What are HIV and AIDS?
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that weakens the body's defense (immune) system until it can no longer fight off illnesses such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, cancerous tumors and others. HIV infects and kills your CD4 cells (T cells), which direct your body's immune system to defend against infection. You are considered to have AIDS when your immune system is seriously damaged by HIV. If you have HIV (that is if you are HIV positive, or HIV+) and your CD4 count is less than 200, a doctor will tell you that you have AIDS. (An average CD4 cell count in a healthy immune system is 1,150.) To be HIV+ doesn't means automatically to have AIDS.
Is there a cure for HIV or AIDS?
No, there is still no cure or vaccine for either HIV or AIDS. There are, however, new drug treatments that can help people with HIV stay healthy longer and can delay or even stop the onset of AIDS. As a result, the number of HIV cases that develop into AIDS and the number of AIDS-related deaths have dropped dramatically in the US. We know cases of people being HIV+ since more than 20 years who, thanks to the drugs, are still in good health. It is just really very, very boring (and also expensive) to take the drugs several time per day, every day of the week, every week of the year... and not to forget to assume them.
How might I become infected with HIV?
HIV is transmitted from an HIV+ person through infected body fluids, such as semen, pre-ejaculate fluid, blood, vaginal secretions or breast milk. HIV can also be transmitted through needles contaminated with HIV-infected blood, including needles used for injecting drugs, tattooing or body piercing. HIV is most often transmitted sexually. Saliva (spit), tears ans sweat don't transmit the virus, unless they contain also blood.
How can I protect myself from HIV infection?
You are safest if you do not have sexual intercourse, oral sex or share needles or injection equipment. You are also safe if you are in a relationship in which both you and your partner are free of HIV and if neither of you has had other sex partners. Whenever you are unsure about the risk of infection, always use a barrier (e.g. a condom) when having sex of any kind-vaginal, oral or anal.
Remember: Prevention focuses on everyone ! (HIV+/HIV- individuals, pregnant and/or HIV+ Women, Women who have Sex with Women, Men who have Sex with Men, Heterosexual Sex, injection Drug Users)
What is unsafe sex?
Unsafe sex is unprotected sex-vaginal, oral or anal-unless you are absolutely certain that your partner has remained free of HIV for 6 months.
What is safer sex?
Safer sex is sexual activity without penetration, or else protected sex using a condom or, in the case of oral sex, using a latex barrier or plastic wrap for protection. Other safer behaviors include intimate activities such as caressing, hugging, kissing, massaging, etc. (See the pages about "Safe, hot sex" in this newspaper.)
What are the symptoms of HIV?
Because many people with HIV can look and feel healthy for years, you cannot rely on symptoms to know whether you are infected. The only way to know is to be tested.
How can I get HIV from injecting drugs?
HIV can be transmitted through shared needles or equipment contaminated with HIV infected blood. Anyone who injects drugs must either sterilize all injection equipment or use new, disposable needles and dispose of them carefully. The best of all is just not to use drugs...
Can I get HIV from casual contact with an infected person?
Absolutely no. You do not get HIV from an HIV+ person by playing sports, working together, shaking hands, hugging, closed-mouth kissing, breathing the same air, sharing drinking glasses, eating utensils or towels, using the same wash water or toilet, swimming in the same pool, or coming in contact with their sneezes, coughs, tears or sweat. You also don't get HIV from bug bites or by donating blood. Using the same toothbrush can be dangerous as at times some blood comes out when brushing the gums.
What should I do if I think I might have HIV?
If you think you may have been infected with HIV, you should be tested at a doctor's office, health department or HIV/AIDS clinic. Also, many organizations offer mobile testing for HIV.
Can I keep my HIV status private?
Confidential testing (by name) is available in all US states and in some Nations. Anonymous testing (no name) is available in many US states and in some Nations but not in all. The ADA gives federal civil rights protection to individuals with disabilities. It also guarantees equal opportunity in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services and telecommunications. Recent court decisions and pending legislation may affect this protection of HIV+ people against discrimination.
Why should I get tested?
Knowing if you are HIV+ will allow you to seek early treatment that could help you stay healthy longer and have a normal life. Whether you find you are HIV- or HIV+, you can learn how to prevent future infection with HIV or other STDs through the counseling available at many testing centers.