What is HIV/AIDS?
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks the immune system. Without treatment, most people infected with HIV become less able to fight off germs that we’re exposed to every day.
AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is a late stage of HIV infection. An HIV positive person is diagnosed with AIDS when their immune system is so weakened that it is no longer able to fight off illness. Ultimately, people do not die from AIDS itself, they die from one or more infections that take advantage of the weakened immune system, like pneumonia or various forms of cancer.
Is there a cure?
There is no cure or vaccine for HIV or AIDS. Once infected, there is no way to get the virus out of your body. However, there are some drugs which help to slow down the damage HIV does to your immune system and therefore slow down the onset of AIDS.
How do I get HIV/AIDS?
HIV is transmitted from person to person through the exchange of bodily fluids, like blood, semen (including pre-cum), vaginal secretions or breast milk.
The most common ways that people become infected with HIV are:
Having sex without a condom.
Sharing needles or syringes.
Pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding.
HIV/AIDS is NOT spread by:
Air or water.
Insects, including mosquitoes.
Saliva, tears, or sweat.
Casual contact like shaking hands or sharing dishes.
Closed-mouth or “social” kissing.
What puts me at risk for HIV/AIDS and other STIs?
Unprotected oral, anal, or vaginal sex (without condom or dental dam).
Sharing unclean drug paraphernalia like syringes and cookers, or sharing unclean needles used for tattoos and body piercing with someone who is unaware of their status.
Drugs and alcohol can make it harder for you to practice safe behavior.
Assuming your partner is clean based on their appearance:
STDs – Some sexually transmitted diseases can be transmitted by an infected person even if they don’t have any symptoms. According to the CDC estimates suggest that even though young people aged 15-24 years represent only 25% of the sexually experienced population, they acquire nearly half of all new STDs.
HIV/AIDS – People who appear perfectly healthy may not know they have the virus and can pass it on to others. 1 out of 4 Americans with HIV do not know they have the virus. HIV is often asymptomatic for years, so the only way to know your status is to get tested.
How do I know if I have HIV or an STI?
The best way to know whether you have HIV or another STI is to get tested.
Here’s how you can find a location near you that offers confidential HIV testing:
Text your ZIP code to KNOWIT (566948).
Call 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636).
It's important to get tested.
If you test negative, you can find out how to keep from getting infected in the future. If you test positive, you can take advantage of the advances in antiviral medications to maintain a healthy lifestyle and learn how to prevent passing HIV or another STI onto others.
Know you're in control.
Use Condoms and Dental Dams.
Not every man is built the same, neither is every condom. Too small, and the condom could be uncomfortable. Too large, and the condom could slip off. Condoms that are too large is a bigger problem because condoms stretch.
Trying to find a condom you like? Experiment. Try visiting a sex toy store that lets you buy single condoms or condom assortments so that you have a range of options to play with. And don’t trust the package description. A condom brand’s “XL” condoms may be the same size as another brand’s regular ones.
Help! My condom broke
If a condom breaks while you are having sex, stop and carefully pull out or have your partner pull out. It’s important to talk to your partner about what’s happened. Discuss when and if you have been tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Should I use a lubricant with a condom?
Some condoms are already lubricated with dry silicone, jellies, or creams. If you buy condoms not already lubricated, it’s a good idea to apply some yourself. Lubricants may help prevent condoms from breaking during use and may prevent irritation, which might increase the chance of infection.
If you use a separate lubricant, be sure to use one that’s water-based and made for this purpose. If you’re not sure which to choose, ask your pharmacist. Never use a lubricant that contains oils, fats, or greases such as petroleum-based jelly (like Vaseline brand), baby oil or lotion, hand or body lotions, cooking shortenings, or oily cosmetics like cold cream. They can seriously weaken latex, causing a condom to tear easily.
A female condom is worn internally by the female partner and provides a physical barrier to prevent exposure to ejaculated semen or other body fluids. Female condoms can be used by the receptive partner during anal sex.
In safe sex practices, dental dams are recognized for their use during oral sex to protect against the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. After lubrication with water-based lubricant, an un-punctured dental dam may be held over the vulva or anus allowing oral stimulation of these areas without transmission of bodily fluids and skin contact.
PrEP and PEP
PrEP − Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis − is a daily pill that can help you stay HIV-negative. The medicines in PrEP are the same as those taken by people with HIV to stay healthy, and can protect you before you might be exposed to HIV to help prevent it.
Consider PrEP. PrEP is for HIV-negative people who are at risk of being exposed to HIV through sex or injecting drugs and who are ready to take a daily pill.
Talk to Your Doctor. You need to speak with a doctor or nurse before you start using PrEP.
Use Condoms. Even if you take PrEP daily, condoms give you additional protection against HIV, other sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancy.
PrEP is not 100% effective. You can still get HIV, especially if you do not have not enough medicine in your body.
Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)
PEP − Post-Exposure Prophylaxis − is an emergency medication for people who are HIV-negative and may have been exposed to HIV. If you think you were exposed to HIV, go immediately to a clinic or emergency room and ask for PEP.
Know Your Risk. PEP can protect you if you had anal or vaginal sex without a condom with someone who has, or might have, HIV. PEP can also prevent HIV if you were exposed while injecting drugs.
Act Fast. PEP works best if started right away. Go to an emergency room or clinic as soon as possible and ask about PEP. You should begin PEP no more than 36 hours after exposure.
Take PEP for 28 Days. PEP is taken in pill form for 28 days. You need to take PEP each day to keep enough medicine in your body to stop HIV.
PEP is not 100% effective, however if you take PEP immediately after an exposure and for the full 28 days, it often prevents HIV infection.
How do I know if I need PEP?
If you are HIV-negative, PEP can protect you if you had anal or vaginal sex without a condom (or your condom broke) with someone who has HIV or may have HIV. PEP can stop HIV if you were the victim of sexual assault. PEP can also stop HIV if you were exposed while injecting drugs.
You may be at higher risk of HIV infection if you were the receptive (or “bottom”) partner in anal or vaginal sex (if you had a partner’s penis in your anus or vagina). Receptive partners have a greater chance of exposure to HIV through semen or blood.
PEP is NOT usually recommended after sex that has a lower risk of spreading HIV, like oral sex. If you are unsure whether you are at risk of HIV infection, ask a doctor.