HIV / AIDS - Overview
HIV/Aids is a Viral disease (treatable, but not curable)
The most STD is caused by HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). It causes the part
of the body that defends against disease (the immune system) to not work right. There are usually no visible symptoms during the
early years of infection so it is not possible to tell if your partner has HIV unless he or she has had an HIV blood test. Also, many people
with HIV look healthy and can transmit HIV.
HIV can lead
to death about 10 years after being infected but there are now good
HIV is a preventable
infection. The virus is spread by sex and by sharing drugs by needles
You can't get
HIV/AIDS from casual contact. What that means is that you won't
get AIDS from hugging someone, from an insect, from a restaurant
worker, from swimming or from sharing a sandwich.
HIV and AIDS:
Of all the STDs, you've probably heard the most about HIV. The bottom
line is that it's preventable, but not curable. Here are some of
the questions that come up the most often.
Are HIV and
AIDS the Same Thing?
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the virus that leads to Acquired
Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). HIV damages cells in the immune
(defense) system that fight off infections and diseases. As the
virus gradually destroys these important cells, the immune system
becomes less and less able to protect against illness. HIV doesn't
destroy the cells quickly, and people infected with HIV may not
have any signs or symptoms for many years. They will look perfectly
healthy and feel perfectly healthy and may not even know they are
infected unless they have an HIV antibody test.
AIDS is the
last stage of HIV infection. HIV gradually destroys the part of
your body that protects you against disease and infection. Once
that defense system is weakened, your body is vulnerable to specific
kinds of infection, such as a specific type of pneumonia, certain
cancers and eye infections. Without the defense system, your body
can't fight off those infections, and often these infections will
How Do People
Get Infected with HIV?
HIV is transmitted, or passed, from an infected person through blood,
seminal fluid (pre-cum), semen (cum) and vaginal fluids. When someone
else's body fluids get inside your body, like having unprotected
sex, sharing injecting drug needles and being exposed accidentally
to blood or body fluids (like in a hospital work environment), that
is the way people become infected with HIV. Also, an HIV-infected
mother can pass along the infection to her baby through pregnancy,
childbirth or through breast-feeding.
Unprotected sex, or penetrative sex without a latex condom, is the
main way a person gets HIV from another person. The sex can be vaginal,
anal or oral. Using latex condoms helps keep your partner's blood,
seminal fluid (pre-cum), semen (cum) or vaginal fluids--which are
the main body fluids that contain HIV--from getting inside your
Even with oral
sex, there should be some type of plastic or latex cover or barrier
between you and your partner to keep you from his or her body fluids.
Some people worry about getting HIV through kissing. Dry kissing,
or just kissing on the lips with your mouth closed, is not risky.
Open mouth kissing (wet kissing or French kissing) is not very risky.
In fact, the only way it would be possible to get HIV is if you
come into contact with blood if the person you're kissing has sores
in her or his mouth or has bleeding gums. There are no documented
cases of anyone getting infected with HIV through French kissing.
still believe that HIV is a problem only if you're gay. This is
not true. HIV is a virus that can infect ANYONE if they have unprotected
sex with an infected person. Many people are infected with HIV,
mainly through unprotected sex or sharing injecting drugs with an
About Shooting Drugs?
Another way HIV is transmitted, or passed from an infected person
to another person, is by sharing injecting drug needles or kits,
works, cookers, cotton, or any other drug paraphernalia that comes
into contact with blood. Sometimes people share and pass needles
around as part of the drug experience, but it's an easy way to get
infected. How? Blood often will come into the syringe through the
needle after people stick their vein or pop their skin and inject
the drug. When you share the needle and works an d they haven't
been cleaned, the blood left in them will be injected into you when
you shoot up. This is how people get infected. And this doesn't
have to be shooting up drugs like heroin, cocaine, speed or speedballs.
It could be sharing needles and work s for shooting up steroids
that are sometimes used by athletes and body builders to increase
their muscle mass.
If you are shooting
drugs and sharing works, even if you try this only once in a while,
there is a big of risk for HIV and other viral or blood-borne infections,
like hepatitis B or C. (Hepatitis is a serious virus that affects
your liver. The most common forms of the virus are hepatitis A,
hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Hepatitis B or C can be transmitted
through sexual contact or through drug use.) If you need help to
stop taking drugs, call the National Drug and Alcohol Hotline for
help. The number is (800) 662-4357.
There is no
cure for HIV. If you are not ready to stop, don't share. If you
must share, know how to clean your works.
