"Unless young men reduce the number of partners they have, and protect themselves and their partners by using condoms more consistently, we will face another wave of suffering and death from H.I.V. and AIDS."--Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, New York City Health Commissioner, on the recent surge of HIV infections in men under 30.
While it's almost certain that you've heard quite a bit about Aids in the past several years, it's still possible that you don't have a full understanding of the term HIV. HIV and AIDS are closely related, and if you understand HIV infection, you can better understand AIDS.
What is HIV / Aids?
Human immunodeficiency virus infection / acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) is a disease of the human immune system caused by infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). During the initial infection, a person may experience a brief period of influenza-like illness. This is typically followed by a prolonged period without symptoms. As the illness progresses, it interferes more and more with the immune system, making the person much more likely to get infections, including opportunistic infections and tumors that do not usually affect people who have working immune systems.
AIDS is caused by HIV
AIDS is caused by a virus called the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV. A virus is one of the smallest "germs" that can cause disease. If you have unprotected sex (sexual intercourse without the consistent and correct use of condoms or share needles or syringes with an infected person, you may become infected with HIV. Specific blood tests can show evidence of HIV infection. You can be infected with HIV and have no symptoms at all. You might feel perfectly healthy, but if you're infected, you can pass the virus to anyone with whom you have unprotected sex or share needles or syringes.
Will you get Aids if you are infected with HIV?
About half of the people infected with HIV develop AIDS within 10 years, but the time between infection with HIV and the onset of AIDS can vary greatly. The severity of the HIV-related illness or illnesses will differ from person to person, according to many factors, including the overall health of the individual.
Today there are promising medical treatments that can postpone many of the illnesses associated with AIDS. This is a step in the right direction, and scientists are becoming optimistic that HIV infection will someday be controllable. In the meantime, people who get medical care to monitor and treat their HIV infection can carry on with their lives, including their jobs, for longer than ever before.
How can you become infected with HIV?
Also, women infected with HIV can pass the virus to their babies during pregnancy or during birth. They can also pass it on when breast-feeding. Some people have become infected by receiving blood transfusions. Since 1985, however, when careful screening and laboratory testing of all blood donations began, this possibility has been greatly reduced.
You cannot be infected by giving blood at a blood bank.
You can get HIV from sexual intercourse.
HIV can be spread through sexual intercourse, from male to male, male to female, female to male, and from female to female.
HIV is sexually transmitted, and HIV is not the only infection that is passed through intimate sexual contact. Other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, and chlamydia, can also be contracted through anal, vaginal, and oral intercourse. If you have on of these STDs and engage in sexual behaviors that can transmit HIV, you are at greater risk of getting infected with HIV.
HIV may be in an infected person's blood, semen, or vaginal secretions. HIV can enter the body through cuts or sores in the skin. HIV can also enter the body through the moist lining of the vagina, penis, rectum, or even the mouth, in which case cuts and sores in these areas greatly increase the risk of infection. Some of these cuts or sores are so small you may not even know they're there. Anal intercourse with an infected person is one of the ways HIV has been most frequently transmitted. Other forms of sexual intercourse, including oral sex, can spread it as well. During oral sex, a person who takes semen, blood, or vaginal secretions into their mouth is at risk of becoming infected.
Many infected people have no symptoms and have not been tested. If you have unprotected sex with one of them, you put yourself in danger. Also, the more sex partners you have, the greater your chances of encountering one or more who are infected and of becoming infected yourself. The only sure way to avoid infection through sex is to abstain from sexual intercourse or engage in sexual intercourse only with someone who is not infected and only has sex with you. Latex condoms have been shown to prevent HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases. But you have to use condoms correctly every time you have sex - vaginal, anal, or oral. condoms made of plastics such as polyurethane should also be highly effective. condoms made of lambskin, however, do not offer good protection.
You can get HIV from sharing needles.
Sharing needles or syringes with an infected person, even once, is very risky. Many people have become infected with HIV and other germs this way. HIV from an infected person can remain in a needle or syringe and then be injected directly into the body of the next person who uses it. Sharing needles to inject drugs is the most dangerous form of needle sharing.
Sharing needles for other purposes may also transmit HIV and other germs. These types of needles include those used to inject steroids or vitamins and those used for tattooing or ear-piercing.
If you plan to have your ears pierced or get a tattoo, make sure you go to a qualified person who uses brand-new or sterile equipment. Don't be shy about asking questions. Responsible technicians will explain the safety measures they follow.
A woman infected with HIV can pass the virus on to her baby during pregnancy, while giving birth, or when breast-feeding. If a woman is infected before or during pregnancy, without medical treatment her child has about one chance in four of being born with HIV infection. Medical treatment with AZT during pregnancy and labor may reduce the risk of infecting the baby to about 1 in 12. There must be no breast-feeding by the infected mother and the baby must be given AZT for the first several weeks of life. Even then, the risk of infecting the child cannot be totally eliminated.
Any woman who is considering having a baby and who thinks she might have done something that could have caused her to become infected with HIV - even if this occurred years ago - should seek counseling and testing for HIV infection to help her make an informed choice about becoming pregnant. To fink out where to go in your area for counseling and testing, call your local health department or the CDC National AIDS Hotline (1-800-342-AIDS).
Blood Transfusions and HIV.
In the past some people became infected with HIV from receiving blood transfusions. This risk has been practically eliminated. since a 1983 Public Health Service recommendation, potential blood donors at risk of HIV infection have been asked not to donate blood. Since 1985 all donated blood has been tested for evidence of HIV. All blood found to contain evidence of HIV infection is discarded. Currently in the United States, there is only a very small chance of infection with HIV through a blood transfusion.
You cannot get HIV from giving blood at a blood bank or other blood collection center. the needles used for blood donations are sterile. They are used once, then destroyed.
How you cannot get HIV.
HIV infection doesn't "just happen." You can't "catch" it like a cold or flu. Unlike cold or flu viruses, HIV is not spread by coughs or sneezes. Again, you get HIV by coming in contact with infected blood, semen, or vaginal fluids from another person.
Who is really at risk for HIV infection?
There is evidence that HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, has been in the United States at least since 1978. The following are known risk factors for HIV You may be at increased risk of infection if any of the following have applied to you since 1978.
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you should discuss your need for testing with a trained counselor. If you are a woman in any of the above categories and you plan to become pregnant, counseling and testing are even more important.
If you have had unprotected sex with someone and you didn't know their risk behavior, or you have had many sex partners in the last ten years, then you have increased the chances that you might be HIV-infected.
What about the HIV test?
The only way to tell if the have been infected with HIV is by taking an HIV-antibody blood test. This test should be done through a testing site, doctor's office, or clinic familiar with the test. It is important that you discuss what the test may mean with a qualified health professional, both before and after the test is done.
You can receive free publications from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To receive brochures, or to ask any questions about HIV infection or AIDS, call the CDC National AIDS Hotline at 1-800-342-AIDS (Spanish: 1-800-344-7432; deaf access: 1-800-243-7889 [TTY]). The Hotline is staffed with information specialists who can offer a wide variety of written materials or answer your questions about HIV infection and AIDS in a prompt, confidential manner. There are also local groups that can help you find the information you need. Contact your State or local health department, AIDS service organization, or other community-based organization dealing with HIV and AIDS. The CDC National AIDS Hotline can tell you how to contact all of these.
**Aids Information provided by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
RipnRoll condom store, seen on...
Bill is President / CEO of RipNRoll Inc. and a regular contributor at RipNRoll.com. Entrepreneur, Businessman and Father, Bill has kept up his goal of "Protecting the Planet one condom at a time" since 1996