Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the virus that causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). HIV can be transmitted from a HIV-infected person through blood, sexual fluids, and breast milk. A person can become infected with HIV if one of these fluids goes into the body and enters the person’s blood stream. There are many ways a person can become infected with HIV. The virus can be contracted from unprotected sexual intercourse with a person infected with HIV, a HIV-infected mother can pass the virus to her baby through delivery or through infected breast milk, and through the contact of sharing needles and equipment when using injection drugs.
HIV can be detected through a blood test. If test results are positive for HIV it does not necessarily mean the person has AIDS. However, a person with HIV may receive a diagnosis of AIDS at a later time. AIDS is determined by having a Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) illness indicator or by certain blood tests.
HIV is a very serious virus. This virus will attack the immune system and ultimately weaken it to the point of it having a hard time fighting off infections. In a healthy person these infections are not usually serious. If infected with AIDS, these infections are serious and can be life threatening. Many cases of HIV show no symptoms at all. Those with symptoms may have flu-like symptoms: fever, headache, fatigue, or enlarged lymph nodes in the neck or groin. A diagnosis of HIV is life long.
Reports have shown that AIDS is the #1 cause of death among African American and Hispanic women ages 25-44 in the United States. Women are one of the fastest growing groups to contract AIDS. Most are now becoming infected in their teens through unprotected, heterosexual sex. In Wisconsin for the year of 2003 there were 365 new cases of HIV reported, for a total of 8,328 cases. From this number 5,424 meet the CDC’s requirement of AIDS.
There are steps you can take to reduce your risk of HIV.
- Don’t have multiple sex partners. The more partners you or your partner has the higher your risk of getting HIV. Also, know your partner’s sexual history.
- Use condoms during sex. If condoms are used correctly and consistently they are effective 98-100% of the time.
- Don’t use alcohol or drugs. Alcohol and drug use have the potential for you to engage in high-risk behaviors.
Condom Do’s & Don’ts:
- DO keep condoms in a cool, dry place, not in a car or wallet.
- DO put the condom on an erect penis before any contact with the genitals.
- DO use only water-based lubricants not oil-based lubricants.
- DO hold the condom at the base of the penis when withdrawing after sex.
- DO be careful when opening a condom wrapper. It is easy to rip the condom.
- DON’T use expired condoms. Old condoms can be brittle and break easily.
- DON’T unroll the condom before putting it on the erect penis.
- DON’T reuse a condom.
Neighborhood Health Partners offers low cost, confidential, rapid HIV testing with results in as little as 20 minutes. If there are any questions concerning HIV and AIDS, proper condom use, or you would like to request testing, call our office at 348-9766 or toll free 1-877-449-7422.
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