|Introduction – What Is AIDS?|
|How Is HIV/AIDS Transmitted?|
|How HIV/AIDS Is Not Transmitted|
|HIV/AIDS as a Public Health Issue|
HIV is the acronym for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV is a retrovirus that can cause the breakdown of the body’s immune system. The immune system is the body’s natural defense against disease. Contracting the HIV virus leads in many cases to the development of the disease known as AIDS or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS is the name originally given to an array of diseases and malignancies that occur in adults who previously had healthy immune systems. The presence of certain “markers” (opportunistic infections, cancers, T-cell count) now constitutes a diagnosis of AIDS. (T-cells are white blood cells in the body that help fight off disease.)
In adults, the onset of AIDS can take up to 10 or more years and new drug therapies can delay onset even longer. This means that someone infected with HIV may look and feel healthy for many years, but can still transmit the virus. This is why it is so important to be tested.
HIV/AIDS can be spread sexually via the following: semen and seminal fluids, cervical or vaginal secretions, blood or bloody fluids. Because HIV/AIDS is most frequently transmitted sexually, the only way you can be sure to prevent the risk of transmission is by abstaining from all sexual contact. The risk of contracting HIV/AIDS sexually can be substantially reduced by consistently practicing these “barrier” methods, including:
- Non-penetration sexual contact.
- Correctly using a latex condom from start to finish, every time you have vaginal or anal intercourse and with each act of oral sex on a man. HIV/AIDS can be transmitted through oral sex. Use a dental dam or a condom cut open while performing each act of oral sex on a woman. Remember, all semen, even pre-ejaculate fluid, can carry the HIV virus.
- Engaging in safer sex practices that do not involve penetration such as kissing, massaging, hugging, touching, body rubbing, and masturbation.
HIV/AIDS can be contracted by sharing needles or drug injection paraphernalia (e.g., cooker, cotton, water). Continued intravenous drug use should not include sharing or re-using needles or cookers; and always include the step of rinsing all drug paraphernalia with full strength bleach, followed by water.
Perinatal (During Pregnancy)
An HIV/AIDS infected mother can transmit the HIV virus to her developing fetus during birth. Fortunately, Use of anti-HIV therapies during pregnancy, during birth and with the newborn have been shown to reduce the transmission rate of AIDS to newborns.
HIV/AIDS can be passed from mother to child through breastfeeding. Mothers with HIV/AIDS can transmit the HIV virus may choose to use formula as an option to breastfeeding.
Here are some examples of how HIV is not transmitted:
- Donating blood in the U.S.
- Mosquito bites or bites from other insects
- Sneezes or coughs. Touching, hugging, or dry kissing a person with HIV/AIDS. Sharing towels or clothing or through the urine or sweat of an infected person. Sharing eating or drinking utensils with an infected person.
- Public restrooms, saunas, showers, or pools.
If you choose to be tested for HIV/AIDS, it’s important to be aware that you can be tested anonymously, or in confidentially.
Anonymous HIV/AIDS testing is the only form of HIV/AIDS testing that is not name-based. If you receive a test from an anonymous testing center, no one but you will know the results. Currently, 40 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico offer anonymous testing.
It is estimated that 905,000 people in the U.S. were living with HIV at the end of 2003, according to the Centers for Disease Control, while another 405,926 Americans were living with AIDS.
Since it was first identified in the US in 1981, AIDS has killed more than 500,000 people, which is nearly ten times more than the number of Americans killed in Vietnam. Perhaps more startling is the fact that more people become infected every day, with young adults (under 25) becoming the most at-risk group, accounting for an estimated 50 percent of all new HIV infections in the U.S.
Globally, the picture is even starker. By the end of 2004, an estimated 39.4 million people worldwide were living with HIV/AIDS. The estimated number of AIDS deaths globally in that year is 3.1 million.
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