Cleaning your works: Making needles safe from HIV and other STDs.
way to prevent transmission of hepatitis and HIV is not to use them
or share them at all. But if you are going to share needles to inject
drugs, you need to know how to sterilize needles between uses. Sterilizing
a needle will kill any cells or viruses on the needle, making it
safe to put into your body. You can sterilize needles and works
with household bleach (such as Clorox).
needles and works:
- Get two
cups or containers and fill them with water.
- Fill the
syringe with water from one container, wait 30 seconds, and discard
(throw out) that container.
- Next, empty
the syringe and fill the it with bleach. Wait another 30 seconds
before rinsing it out.
- Refill the
syringe with bleach another two times, waiting at least 30 seconds
before rinsing it out.
- Using the
second container, fill the syringe with water several times and
rinse it. This will get rid of the bleach, which can be harmful
to your body.
Body Piercing: What's the Truth?
Some people worry about getting HIV through body piercing or tattooing.
Tattoo parlors are happy to explain what precautions they take to
make sure they do not spread any diseases carried in blood, like
HIV or hepatitis B or C. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC) recommends that instruments that are intended to penetrate
the skin, like tattooing or piercing needles, be used once, then
thrown away, or thoroughly cleaned and sterilized. Some people have
friends who do tattooing with pins, needles, writing pens, even
knives for homemade tattoos and marks. This is not a good idea because
the instruments may not be clean and sterilized. They could pass
HIV or hepatitis B or C to you without you ever finding out. If
you are thinking about getting a tattoo or a piercing, choose a
reputable parlor or shop and let them do it safely and cleanly.
If you are playing sports and someone gets hurt and begins bleeding,
the game or activity should stop until the injured player is removed
from the playing area. In organized sports, the player is not allowed
to resume playing until the bleeding is stopped and the wound has
been securely covered with a bandage. If there is blood on the playing
surface, like a basketball court or wrestling mat, the team trainer
will put on latex gloves and clean the area with a disinfectant.
If the player gets blood on his or her uniform, the part with the
blood must be changed before the player can re-enter the game.
Since it is
not known who is infected with HIV and who isn't, these safety guidelines
are followed to keep everyone from contact with the injured player's
blood. There are no documented cases of HIV infection happening
Mothers Infect Their Unborn Babies?
An infected woman can transmit HIV to her unborn baby, but she also
can cut the chance of this happening by taking special medicines
while she is pregnant. But an infected mother should not breast-feed
her baby because HIV can be passed through breast milk, and the
infant could become infected. Women now are offered HIV tests when
they go to the doctor or clinic for pregnancy tests in case they
are infected and do not know it. By knowing if they are infected
with HIV, moms-to-be can make the best health choices for themselves
and their unborn children.
People Working in the Health Field?
Hospital and emergency workers, laboratory technicians or anyone
working with blood or body fluids can be at risk of infection through
accidental exposure. Have you been to the dentist lately and had
your teeth cleaned? Chances are the dentist or dental hygienist
wore gloves on his or her hands and a visor over his or her eyes
to protect them from blood spatters. This also helped protect you
from coming into contact with blood if the dentist or dental hygienist
had a cut or sore on his or her hand.
There are certain
rules people in the health field follow to help protect themselves
and their patients from accidental exposure. These are called universal
precautions. Universal precautions are a way to control infection
by pretending everyone's blood has HIV or hepatitis B. Universal
surfaces that have blood on them with a mixture of bleach and
- Not recapping
of needles in a sharps container
- Always sterilizing
the Donated Blood Supply?
Before March 1985, there was no reliable test that could screen
or test the blood supply of donated blood, and many people became
infected through blood transfusions and the use of blood products
like those used by hemophiliacs. But the blood supply in the United
States now is screened and all suspicious blood is destroyed, so
people can get blood transfusions and not worry.
worry about getting infected by donating blood, but there has never
been any risk of infection by donating. When you donate blood, a
sterile disposable needle is used to collect your blood, and then
the needle is destroyed.
How Is HIV
HIV is not transmitted or passed through insect or mosquito bites,
or pets. The H in HIV stands for "human," and this virus is passed
through an infected human's body fluids--blood, seminal fluid (pre-cum),
semen (cum), breast milk or vaginal fluids--to another human. HIV
is not passed through sharing food or drinking after someone that's
infected. You can hug, kiss and touch someone with HIV and not worry
about getting infected. You can swim in public swimming pools and
not be concerned about being accidentally infected, or use a public
bathroom or telephone, or share a towel with someone. Those are
not ways HIV is transmitted. HIV is a fragile virus that does not
live long outside the body. HIV is not spread through the air or
How Do You
Know If You Have HIV?
