What is HIV/AIDS?
AIDS and HIV
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. AIDS stands for Acquired
Immunodeficiency Syndrome and is caused by infection with HIV. A person
who is HIV-positive (HIV+) has been infected with HIV. Otherwise, it is
known as being HIV-negative (HIV-).
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is the name given to a serious
illness that damages the body's ability to fight infections. People
with AIDS are more likely to get certain diseases and infections because
their immune system cannot fight them off. The virus reduces the effectiveness
of the immune system by destroying the T4 white blood cells and other cells
in the body. Once the immune system is damaged, a number of opportunistic
infections can occur such as PCP (Pneumocystis Carinii Pneumonia), Karposi's
sarcoma, dementia and CMV (cytomegalovirus).
In the early 1980s, AIDS was identified but they didn't know what caused
it. Initially in the U.S., it appeared to only occur in homosexual
men. The virus "HIV" was identified as the cause in 1983.
There is no known cure to HIV/AIDS, but there are many treatments that
allow a person to live with the virus and maintain a decent quality of
life. There are now many long-term survivors living with the virus
and there is much hope for their continued survival.
AIDS is caused by HIV, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV attacks
the immune system - the body's defense against disease. People who have
the virus are said to be HIV positive. Because HIV can live in the body
for years without obvious effects, many people with HIV remain feeling
You can have HIV and not know it.
Your sex partner can have HIV and not know it.
Anyone who has HIV can give the virus to someone else.
HIV is transmitted in infected semen, pre-ejaculate, vaginal secretions,
or blood. It can get into the body during birth if the mother has
been exposed, or through contact with the penis, vagina, anus or any open
cuts or sores.
Most HIV infection occurs during unprotected intercourse (anal, oral,
or vaginal sex without a condom or other barrier). Oral sex can transmit
the virus but at a much lower rate compared with other sexual acts.
Practicing safe sex can prevent HIV infection. Discussing safe
sex is often difficult and practicing it can at first be even more difficult.
Learning how to enjoy one's sexuality with safe sex can be complicated
but it is vitally important.
Sharing needles and works (drug paraphernalia) when injecting drugs
or steroids is another high risk activity for HIV infection. The
infected blood gets directly into the bloodstream. Sharing needles used
for body piercing or tattooing may also pose a risk. You can avoid
HIV infection by using a syringe once and only once. When you don't share
your needle you don't run the risk of either passing on or contracting
any diseases. Sterile, never-used needles and syringes are safer than bleach-disinfected,
previously used needles and syringes.
The Basic Rules
HIV (the AIDS virus) is spread by:
The major ways in which the AIDS virus (HIV) is passed on are:
blood passing from one person with HIV into the body of another person
from mother to child during pregnancy or birth, or through breast feeding.
Safer sex is a way to have the joy of sex while reducing the possibility
of catching HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Practicing
safe sex doesn't guarantee you will not catch HIV, but it does reduce the
risk enormously. Various activities are rated by the risk associated with
them. It's not who you are but what you do that places you at risk
for HIV infection.
The main rule to remember is try to avoid exchanging bodily fluids,
such as blood, semen, pre-cum and vaginal fluids. These fluids can get
into the body through the linings of the vagina and the rectum, the tip
of the penis and through open sores and cuts. In the mouth they can enter
through cuts and ulcers.
No risk activities include hugging, kissing, touching, mutual masturbation.
Oral sex is considered a low to moderately risky activity. Avoid
oral sex if you have mouth ulcers or bleeding gums, or if you have just
brushed your teeth. It is suggested that you always use a condom
or dental dam for oral sex to reduce this risk. It is also suggested
that you avoid getting semen and vaginal fluids in your mouth. If
you swallow semen (cum), HIV is rapidly killed by stomach acids, though
it can enter open wounds that might be present before that happens.
Anal and vaginal intercourse are high risk activities. There is
danger to both partners because the virus can travel in either direction
through pre-cum, cum, blood, and other body fluids. The virus cannot
get through a condom. Using condoms properly is the best protection
if you are having vaginal or anal intercourse. Most HIV+ people in
the world have been infected through vaginal sex.
Call an AIDS educator, such as through the CDC's National AIDS Hotline,
to discuss the risks and to ask questions.
Safer sex is any sexual activity which does not allow semen, vaginal
fluid or blood to pass from one person into the body of another.
This information is designed to help you and your partner(s) prevent new
infections with HIV.
Dry kissing does not involve semen, vaginal fluids or blood exchange.
Saliva does not transmit AIDS.
All forms of sexual enjoyment with only skin-to-skin contact and no contact
with open wounds, such as massage and body stroking, have no risk.
The only risks associated with mutual masturbation are if there are cuts
or sores on the hands and/or the penis or vagina, or if cum, precum or
vaginal fluids gets into the opening of the penis or into the vagina.
Docking (rubbing your penis underneath a partners foreskin) is a risk
for HIV as well as other sexually transmitted diseases.
Receptive Anal Sex. (Another person's penis in your ass/rectum)
This is a major way HIV is passed on. Infected semen can enter the blood
stream through the lining of the rectum.
Insertive Anal Sex. (Your penis in another's ass/rectum)
HIV can be passed on from the passive/receptive partner to the active/insertive
partner during anal sex. From the lining of the rectum the virus can come
into contact with the penis and get in through tiny cuts or through the
opening of the penis.
Receptive Vaginal Sex. (A penis in your vagina)
HIV can be present in semen. The virus can be passed from men to women
Insertive Vaginal Sex. (Your penis in a woman's vagina)
HIV can be present in vaginal fluids. The virus can be passed from women
to men during intercourse. Worldwide, most cases of HIV have been transmitted
through vaginal sex.
