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AIDS QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

Since 1916, Planned Parenthood has upheld the right to privacy in human relationships.

We believe that sexual experience can be a positive source of personalenrichment and satisfaction when it is based on informed choices and mature decisions -whether for pleasure or procreation.

Sex partners should always:
Have each other's consent.
Be honest with each other.
Treat each other as equals.
Be attentive to each other's pleasure.
Protect each other against physical and emotional harm, unintended pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infection.
Accept responsibility for their actions.
Have access to safe and effective means to prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection.

We hope this guide will help women and men of all ages make informeddecisions about their sex lives.


What is AIDS?
AIDS is the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. It is a set of life-threateningconditions. It occurs during the last stage of HIV disease. HIV disease is caused byHIV—the Human Immunodeficiency Virus.

How could I get HIV?
HIV is transmitted in blood, semen, breast milk, and vaginal fluids. We can get HIV ifwe:

  • Have unprotected sexual intercourse with someone who has the virus.
  • Share needles or syringes with someone who has the virus.
  • Receive transfusions of blood products donated by someone who has the virus.
  • Get HIV-infected blood, semen, or vaginal secretions into open wounds or sores.
  • Receive tissue or organs transplanted from a donor with the virus.
  • Have artificial insemination with the sperm of a man who has the virus.
  • Become accidentally punctured or cut with a needle or surgical instrument contaminated with the virus.
  • The virus may pass from a woman to her fetus during pregnancy or birth. Breastfeeding also may pass the virus to an infant.

What are my chances of getting HIV?
The chances are small, unless we take unnecessary risks.

How does HIV work?
HIV breaks down the immune system—our body's shield against disease. It causespeople to develop harmful infections that don't usually affect people. These are calledopportunistic infections. They include a number of unusual cancers.

Some people develop symptoms shortly after being infected. For many, it takes more than10 years.

Can you get HIV through casual contact?
No—

  • You can't get HIV by visiting, socializing, working, or going to school with someone who has it.
  • You can't get HIV by being sneezed on, coughed on, or breathed on by anyone who has it.
  • You can't get HIV by crying with, laughing with, sweating with, kissing, or hugging anyone who has it.
  • You can't get HIV from mosquitoes or other insects.
  • You can't get HIV by touching things that a person with HIV has used. Doorknobs, bed linens, clothing, towels, toilets, telephones, showers, swimming pools, eating utensils, and drinking glasses are all safe. They cannot transmit HIV.

How can I tell who has HIV?
You can't. Even if you ask, you may not learn the truth. Most people with HIVdon't know they have the virus. And some people won't tell you they have it, even if theyknow.

Is there a test to find out if I have HIV?
The most common tests detect HIV antibodies. Detectable numbers of antibodiesusually develop within six months. The average time it takes is 45 days. The tests arevery accurate.

Tests are available from Planned Parenthood health centers, most physicians, hospitals,and health clinics. Local, state, and federal health departments also offer testing. Somehave anonymous HIV counseling and testing sites.

You can be tested "confidentially" or "anonymously.""Confidential testing" means your test result will be put in a permanent medicalrecord with your name on it. "Anonymous testing" means your name is not used.Anonymous testing is not available in every state. Some states require clinicians toreport the names of those with HIV or AIDS to health officials.

You may want counseling before and after testing. If your clinician doesn't offer it toyou, contact one of the resources at the back of this pamphlet.



Should I be tested?
Most HIV service providers encourage testing for people who may be infected.Testing may be right for you if you think that you or your sex partner(s) may be infectedand:

  • You want to try to slow the progress of the infection by receiving medical treatment.
  • You want to become a parent.
  • You and your partner know you will have no other partners for a number of years and you want to stop practicing "safer sex."
  • You want to enlist in the armed forces, the Peace Corps, Job Corps, or other agency that requires testing. (If you have HIV, you cannot serve in any of these agencies.)

You may want to consider the following information about testing:

  • A disclosed test result can have serious consequences. It can lead to on-the-job harassment, job loss, or cancellation of health insurance—even if such actions are illegal.
  • You must be tested for HIV if you are an immigrant. The results can change your immigration status.
  • Many people feel better knowing their HIV status. On the other hand, positive results can lead to serious anxiety and distress. You may want to consider how you would handle living with HIV before taking the test.