Well, you can't tell just by looking, and you can't rely on symptoms.
The only way to know for sure is by testing for it. There are special
tests used to tell if the HIV antibody is in your blood or saliva.
While the HIV test can pick up on antibodies (the special cells
in your immune system that indicate you've been infected with HIV)
in salvia, you cannot get HIV by kissing someone. The virus is not
strong enough in salvia to infect another person. HIV is transmitted,
or passed, from an infected person through blood, seminal fluid
(pre-cum), semen (cum) and vaginal fluids only. Many places offer
an HIV test, like public health departments, hospitals, Planned
Parenthoods, community health clinics, doctors' offices, and even
student health centers on some college campuses. If you are thinking
about getting an HIV test, choose a test site that offers pre- and
post-test counseling. This is important because there is a lot of
information to talk about before you take an HIV test.
are specially trained people who talk with you about why you may
think you are at risk of having HIV, and they will explain the testing
procedure to you before you take the test. When its time to get
your test results, they will talk with you some more about the results.
If it's a negative test result, counselors will tell you what you
can do to stay HIV negative. They may talk about other STDs and
will explain how to practice safer sex, or answer any questions
you may have.
You Take an HIV Test?
For the most accurate results, take the test six months after the
last time you were at risk of being infected. This would mean six
months after the last time you had unprotected sex, shared an injecting
drug needle, or got another persons blood, seminal fluid (pre-cum),
semen (cum) or vaginal fluids inside your body.
I Wait Six Months?
It does seem like a long time, but most people will develop antibodies,
or the special cells in your immune system that indicate you've
been infected with HIV, within six months after becoming infected.
And what the HIV antibody test looks for is a sign that your body
is producing those special antibodies.
may develop them sooner than that, but to be sure, wait six months
to get tested. In the meantime, if you are having sex, make sure
to use latex condoms from start to finish every time you have sex,
and do not share any drug needles. Remember: One negative test result
doesn't mean you will always be safe or protected.
If Your Test Result Is Positive?
A positive test result means HIV is present in your body. And the
good news is that there are many effective medicines now available
that can help you stay healthy for a long, long time. But, you must
take care of your health, and learn as much about HIV and staying
healthy as you can.
There is no
cure for HIV, nor is there a vaccine to keep you from getting HIV.
And, even though treatments and medicines are far better than they
were 15 years ago, AIDS is still a fatal disease. This means most
people with HIV who develop AIDS will most likely die from it.
How Do You
Prevent HIV From Infecting You?
Since there is no cure, the best things to do is prevent it from
being transmitted, or passed, to you are to:
- not have
sex (be abstinent)
- not shoot
- not share
injecting drug needles
- talk with
your partner or partners about why it is important to use latex
condoms during sex
- use latex
condoms the right way every time you have sex
- limit your
number of sex partners
- learn to
clean your works the right way if you shoot drugs
- get tested
if you've had unprotected sex, then use latex condoms for all
sex after that
- If you are
not having sex with someone else and are not shooting drugs, then
you're probably safe. The important thing to remember is that
as long as you keep someone else's blood, seminal fluid (pre-cum),
semen (cum) and vaginal fluids from getting inside your body,
you are safe. You know you are protected.
- If you are
sexually active, use latex condoms every time you have sex, and
use them the right way from start to finish. Remember that HIV
is passed through the body fluids of blood, seminal fluid (pre-cum),
semen (cum) and vaginal fluids, and unprotected sex makes it very
likely that you will get one of these fluids inside your body.
Other types of birth control, like the birth control pill or spermicides
alone, will not protect you against HIV. And latex condoms can
break if they are not used the right way. They will also break
if you use oil, lotion or petroleum jelly as a lubricant.
condoms every time you have sex also reduces the risk of getting
other STDs besides HIV. This is important because STD infection
sometimes causes irritation of the skin, and breaks or sores may
make it easier for HIV to enter the body during sexual contact.
Using latex condoms helps prevent your partner's body fluids from
getting inside your body, and that reduces your risk. Limit the
number of sex partners you have since your risk of getting infected
goes up with a greater number of partners. Remember to use latex
condoms to help reduce your risk of getting an STD or HIV. If you've
been having unprotected sex, think about getting tested for all
STDs and HIV. Start using latex condoms the right way every time
you have sex to help reduce the risk of getting an STD or HIV.
Return to Top