AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS is the disorder that results when the body’s immune system is weakened or destroyed by the HIV virus to the point that a person can contract various infections, cancers and other illnesses most often leading to death if untreated or if treatment fails.
Yes. Over 20 million people worldwide have died since the epidemic began 25 years ago. Over 42 million people worldwide are currently infected with the HIV virus. Without treatment it is almost always fatal.
How is HIV transmitted? HIV is a virus waiting for entry into any human host to survive and reproduce. It does not discriminate by race, gender, age, sexual orientation, social status, education, political affiliation or religion.
HIV is spread by an infected person’s body fluid entering another person’s body. Body fluids able to effectively spread the HIV virus are blood, semen, vaginal fluids and breast milk. Most common and effective routes of transmission are:
-Sexual contact with an infected person where bodily fluids are exchanged
-Sharing needles and drug equipment with someone who is infected (exchange of blood)
-From HIV infected mothers to fetus or newborn before or during childbirth or through breastfeeding
For more detailed information, please visit the website of U.S. Centers for Disease Control. www.cdc.gov
Abstain from sex (not having oral, vaginal, or anal sex)
Always use non-spermicidal latex condoms for all types of sexual intercourse and activity
Avoid contact with bodily fluids which transmit HIV (blood, semen, vaginal fluids, breast milk)
Never share needles or drug injection equipment
Protect cuts, open sores, and your eyes and mouth from contact with infected blood and fluids.
You can’t get HIV from:
Coughing, sneezing, sharing household items, swimming in the same pool as someone with HIV, mosquito bites, toilet seats, telephones, sweat, saliva or tears.
Safe activities (no risk of HIV transmission) include: hugging, kissing, erotic massage and mutual masturbation (as long as you don’t have cuts or skin openings that fluids could enter).
Safer activities (minimal risk of HIV transmission if done properly) include:
Using condoms properly with water based lubricants every time for vaginal or anal intercourse
Using a barrier for oral sex performed on a woman such as a dental dam, a condom that is cut and rolled out flat or plastic food wrap
Using a condom for oral sex performed on a man
Using a barrier for oral to anal sex (rimming) on man or woman such as a dental dam or a condom that is cut and rolled out flat or plastic food wrap
Using a latex or polyurethane glove for hand to vaginal sex (fingering) or hand to anal sex (fingering and fisting)
Do not use oil based lubricants with latex condoms as they can cause the condoms to break down and be ineffective.
If you are allergic to latex, condoms and gloves are available made out of polyurethane.
Do not use condoms made out of natural skin (lamb skin) which is actually porous and allows the small HIV virus to pass through them even though they do stop the larger sperm cells.
Don’t use alcohol and drugs when having sex since they can impair your judgment in making safer sex decisions.
Never reuse a condom or barrier.
Never share sex toys if they haven’t been carefully cleaned first.
Always use new needles and works or clean needles and works if injecting drugs, including steroids. (Clean needles three times thoroughly with undiluted bleached then rinse three times with clean water). Never share dirty needles or works.
For tattoos and piercings, clean and sterilized equipment, needles and ink must be used to prevent HIV transmission.
You can’t know for sure unless you are tested for HIV.
Often people experience no symptoms during the initial HIV infection; sometimes they experience flu-like symptoms that go away. However, if you are infected, the HIV is in your body slowly destroying your immune system and you may not exhibit any early symptoms until considerable damage has been done and hospitalization is necessary. The earlier HIV infection is detected, the sooner treatment can begin to preserve your immune system and health. If you have experienced HIV exposure risks, you should be tested. Knowledge is power.
Yes. HIV tests detect specific antibodies your body produces if exposed to HIV. These tests are more than 99% accurate and multiple confirmation tests are conducted to determine a positive result. HIV tests are available that use a small blood sample or saliva.
No. There is no vaccine or cure. Scientists around the world have been working on vaccines and cures for several decades now, but the outlook for a cure or vaccination in our lifetime and next few generations is poor.
Currently about two dozen HIV medicines in five different classes are available and must be used in specific combinations with each other. The medicines work by interrupting the HIV virus’ reproduction process which allows the body’s immune system to continue to function at some level. The HIV viral level in an infected person can be reduced but never eliminated.
However, for all the benefits of medicine, the regimens can be complex and must be strictly adhered to in order to avoid the virus from mutating and developing resistance to the medicines. It is possible to contract a resistant strain of HIV virus which reduces your medication options making treatment all that more difficult and limited. The medicines are also often toxic and research is showing that long-term use of HIV medicines has serious side-effects including possible organ failure.
The following organizations offer HIV testing. Please contact them for further information.
- AIDS Arms’ Oak Cliff Office (free)
- AIDS Arms’ Peabody Health Center (free)
- UT Southwestern’s Community Prevention & Intervention Unit
- Dallas County’s Early Intervention Clinic
- Nelson-Tebedo Clinic