Coitus Interuptus. (Withdrawing before ejaculation/cumming)
HIV can be passed on to both partners during intercourse. Ejaculation is
not essential for the virus to be passed on. The virus can still be passed
on because blood, or vaginal fluids may enter tiny cuts or the opening
of the penis. Al so the virus may be in precum.
Oral Sex. (Contact between the mouth and penis: fellatio; also contact
between the mouth and vagina: cunnilingus)
Although other sexually transmitted diseases can be easily contracted through
oral sex, oral sex is low-moderate risk for HIV.
There are cases where people have been infected with HIV through taking
semen or vaginal fluids (and possibly menstrual blood) into their mouths.
If there is any bleeding, gum disease or other infections in the mouth,
you should take extra care.
To make oral sex even safer for HIV, and to guard against other sexually
transmitted diseases, you can use barriers such as condoms for fellatio,
or latex "dental dams" or plastic cling wrap for cunnilingus. Take care
to avoid tears if using thin plastic film.
Rimming. (Contact between the mouth and the anus/rectum)
Rimming itself is a low risk activity for passing on HIV, but many other
serious illnesses, like Hepatitis, are easily passed on this way.
You can use a clear plastic sheet to help guard against infection.
If toys are shared during sex it is possible that semen, vaginal fluid
or blood may be passed from person to person. Don't share toys or
equipment. Keep your own toys, use a new condom on them, or wash
them carefully after each person uses them.
Fingering & Fisting.
Putting fingers or the hand into the anus or vagina can be safe against
HIV transmission. But you must guard against possible damage to the
vaginal or anal lining which would make transmission os HIV during intercourse
later on more likely. Damaged skin - cuts, rashes or sores - on the
hand should not come into contact with body fluids. Use latex gloves
and plenty of condom-safe lubricant.
Douches & Enemas.
Washing the anus or vagina can weaken the natural defenses of the lining,
making it easier for the virus to cross. Douche and enema equipment
should not be shared without thorough cleaning with bleach between uses.
Condoms are usually used for anal or vaginal sex, but can also be used
for oral sex. It is important to use a condom the right way.
Condoms, if used properly, are a good way of reducing the risks of anal
or vaginal sex. Laboratory tests show that HIV is not passed through
a latex condom.
Condoms are extremely reliable. They usually only break when they are fitted
incorrectly, they become damaged, or there is not enough lubricant. Neither
sperm, nor the viruses and bacteria that cause HIV and other sexually transmitted
diseases can penetrate an intact latex condom. If your condom does
break, withdraw carefully and immediately.
Use a condom of high quality
Check the expiration date
Choose a condom that suits for size and shape
Practice with different condoms for size, shape and comfort, and to get
used to the feel of them
Put the condom on before intercourse starts
Carefully open the condom package and to remove the condom being careful
not to damage it.
Squeeze the air out of the tip of the condom before rolling it on.
Place the condom against the head of the erect penis, leaving about 1 cm
(1/2 inch) of space at the end by gently squeezing the end of the condom
to remove air from the tip. Hold the tip of the condom and unroll
it to the base of the penis.
If uncircumcised, pull back the foreskin before unrolling the condom.
Roll it all the way to the base of the penis
Use plenty of water-based lubricant, such as Wetstuff, KY, Surgilube, Muko,
Lubafax or Climax. Apply plenty of lube to the condom and the anus
or vagina. Do not use lubricants containing oil, such as Vaseline
or baby oil, as they weaken the condom and may lead to holes and breaks.
Many condoms are pre-lubricated, but this is often not sufficient.
If there is not enough lubrication during sex, it increases friction and
the likelihood of the condom breaking. Add more water-based lubricant
Check the condom frequently during sex to make sure that it hasn't slipped
off or broken.
After ejaculating, hold the base of the condom to keep it from coming off
and remove the erect penis from your partner.
Some people choose to withdraw prior to cumming as an added precaution.
Only use the condom once. Never re-use them!
Wrap the condom and dispose of it in the trash.
Do not store condoms in your wallet or glove box, or near excess heat or
cold, nor in places where sharp objects might damage them. Use condoms
within a year or two of the date of manufacture.
If you have never used a condom before you might like to practice putting
one on by yourself before trying it with a partner. It will be easier
in the heat of the moment. Condoms are an important part of safe
Get tested for HIV regularly if your are sexually active. Your doctor
or a clinic can give you advice about getting tested. Find a doctor
or clinic where you feel comfortable discussing this matter. If you
are not comfortable discussing this with your family doctor you may prefer
to call an AIDS hotline (several are available through LAMBDA Line, 915.562.GAYS)
or you might go to another doctor or a health or HIV clinic. HIV
clinics often allow you to be totally anonymous. Contact your local HIV/AIDS
body or counseling service to find out where to go close to you.
Testing for HIV infection often involves collecting a blood sample which
is tested to see if it contains HIV antibodies. It takes a week or two
before you get your results. Results are not usually given out over the
phone and a good doctor or clinic will make sure that both pre- and post-test
counseling is given. There are home HIV test kits and rapid HIV tests
that your doctor or clinic can tell you about.
Once a person is exposed to HIV, it takes between six and twelve weeks
(called a "window period") before the body produces antibodies to the virus.
This is what HIV tests look for. Before this antibody is produced,
tests will not show if you are infected with HIV.
If you are positive, there are treatments available which can slow down
the progress of the virus. You can also ensure your sexual behavior
does not put sexual partners at risk of infection. If you are tested
and the result is negative, the relief you feel may inspire to remain that
way by ensuring you practice safer sex.