recommended for individuals with higher risk for HIV. Sexually active gay and bisexual men may want to get tested more often. Discuss with your health care provider your risk for HIV and how often you should get tested.4

  • HIV/AIDS: The Basics. <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. Updated Sep 24, 2020. Accessed Mar 12 2021
  • 2CDC About HIV. <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. Accessed 4/26/21
  • 3CDC HIV Testing. <a href="" target="_blank"></a> Accessed 4/26/21.
  • 4CDC HIV Transmission. <a href="" target="_blank"></a> Accessed 4/2/21.



There is no cure for HIV, but there are effective treatments options that help control the virus and keep the immune system strong. The medications used to treat HIV are called "antiretroviral.” There are different types of antiretroviral medicines that work in different ways. Treatment involves taking a combination of usually 3 different medicines daily. These different medicines are sometimes available as a combination into 1 or 2 single pills. This reduces the need to take as multiple pills each day.

It is important to not skip doses or stop taking these medicines. When doses are skipped or missed, these medicines could stop working.

The following specialty medications are available at Accredo, a specialty pharmacy for HIV.

Medication Manufacturer
Aptivus® (tipranavir) Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Atripla® (efavirenz, emtricitabine, and tenofovir) Gilead Sciences, Inc.
Biktarvy® (bictegravir, emtricitabine, tenofovir alafenamide) Gilead Sciences, Inc.
Cabenuva™ (cabotegravir/rilpivirine) ViiV Healthcare
Cimduo™ (lamivudine and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate) Mylan Pharmaceuticals
Combivir® (lamivudine and zidovudine) ViiV Healthcare
Complera® (emtricitabine, rilpivirine, and tenofovir) Gilead Sciences, Inc.
Crixivan® (indinavir sulfate) Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp.
Delstrigo™ (doravine, lamivudine, tenofovir disoproxil fumarate) Merck & Co., Inc.
Descovy® (emtricitabine and tenofovir alafenamide) Gilead Sciences, Inc.
Dovato™ (dolutegravir, lamivudine) ViiV Healthcare
Edurant® (rilpivirine) Janssen Therapeutics
Emtriva (emtricitabine) Gilead Sciences, Inc.
Epivir® (lamivudine) ViiV Healthcare
Epzicom® (abacavir and lamivudine) ViiV Healthcare
Evotaz™ (atazanavir/cobicistat) Bristol-Myers Squibb Company
Fuzeon® (enfuvirtide) Genentech USA, Inc.
Genvoya® (elvitegravir/cobicistat/emtricitabine/tenofovir alafenamide) Gilead Sciences, Inc.
Intelence® (etravirine) Janssen Therapeutics
Isentress® (raltegravir) Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp.
Juluca™ (dolutegravir, rilpivirine) ViiV Healthcare
Kaletra® (lopinavir and ritonavir) AbbVie, Inc.
Lexiva® (fosamprenavir) ViiV Healthcare
Mytesi® (crofelemer) Napo
Norvir® (ritonavir) AbbVie, Inc.
Odefsey® (emtricitabine, rilpivirine, tenofovir alafenamide) Gilead Sciences, Inc.
Pifeltro™ (doravirine) Merck & Co., Inc.
Prezcobix® (darunavir 800 mg/cobicistat 150 mg) Janssen Therapeutics
Prezista® (darunavir) Janssen Therapeutics
Retrovir® (zidovudine) Viiv Healthcare
Reyataz® (atazanavir) Bristol-Myers Squibb Company
Rukobia (fostemsavir) ViiV Healthcare
Selzentry® (maraviroc) Viiv Healthcare
Stribild® (cobicistat, elvitegravir, emtricitabine, and tenofovir) Gilead Sciences, Inc.
Sustiva® (efavirenz) Bristol-Myers Squibb Company
Symfi Lo™ (efavirenz, lamivudine, tenofovir disoproxil fumarate) Mylan Pharmaceuticals
Symfi™ (efavirenz, lamivudine, tenofovir disoproxil fumarate) Mylan Pharmaceuticals
Symtuza® (darunavir, cobicistat, emtricitabine, tenofovir alafenamide) Janssen Therapeutics
Temixys® (lamivudine and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate) Celltrion
Tivicay® (dolutegravir) Viiv Healthcare
Triumeq® (abacavir, dolutegravir, and lamivudine) Viiv Healthcare
Trizivir® (abacavir, lamivudine, and zidovudine) Viiv Healthcare
Trogarzo™ (Ibalizumab-uiyk) Theratechnologies, Inc.
Truvada® (emtricitabine and tenofovir) Gilead Sciences, Inc.
Tybost™ (cobicistat) Gilead Sciences, Inc.
Videx EC® (didanosine) Bristol-Myers Squibb Company
Videx® (didanosine) Bristol-Myers Squibb Company
Viracept® (nelfinavir mesylate) Viiv Healthcare
Viramune XR® (nevirapine) Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Viramune® (nevirapine) Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Viread® (tenofovir) Gilead Sciences, Inc.
Zerit® (stavudine) Bristol-Myers Squibb Company
Ziagen® (abacavir) ViiV Healthcare

Financing Your Care

Financial assistance coordination may be available to help with your medication costs, including manufacturer and community programs. Accredo representatives are available to help find a program that may work for you.

Community financial resources

Financial Guidance

Life-saving specialty medication can be expensive. Learn how the Accredo teams help individuals find ways to afford the medication they need to survive in this video.

Find Support

There are many organizations that support research and advocacy for HIV. See below for a few of those organizations.

Support Organizations

Meet the Team

Accredo's HIV Care team is dedicated to serving you and we understand the complexity of your condition. Our specialty-trained clinicians are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to answer any questions.

Why We Do It

Accredo supports patients with chronic and complex conditions and helps them live their best life. Watch our video to learn why we do what we do for our patients.

Why We Do It video transcript

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