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AIDS: What You Must Know

What You Need to Know About AIDS

Some people are so fearful of infection by the HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, they won't shake hands with someone who's HIV-positive. But you can't get the infection unless you have unprotected sexual contact with the infected person, share needles or come in contact with his or her blood or blood products.

HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, isn't transmitted by casual contact. Nor can you get it from sharing water fountains, toilet seats, pencils or pens. And it's not spread through coughing or sneezing, tears, sweat, urine or saliva. Therefore, routine contact won't spread HIV.

Learning the following facts about HIV and AIDS can help you protect yourself and allay your fears.


To protect yourself from the AIDS virus, it's imperative you understand how it's spread.

  • Sexual transmission -- Homo-sexuals and heterosexuals alike are at risk. Infected people can pass HIV on to anyone with whom they have intimate contact. Men can infect female or male partners, as can women. If you're promiscuous, you're increasing your chances of encountering someone who's infected.

    To protect yourself, use condoms unless you're absolutely certain your partner isn't HIV-positive.

  • Drug and needle use -- Injecting drugs or steroids with someone who's HIV-positive puts you at risk. Dried blood can stay on a needle or inside a syringe, then be transferred to the next user. Because you can't tell by looking whether a person has HIV, sharing needles is always dangerous.

    You're also at risk if you have any part of your body pierced or get a tattoo. If you have either of these procedures, make sure the person providing the service uses only new or sterile needles.

  • Blood transfusions -- Because blood that is used in transfusions in the United States is rigorously tested for HIV and other contagious virus's there is only a slight chance of getting HIV from a transfusion. If you get a transfusion in another country, you could be at risk.


The following steps can help you prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS.

  • Find out all you can about HIV and AIDS, so you can protect yourself. Share your knowledge with family members and friends.

  • Abstain from sexual relations or use a condom when having sex.

  • Don't inject drugs of any kind. Don't share needles or syringes. Seek medical help if you have a drug problem.

  • Have an HIV test if you've participated in unsafe sex or drug use. Encourage any friends who believe they may be infected to do the same.

  • Postpone pregnancy if you're a woman and it's possible you've been infected. Unborn children can contract the disease from their mothers. Your doctor can offer advice, as can family-planning services.

Learn the Symptoms of HIV

  • rapid weight loss

  • dry cough

  • recurring fever or night sweats

  • profound and unexplained fatigue

  • swollen lymph glands in the armpits, groin, or neck

  • diarrhea that lasts for more than a week

  • white spots or unusual blemishes in the mouth, throat or on the tongue

  • pneumonia

  • red, brown, pink, or purplish blotches on or under the skin or inside the mouth, nose, or eyelids

  • memory loss, depression, and other neurological disorders

All About AIDS Testing

Common testing sites for AIDS include local health departments, offices of private doctors, hospitals, and sites specifically set up to provide HIV testing.

It's important to seek testing at a place that also provides counseling about HIV and AIDS. Counselors can answer any questions you might have about risky behavior and ways you can protect yourself and others in the future.

Although home HIV tests are sometimes advertised through the Internet, only the Home Access test has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The Home Access test kit can be found at most local drug stores. The testing procedure involves pricking your finger with a special device, placing drops of blood on a specially treated card, then mailing the card in to be tested at a licensed laboratory. Customers are given an identification number to use when phoning for the test results.

A rapid test for detecting antibodies to HIV is a screening test that produces very quick results, usually in 5 to 30 minutes. In comparison, results from the commonly used HIV antibody screening test are not available for 1 to 2 weeks.

The tests commonly used to detect HIV infection look for antibodies produced by your body to fight HIV. Most people will develop detectable antibodies within 3 months after infection, the average being 25 days.

See a doctor, even if you do not feel sick. Try to find a doctor who has experience treating HIV. There are now many drugs to treat HIV infection and help you maintain your health.

Using a Condom Is Your Second-Best Protection

After abstinence, properly used condoms are your best defense against sexually trans-mitted diseases, including AIDS. Most Americans with HIV got the virus from an infected sexual partner. Health experts believe many of these people would be healthy today if they had used a condom.


Anyone who is unsure whether his or her sexual partner has been infected should practice abstinence or use a condom. Used properly and consistently, condoms are 99% effective in preventing transmission of HIV, which is harbored in bodily fluids. During intercourse, a condom acts as a shield that keeps fluids that may contain the AIDS virus from passing between partners.


When choosing a condom, always read the label and look for these important features:

  • Condoms made of latex rubber. Most condoms are made of either latex or lambskin (natural membrane). Studies have shown that only latex condoms help prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

  • Package labeling that includes the statement, ""prevention of sexually transmitted diseases."" Products that make this claim have been reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. If you don't see this statement, assume that the condoms won't offer you adequate protection.

  • An expiration date that has not lapsed.

Safe condoms can be purchased from vending machines, but take extra care to identify the material as latex and look for the disease prevention labeling. Avoid condoms from machines that are exposed to extreme temperatures or direct sunlight.


Condoms must be used properly to be effective. Here are some steps to guide you in their proper care and use.

  • Store condoms in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. But do not keep them in your billfold.

  • Don't let the condom contact oil-based creams and lubricants, such as skin lotion, petroleum jelly, cold cream or mineral oil; these products can damage the latex. Use only commercially available, water-based lubricants.

  • Use a new condom every time you have intercourse.

  • Handle condoms gently. Don't open the package with your teeth, scissors or anything sharp that might tear or puncture the latex, and don't inflate or stretch it before using.

  • Look for defects without unrolling the condom by checking the tip for brittleness, tears and holes. If the material is gummy or sticks to itself, do not use it.

  • Dispose of used condoms immediately. After handling, wash your hands with soap and water.

Important Facts About AIDS and HIV Infection

Misconceptions and falsehoods concerning AIDS and HIV abound. The following facts can help you learn more about the disease and its source virus, and what you can do to protect yourself.

1. AIDS is caused by infection with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV. Infection with HIV is preventable.

2. HIV is spread through contact with blood and other body fluids. This contact comes primarily through sexual relations and sharing needles with illegal drug users.

3. Most HIV-positive people live normal, active lives for years after infection. Not everyone who's HIV-positive develops AIDS, but most have. For many HIV-positive people, symptoms serious enough to constitute an AIDS diagnosis begin to appear 8 to 10 years after infection.

4. The epidemic affects people of all ages, races and sexual preferences. Infections among women and adolescents are increasing faster than in any other population groups.

5. Assessing and taking responsibility for your behavior and educating yourself about HIV and AIDS is key to protecting yourself and your partner from HIV infection.

6. There's no cure for AIDS, but new medications such as protease inhibitors can significantly slow the progression of the disease.

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ATTENTION: Information delivered through Vitality-on-Demand(TM) is the opinion of the sourced authors and organizations. Personal decisions regarding health, diet, exercise or other matters should be made only after consultation with the reader's own medical and professional advisers. This material MAY NOT BE REPRODUCED FOR REDISTRIBUTION without written permission from Vitality®.


© 2011 Krames StayWell 2011. The information in this newsletter is intended to be used as a general guideline and should not replace the advice of your doctor. Always consult your doctor for personal decisions. Models used for illustrative purposes only. Material may not be reproduced without written permission from StayWell Custom Communications.