Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
HIV is a virus that kills your body's "CD4 cells." CD4 cells (also called T-helper cells) help your body fight off infection and disease. HIV can be passed from person to person if someone with HIV infection has sex with or shares drug injection needles with another person. It also can be passed from a mother to her baby when she is pregnant, when she delivers the baby, or if she breast-feeds her baby.
Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
AIDS is a disease you get when HIV destroys your body's immune system. Normally, your immune system helps you fight off illness. When your immune system fails you can become very sick and can die from an illness as common as the flu.
It is important to remember that AIDS is not synonymous with HIV. AIDS results from specific damage to the immune system and can actually be triggered by many different infections or diseases, one of which is HIV.
The only way to know if you are infected is to be tested for HIV infection. You cannot rely on symptoms to know whether or not you are infected. Many people who are infected with HIV do not have any symptoms at all for many years.
The following may be warning signs of HIV infection:
- Rapid weight loss
- Dry cough
- Recurring fever or profuse 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 on the tongue, in the mouth, or in the throat
- 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
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- HIV – the virus that can cause AIDS – is found in blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk.
- HIV is spread most often by having sex without using a condom or by sharing needles.
- People can be infected with HIV without knowing it. An HIV test is the only way to know for sure.
- There are treatments that help people with HIV stay healthier, but there is still no cure.
- Choosing not to have sex and never sharing needles are good ways to protect yourself.
- Practicing safer sex means always using a new condom with a water-based lubricant.
- You cannot get HIV from shaking hands, water fountains, bathrooms, or eating utensils.
- Your best protection is prevention!
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HIV & Oral Sex
It is possible for either partner to become infected with HIV through performing or receiving oral sex. There have been a few cases of HIV transmission from performing oral sex on a person infected with HIV.
While no one knows exactly what the degree of risk is, evidence suggests that the risk is less than that of unprotected anal or vaginal sex.
If the person performing oral sex has HIV, blood from their mouth may enter the body of the person receiving oral sex through:
- The lining of the urethra (the opening at the tip of the penis)
- The lining of the vagina or cervix
- The lining of the anus
- Directly into the body through small cuts or open sores.
The risk of HIV transmission increases if the person performing oral sex:
- Has cuts or sores around or in their mouth or throat
- If the person receiving oral sex ejaculates in the mouth of the person performing oral sex
- If the person receiving oral sex has another sexually transmitted infection (STI).
If you choose to perform oral sex and your partner is male:
- Use a latex condom on the penis
- If you or your partner is allergic to latex, plastic (polyurethane) condoms can be used.
If you choose to have oral sex, and your partner is female:
- Use a latex barrier (such as a natural rubber latex sheet, a dental dam, or a cut-open condom that makes a square) between your mouth and the vagina. A latex barrier such as a dental dam reduces the risk of blood or vaginal fluids entering your mouth.
- Plastic food wrap can also be used as a barrier.
- Use a latex barrier (such as a natural rubber latex sheet, a dental dam, or a cut-open condom that makes a square) between your mouth and the anus. Plastic food wrap also can be used as a barrier.
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Below are links PAMF accessed when researching this topic. PAMF does not sponsor or endorse any of these sites, nor does PAMF guarantee the accuracy of the information contained on them.
HIV/AIDS Prevention, CDC National Prevention Information Network.
HIV Timeline, Kaiser Family Foundation.
HIV/AIDS, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: National Center for Infectious Diseases.
This material is taken from A Teen's Guide to HIV and AIDS. Copyright 1995 Journeyworks Publishing. All rights reserved. Please do not duplicate or reproduce by electronic or any other means without express permission from the publisher.
STD Wizard: It takes 5 minutes to find out if you need to be tested for an STI such as hepatitis, HIV or Chlamydia.
HIV Rap Interactive: Watch a video, answer a quiz to assess your HIV risk, or just learn more about sexual health strategies to protect you and your partner using this collection of interactive, multimedia, science-based HIV information, prevention resources, and personal stories.
Know the Risks: This interactive HIV/AIDS Information and Personal Risk Assessment Center can help you to better understand your risks for HIV and learn more about prevention strategies. The survey and learning activities are also available in Spanish.