What is HIV? HIV stands for Human immunodeficiency Virus. It is the virus that causes AIDS. It can only affect human beings by destroying the body’s immune system, or lymphocytes or soldiers of the body, leaving the body vulnerable to all diseases.
Here's what everyone should know to protect themselves and others from infection with the AIDS virus (human immuno-deficiency virus, or HIV) ..
- HIV is contagious, but not in the same way that measles or chicken pox or the common cold are contagious. It is a sexually transmitted, blood-borne disease that spreads from one person to another in the following ways:
- By sexual intercourse between a man and a woman or between two men. The virus can be spread through vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
- By sharing contaminated needles or "works" used to inject drugs.
- By an infected woman to her baby during pregnancy or delivery, and possibly through breast feeding.
- By transfusion of contaminated blood or blood components, although this risk has been sharply reduced by screening blood and blood donors and by new ways to process blood used to treat disorders such as hemophilia.
- Many people infected with the AIDS virus have no symptoms and may look and feel completely well for many years. But these people can transmit the virus to others. And a person can become infected after just a single exposure to the virus.
- The AIDS virus does NOT spread through casual social contact. In more than seven years of tracking and studying AIDS, scientists have found no evidence that HIV is spread casually through contact at school or on the job, by sharing meals or office equipment, or by handshakes or hugs with an infected person. There is no reason to avoid ordinary social contact with a person infected by HIV.
- There is no risk of getting AIDS by giving blood; new equipment is used for each donor.
- The AIDS virus is not spread by sexual intercourse between two people who maintain a sexual relationship exclusively with each other and who have not been previously infected.
- The best protection against sexually transmitted infection by the virus is, of course, to abstain from sex or to have a mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected person. Avoiding sex with people who have AIDS, people who have tested positive for the AIDS virus antibody, or people at risk of infection would also eliminate the risk of sexually transmitted infection.
- Unless you're absolutely sure that your sex partner is not infected, avoid contact with his or her blood, semen, urine, feces, saliva, and vaginal secretions
- Use condoms, which will reduce (but not eliminate) the possibility of transmitting the virus.
- Avoid sexual practices that may cause tears in the vagina, rectum or penis.
- Avoid oral-genital contact without a condom.
- Avoid open-mouthed, intimate kissing.
- Do not have sex with multiple partners. The more partners you have, the greater your risk of infection.
- Do not use illegal intravenous drugs. If you do, never share needles or syringes.
- Seek counseling and a medical evaluation. Consider taking the AIDS antibody test, which would enable you to know your status and protect yourself or - if you are infected - your sex partner.
- If you area woman at increased risk, seriously consider delaying plans for pregnancy until more is known about AIDS and transmission of the AIDS virus. A pregnant woman infected with the AIDS virus has a 30 percent to 50 percent chance of passing the virus on to her unborn child. Women at increased risk of AIDS should take the antibody test before deciding to become pregnant.
For people who have received a positive result on the AIDS antibody test:
- .See a doctor. There are medical steps you can take to protect your health. Either avoid sex or tell your prospective sex partner of your AIDS test result and take the precautions listed above to protect him or her from infection.
- Inform anyone whom you may have exposed to the AIDS virus - through sex or drug use - of their potential exposure, and encourage them to seek counseling and antibody testing.
- Don't share toothbrushes, razors, or other items that could become contaminated with blood.
- If you use drugs, enroll in a treatment program. Never share needles or other drug equipment.
- Do not donate blood, plasma, sperm, or other body tissues or organs.
- Tell your doctor, dentist, and eye doctor that you are infected with the AIDS virus so that proper precautions can be taken to protect you, them, and others.
- Women with a positive antibody test should avoid pregnanc.