Does HIV always cause AIDS?
Some researchers believe that a small number of people with HIV may not developsymptoms. In one 20-year study, 5 percent of men with HIV have yet to develop AIDS.

New medicines have helped many people with HIV slow down the progress of theirinfections.




What are the stages of HIV disease?
There are several stages of HIV disease.

  1. Detectable antibodies usually develop within six months of infection. Some people have symptoms during this time. They are usually not severe. They include slight fever, headaches, fatigue, muscle aches, and swollen glands. They may last for a few weeks.
     
  2. There are usually no symptoms for a long time after antibodies develop. The average without symptoms is 10.5 years. But the immune system and some body tissue may be badly damaged during this time.
     
  3. The first symptom of HIV disease is often the swelling of lymph glands in the throat, armpit, or groin. It may be the only symptom for a number of years. It is called "persistent generalized lymphadenopathy."
     
  4. Later symptoms of serious damage include:
    • yeast infections that cause a white coating of the vagina, mouth, and throat (thrush)
    • viral infections that affect tissue in the anus or genital area
    • severe and frequent infections like herpes zoster or pelvic inflammatory disease.
       
  5. AIDS is the final stage of HIV disease. It may take many years after HIV infection for AIDS to develop.

How is AIDS diagnosed?
Diagnosis is based on several factors, including the presence of HIV antibodiesand:

  • blood tests showing that the counts of white blood cells, called T lymphocytes, have fallen below 200 per milliliter or:
  • the presence of one or more conditions or opportunistic infections included in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) definition of AIDS.


What opportunistic infections and conditions are included in the CDC'sdefinition of AIDS?
AIDS includes a variety of viral, bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections. Italso includes certain cancers. These infections and cancers may affect the digestive,nervous, respiratory, muscular, circulatory, and lymphatic, as well as the immune systemsof the body.

The following conditions are also included in the definition of AIDS:

  • HIV wasting syndrome—an involuntary loss of 10 percent or more of normal weight. It is often associated with chronic diarrhea or weakness and fever caused by HIV.
  • HIV infection of the brain—also called AIDS- or HIV-dementia or HIV-encephalopathy
  • various forms of pneumonia
  • tuberculosis
  • cervical cancer.

The opportunistic conditions that affect children with AIDS differ slightly from thosein adults.

What symptoms occur with HIV disease and AIDS?
Symptoms include:

  • a thick, whitish coating of the tongue or mouth (thrush) that is caused by a yeast infection and sometimes accompanied by a sore throat
  • severe or recurring vaginal yeast infections
  • chronic pelvic inflammatory disease
  • periods of extreme and unexplained fatigue that may be combined with headaches, lightheadedness, and/or dizziness
  • rapid loss of more than 10 pounds of weight that is not due to increased physical exercise or dieting
  • bruising more easily than normal
  • long-lasting occurrences of diarrhea
  • recurring fevers and/or night sweats
  • swelling or hardening of glands located in the throat, armpit, or groin
  • periods of continued, deep, dry coughing
  • increasing shortness of breath
  • the appearance of discolored or purplish growths on the skin or inside the mouth
  • unexplained bleeding from growths on the skin, from mucus membranes, or from any opening in the body
  • recurring or unusual skin rashes
  • severe numbness or pain in the hands or feet, the loss of muscle control and reflex, paralysis or loss of muscular strength
  • an altered state of consciousness, personality change, or mental deterioration.

Such symptoms are often unrelated to HIV disease. In fact, when symptoms of HIV diseaseappear in women, they are often mistaken for those of less serious conditions. Consultyour clinician if any of these symptoms persist.

 



HIV RISK COMPARISONS

  • HIV is the most deadly sexually transmitted infection. Sex partners who want to avoid HIV must practice "safer sex."
  • "Safer-sex" activities lower our risk of exchanging blood or semen—the body fluids most likely to spread HIV.
  • Each of us must decide what risks we will take for sexual pleasure.

