Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the virus that causes AIDS, or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. HIV harms the body’s immune system by attacking certain cells, known as helper T cells or CD4 cells, which defend the body against illness.
AIDS, or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, occurs when an individual’s immune system is weakened by HIV to such an extent that the individual develops one or more of about 25 “opportunistic infections” (OIs), conditions that take advantage of a weakened immune system. When this happens, a person who is HIV positive is considered to have developed AIDS, or to have an “AIDS diagnosis”. They are also considered to have an AIDS diagnosis when their CD4 cell count (a special type of white blood cells that fight infection) falls below a certain level and/or the amount of virus in their body rises above a certain level.
HIV is the virus that causes AIDS, the most advanced stage of HIV disease. A weakened immune system caused by HIV will allow opportunistic infections (OIs) to develop. A healthy immune system would normally fight off these infections, while an HIV-weakened immune system is susceptible to them.
By engaging in unprotected oral, anal, or vaginal sex with a person who is infected with HIV By sharing drug needles or syringes with a person who is infected with HIV If you are pregnant and have HIV, you can pass the virus to your baby. Babies can become infected during pregnancy, childbirth, or breast-feeding.
HIV spreads from person to person through the following body fluids Blood Semen – A man’s semen and pre-cum” (pre-seminal fluid) Vaginal fluid – Fluids in a woman’s vagina (vaginal secretions) Breast milk
You cannot tell by looking at someone if he or she is infected with HIV. Someone can look and feel perfectly healthy and still be infected. In fact, worldwide, most people living with HIV are unaware that they are infected. The only way to know for sure is to get an HIV test.
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HIV does not discriminate. It is not who you are, but what you do that determines whether you can become infected with HIV. The factors that are considered to increase your risk for becoming infected with HIV include having ever done any of the following: Had unprotected sex with someone who is infected with HIV. Shared injection drug needles and syringes. Had a sexually transmitted disease, like chlamydia or gonorrhea Had unprotected sex with anyone who falls into an above category Trusting or having feelings for your partner will not protect you. If you don’t know the facts about HIV/AIDS transmission and take the necessary steps to prevent the spread of the disease, you can become infected. Everybody is at risk.
No. At this time there is no cure for HIV and no vaccine to prevent someone from becoming infected with HIV. However, there are highly effective medications (“anti-retrovirals”) available that have enabled many people with HIV disease to live longer and healthier lives, and have delayed the onset of AIDS.
Yes. There are highly effective medications (“antiretrovirals”) available that have enabled many people with HIV disease to live longer and healthier lives, and have delayed the onset of AIDS. There are also drugs available to prevent or treat some of the opportunistic infections (OIs) that affect people with HIV/AIDS. It is important to remember, however, that antiretroviral treatment is not a cure and has not benefited all people living with HIV. In addition, these medications are expensive and not everyone who needs them has access. If you are HIV positive, the most important thing is to connect with health care services.
Yes. According to public health authorities, people with STDs may be more likely to contract HIV. STDs, such as herpes, that can cause open sores are especially risky; however, STDs that do not cause open sores also pose a threat. In addition, if someone with HIV is also infected with another STD, that person is more likely than other people who are infected with HIV to transmit the virus through sexual contact.
According to public health authorities, oral sex is not safe sex. While the risk of getting HIV through oral sex is lower than the risk of getting it through vaginal or anal sex, just how much lower is hard to know. It is possible to contract HIV and other STDs, such as herpes or gonorrhea, through unprotected oral sex. To reduce your risk, it’s best to use a condom or other barrier method, such as a dental dam, during oral sex.
No. You cannot become infected with HIV by hugging, touching, sneezing, coughing, playing sports, sharing eating utensils, using the bathroom or swimming pool with a person who is infected with HIV. Furthermore, according to public health authorities, contact with saliva, tears, or sweat has never resulted in HIV transmission. Mosquitoes, fleas and other insects also do not transmit HIV.
Choose not to have sex. Make an agreement with a partner who is HIV-negative to be sexually faithful to each other, and stick to it. If you or your partner is HIV-positive, talk with your health care provider about how to reduce your risk, including using latex condoms or dental dams. Latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, are highly effective in preventing transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Correct and consistent use of latex condoms can reduce the risk of other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Always use a condom for vaginal or anal sex, and barrier methods, such as a condom or dental dam, for oral sex. If you are HIV-positive and are pregnant, see your health care provider to get appropriate treatment. Treatments are available to significantly reduce the risk of passing HIV to your child during pregnancy and delivery. Do not share needles or syringes for any kind of injection drug use. Get tested! Ask partners to do the same. Practice abstinence. Sexual abstinence – having no sex play at all – is 100 percent risk-free when it comes to sexual transmission of HIV. But abstinence isn’t for everyone. Sticking with safer sex activities that avoid the exchange of blood, semen, and vaginal fluids, reduces a person’s risk of getting HIV.
Get educated! Get involved! Speak up. Talk to your partners, your friends, your family. Be an educator. Respect yourself and your health. Don’t discriminate and stigmatize. Protect yourself. Get tested!