HIV Education

What Is HIV-AIDS?

AIDS is a chronic, life-threatening condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). By damaging your immune system, HIV interferes with your body's ability to fight off viruses, bacteria and fungi that cause disease. HIV makes you more susceptible to certain types of cancers and to infections your body would normally resist, such as pneumonia and meningitis. The virus and the infection itself are known as HIV. "Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)" is the name given to the later stages of an HIV infection.

An estimated 39.5 million people have HIV worldwide. And though the spread of the virus has slowed in some countries, it has escalated or remained unchanged in others. The best hope for stemming the spread of HIV lies in prevention, treatment and education.

The only known way for HIV to be transmitted from one person to another is when it is spread from the inside of an infected person's body to the inside of another person's body. This can happen when infected fluids — such as semen, vaginal fluids, or blood — are passed from one person to another. Someone can become infected even if only tiny amounts of these fluids are spread.

Anyone of any age, race, sex or sexual orientation can be infected with HIV, but you're at greatest risk of HIV/AIDS if you:

  • Have unprotected sex with multiple partners. You're at risk whether you're heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual. Unprotected sex means having sex without using a new latex or polyurethane condom every time.
  • Have unprotected sex with someone who is HIV-positive.
  • Have another sexually transmitted disease, such as syphilis, herpes, Chlamydia, gonorrhea or bacterial vaginosis.
  • Share needles during intravenous drug use.
  • Received a blood transfusion or blood products before 1985.
  • Have fewer copies of a gene called CCL3L1 that helps fight HIV infection.

Newborn babies are at risk of getting the HIV virus if their mothers are infected. This can happen before the baby is born, during birth, or through breastfeeding. Teens and women who are pregnant should be tested for HIV. These infected females who receive treatment for HIV are much less likely to spread the virus to their babies. Babies born to mothers infected with HIV are also given special medicines to try to prevent HIV infection.

Ways HIV Is Not Transmitted

To become infected with HIV, infected blood, semen or vaginal secretions must enter your body. You can't become infected through ordinary contact — hugging, kissing, dancing or shaking hands — with someone who has HIV or AIDS.

Protecting Yourself

If you have never had sex and you don't inject drugs, you don't need to worry about whether you have HIV. But if you have had sex or are planning to in the future, HIV is definitely something you should be prepared to prevent.

If you do have sex, using latex condoms properly every time can help protect you. Condoms work by providing a barrier to the body fluids that can be shared during sexual activity (including oral sex). Always follow the directions exactly and never use the same condom twice.

Asking people if they have HIV is not a reliable way of finding out whether they are infected. People may not answer truthfully. They may be embarrassed to tell you or may not want you to know. Or they may not even know they have the virus because it can take many years for symptoms to develop. An infected person will look healthy for many years and can still spread the virus. The most certain way of preventing HIV infection is by not having sex (abstinence) and by not sharing needles to do drugs.

Many places can provide more information about HIV and AIDS, personal counseling and testing. Talk with your doctor about any concerns you might have.

HIV/Aids | STDs | Prevention/Treatment

Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention
105 S. Marshall St.
Boone, IA   50036
515-433-2091
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