Here are some common sex behaviors grouped according to relative risk:

VERY LOW RISK

No reported cases due to these behaviors:

  • Masturbation—Mutual Masturbation
  • Touching—Massage
  • Erotic Massage—Body Rubbing
  • Kissing—Deep Kissing (no blood exchanged)
  • Oral Sex on a Man with a Condom
  • Oral Sex on a Woman with a Dental Dam,Plastic Wrap, or Cut-Open Condom

(Don't worry about getting vaginal secretions, menstrual flow, urine, or semen on unbroken skin away from the vulva.)

LOW RISK

Rare reported cases due to these behaviors:

  • Deep Kissing (blood exchanged)
  • Oral Sex
  • Vaginal Intercourse with a Condom or Vaginal Pouch
  • Anal Intercourse with a Condom or Vaginal Pouch

(Try not to get semen or blood into the mouth or on broken skin.)

 

HIGH RISK

Millions of reported cases due to these behaviors:

  • Vaginal Intercourse without a Condom
  • Anal Intercourse without a Condom.

SOME OF THE DRUGS THAT ENCOURAGE TAKING RISKS WITH SEX

  • Alcohol
  • Speed
  • Poppers
  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Crack
  • Ecstasy.

SOME OF THE FEELINGS THAT ENCOURAGE TAKING RISKS WITH SEX

  • Desire To Be Swept Away
  • Fear of Losing a Partner
  • Insecurity
  • Shame
  • Embarrassment
  • Low Self-Esteem
  • Need To Be Loved
  • Anger
  • Grief.

What can a pregnant woman do if she thinks she's been exposed to HIV?
She should consult a health care provider who knows about HIV disease. Fifteen to30 percent of babies born to women with HIV are also infected. Children born with HIVoften develop AIDS.

The use of the anti-viral drug AZT can reduce the risk of transmission by two-thirds.Nevertheless, pregnant women with HIV may want to consider whether or not to continuetheir pregnancies.

 Are there medical treatments for people with HIV disease?
A variety of new medical treatments offer hope for many people with HIV. Thetreatments are often very expensive, however, and are not available to all people with HIVdisease. Also, they do not work for about 20 percent of people who have tried them. No oneknows how long these new treatments will work. While there is increasing hope for peoplewith HIV, there is still no cure for HIV or AIDS.

What else can be done for people living with HIV?
People with HIV need positive psychological environments as much as they need themost advanced therapies. They need normal and healthy emotional lives that include:

  • love
  • companionship
  • support of family and friends
  • medical care
  • housing
  • access to a job
  • access to social, educational, and recreational facilities
  • access to places of worship.

Does everyone with AIDS die?
In the early years of the HIV epidemic, most people diagnosed with AIDS died within twoyears. However, some people have now lived with AIDS for more than 10 years. Newtreatments and increased knowledge among clinicians may help many more people live withAIDS even longer.





Who's most likely to get HIV?
Getting HIV depends on what you do, not on who you are. But some people are morelikely to take risks than others. They include:

  • the young—who do not always consider the consequences of their sexual and drug decisions
  • the uninformed—who do not understand how HIV is transmitted
  • the misinformed—who wrongly believe that only gay men and drug users get AIDS, or who believe other myths like, "AIDS is God's punishment for sinners"
  • the poor—who tend to be unmarried and may have unprotected intercourse with more sex partners than those who are more economically secure and more likely to be married
  • the secretive—who believe they must hide their sexual desires or drug addictions, and who may be more likely to share high-risk behaviors with anonymous partners
  • the powerless—who are put at risk by sex partners who take advantage of them.

How can I avoid getting AIDS?
The surest way is to abstain from sexual intercourse and from sharingneedles and "works" if you do steroids and other drugs.

If you choose to have sexual intercourse:

  • Consider your partner's HIV status. Does your partner have other sex partners? Does your partner share needles?
  • Have safer sex to reduce the risk of exchanging blood, semen, or vaginal fluids with your sex partner(s).
  • Enjoy low-risk outercourse—sex play with no intercourse.
  • Use a latex condom from start to finish every time you have vaginal or anal intercourse. (Do not use oil-based lubricants with a latex condom.)

Never share needles, works, cookers, cotton, water, or other drug paraphernalia toinject drugs. Doing so puts HIV directly into the bloodstream. If you cannot stopusing drugs, get into a needle-exchange program. If you can't get clean needles, be sureto disinfect the needles you use.

