FACT: AIDS is caused by a virus called HIV.
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is the virus that causes AIDS. AcquiredImmune Deficiency syndrome. HIV is spread from one person to another through sex and blood-to-blood contact. When someone becomes infected with HIV, the virus attacks that person’s immune system (the system that defends the body from illness). A person develops AIDS when his or her immune system becomes so damaged that it can no longer fight off diseases and infections. These diseases and infections can be fatal. Most people get infected with HIV by having unprotected sex or sharing needles with someone who already has the virus. HIV does not discriminate. Anyone can get HIV.
FACT: People infected with HIV may look and feel healthy for a long time.
It may take up to 10 years for people who are infected with HIV to develop AIDS. They may look and feel healthy for years after becoming infected. They may not know they are infected. Even if they don’t look or feel sick, they can infect others.
FACT: When signs of illness do appear, they vary from person to person.
Some people get fevers or diarrhoea. Most people get swollen glands that won’t clear up. Many lose weight for no apparent reason. This is because the virus harms the body’s defences (immune system). When people develop AIDS, they may have illnesses that healthy people would usually resist. Only a blood test can tell if someone is infected with HIV. Only a doctor can diagnose AIDS.
FACT: You cannot “catch” HIV like you do a cold or flu.
Unlike many other viruses, HIV is not spread through the air or water. HIV is not spread through everyday casual contact. You cannot get HIV from handshakes, hugs, coughs, sneezes, sweat, insects or pets. You cannot get HIV from eating food prepared by someone else or by being around an infected person. You cannot get HIV from using swimming pools, toilet seats, phones, computers, straws, spoons, cups or drinking fountains.
FACT: You can protect yourself from the virus.
The best ways to prevent HIV infection are: Do not have sex. You can get infected from even one sexual experience. Avoid contact with another person’s blood, semen, or vaginal fluid. Do not shoot drugs. Never share any kind of needle or syringe. Do not use drugs or alcohol. They can keep you from thinking clearly and cause you to make unwise decisions. If you are sexually active- Have sex only with a partner who is not infected, who has sex only with you, and who does not shoot drugs or shares needles and syringes. Keep in mind that it is difficult to know these things about another person. Always use a condom for any kind of sex because it’s possible you won’t know if your partner is infected. Make smart decisions. Whether you have sex and whether you use condoms are decisions you can make over and over. You can choose not to have sex, even if you have had sex in the past. You can choose to use condoms even if you have not used condoms in the past. Use what you have learned to make decisions about sex that are good for you and for your partner.
FACT: Condoms can help prevent HIV infection.
Condoms can help lower your risk of HIV infection during sex, as well as your risk of contracting other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Condoms act as an effective barrier to diseases. But condoms are not foolproof. They don’t completely eliminate the risk of becoming infected because they can break, tear, or slip off. And they must be used the right way every time for vaginal, anal, and oral sex. Find out how.
FACT: There are blood tests for HIV.
If you think you may be infected with HIV, you may want to consider taking an antibody blood test and getting counseling both before and after being tested. These blood tests look for the presence of HIV antibodies in the blood as signs of the virus. Current blood tests are over 99 percent accurate. However, if someone was infected recently it may take a few weeks to a few months for enough antibodies to develop to be detected in a blood test.
FACT: So far, there is no vaccine for HIV or a cure for AIDS.
Some medicines that are now available help to treat the symptoms of AIDS patients and allow them to live more comfortably. None of these medicines can keep a person from becoming infected with HIV. None of the treatments can cure AIDS. But people can prevent HIV infection by learning the facts and acting on them. Find out more about HIV/AIDS treatment. People with HIV and AIDS need you to show them love and understanding. You can’t get HIV or AIDS from being a friend. Most people who are living with AIDS are often sick and under a lot of stress. They need your support and caring. Ask them how you can help. Set an example for others. Show support and caring for people who are infected with HIV and for those who are living with AIDS. Remember, you cannot get AIDS from being a friend.
FACT: AIDS is caused by a virus called HIV.