Don't share personal items that may be soiled with blood. This includestoothbrushes, razors, needles for piercing or tattooing, and blades for ritual cutting orscarring.

Be tested and treated for sexually transmitted infections every year. Women andmen with open sores from herpes, syphilis, or chancroid are more susceptible to HIV thanother people.

Stay in charge. Good judgment and self-control are the basis of safer, healthiersex. Alcohol and drugs weaken both. Don't risk losing your good judgment and self-controlwith alcohol or other drugs.

Can I get HIV from a blood transfusion?
All blood donations are tested for HIV antibodies. All donors are carefullyscreened for risk for infection. The chance of infected blood being accepted beforedetectable antibodies develop is rare. According to the American Red Cross, the chance ofgetting HIV through a blood transfusion is one out of 676,000.

Can I get HIV by donating blood?
No. Needles and syringes for collecting blood are only used once.

What should I do if I have HIV?

  • Protect your sex partner(s) from HIV by following safer sex guidelines.
  • Inform sex partner(s) who may also be infected.
  • Do not share needles or works.
  • Consult a clinician experienced in treating HIV/AIDS.
  • Have the T-cell levels in your blood checked regularly.
  • Get psychological support with a private therapist and/or join a support group for people with HIV.
  • Get information and social and legal support from AIDS service organizations.
  • Don't share your HIV status with people who do not need to know. Only tell people you can count on for support.
  • Maintain a strong immune system:
    • Eat well.
    • Get enough rest and exercise.
    • Avoid illegal and recreational drugs, including alcohol and tobacco.
    • Consider using anti-viral therapies that may slow the progress of the infection.
    • Have regular medical checkups.
    • Learn how to manage stress effectively.



What does the future hold?
The CDC reports that more than 60,000 new cases of AIDS are diagnosed each year.Heterosexuals, young people, people of color, and women have the fastest growing rates ofinfection. Rates are climbing more quickly in rural areas than in our big cities.

What can be done?
With no vaccine or cure, education is our only weapon against HIV. People need tounderstand HIV disease in order to protect themselves and help those who are alreadyinfected. People with HIV need to be empowered in their efforts to lead rewarding livesand to keep from infecting others.

What can I do?

  • Enjoy safer sex whenever you decide to have sex.
  • Don't do drugs.
  • Help protect your family, friends, and neighbors by making sure that they are informed about HIV and the way it is spread.
  • Do everything possible to dignify the efforts made by HIV-positive friends, neighbors, or family members to live rewarding, hopeful lives.
  • Volunteer some of your free time in the fight against AIDS. Work with your local Planned Parenthood, other family planning center, AIDS service organization, or hospital. Assist in their education, counseling, and client-service efforts to prevent HIV infection. Or help care for the children, teenagers, and adults in your community who are already infected.



For additional information about AIDS and HIV:

Call the toll-free CDC National AIDS Hotline: 1-800-342-AIDS
Spanish: 1-800-344-7432
TTY: 1-800-243-7889

Or contact:
Gay Men's Health Crisis
129 W. 20th Street
New York, NY 10011
1-212-807-7660]

AIDS Project of Los Angeles
1313 North Vine
Los Angeles, CA 90028
1-213-993-1600 San Francisco

AIDS Foundation
10 United Nations Plaza
San Francisco, CA 94102
1-415-487-3000

AIDS Foundation of Chicago
411 South Wells
Chicago, Illinois 60607-3300
1-312-922-2322

AID Atlanta
1438 West Peachtree Street, N.W., Ste. 100
Atlanta, Georgia 30309
1-404-872-0600

To get a referral or to make an appointment for HIV testing and counseling at thePlanned Parenthood center nearest you, call 1-800-230-PLAN 



Glossary of words
not defined in text

Antibodies
Substances produced in the blood that fight disease organisms.

Dental dams
Stretchable, squares of latex used by dentists. Some people use them to cover thevulva, clitoris, and opening of the vagina or anus during oral sex.

Lymphatic system
The system of glands, tissues, and passages that generate and circulate lymphthat contains lymphocytes that are important in the production of antibodies.



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