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What is HIV?
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that flows through the body by way of the bloodstream. HIV and AIDS are not the same thing. AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is a disease which is caused by the HIV virus. Once you are HIV positive (meaning that they have the HIV virus) that does not automatically mean that you have AIDS.
HIV is passed from one person to another by direct contact between an infected person’s body fluids and your bloodstream. The body fluids that carry the HIV virus are: blood, semen, vaginal secretions, urine, and breast milk.
The main ways that an uninfected person can catch the HIV virus through these body fluids are through: sexual intercourse or some other sexual contact; intravenous drug use; and blood transfusions (although today blood is carefully checked and screened before it is used on another person). When you have sexual intercourse, or participate in some other sexual activities described below, then you come into direct contact with the infected person’s semen, vaginal secretions or blood which carry the HIV virus. When you use intravenous drugs and share needles, you run a high risk of contact with the blood of another who may be infected. Infected blood products are becoming rarer since they are highly screened and precaution is taken to avoid the collection of infected blood products for use by others.
Anal Sex. Some gay, bisexual or sexually curious people (and yes this includes kids and teens) have contact with another person’s anus (the opening part of your bottom) and rectum (the inside part of your bottom) to stimulate (rub) or penetrate (go inside) it with their finger(s), tongue, penis or other object. As you know, your anus and rectum are the site of your body’s elimination of solid wastes. These areas contain many blood vessels and are thus very good areas for finding the HIV virus which is transported around the body through the bloodstream. Some statistics tell us that as many as 1 out of 3 people who have unprotected anal sex will contract the HIV virus that way.
Oral Sex. Another type of sexual contact includes the use of your mouth or the other person’s mouth to stimulate your genitals or anus. This can include one’s penis in another’s mouth, tongue or lip stimulation of another’s penis, clitoris in girls, or another’s anus. Evidence of the transmission of the HIV virus between people who have oral sex is inconclusive. Certain things can make transmission more likely, such as open sores or scraps in one’s mouth or on one’s penis or vaginal area. Any time another’s body fluids have an opportunity to come into contact with your bloodstream, that is a very good opportunity for the transmission of the HIV virus.
If you test positive for the HIV virus it means that you are 99.5% sure that you have the HIV virus. You should have a different HIV test done. If the second test is also positive, then you do have the HIV virus. However, this does not mean that you have AIDS.
Testing positive for the HIV virus does not mean that you automatically have AIDS. The HIV virus attacks the body’s immune system. That’s the system that fights off harmful germs, bacteria and viral infections. Since the HIV virus has figured out how to attack the way our body’s defend themselves, it is a very difficult virus. As it helps to break down the body’s defense system, it leaves the body vulnerable to other infections which weaken the body and can lead to AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).
The best way to avoid catching the HIV virus is by not engaging in any sexual contact, not using intravenous drugs, and not receiving any blood transfusions. For most of us this is not practical. Most of us will engage in sexual activity, some of us are foolish enough to allow ourselves to use intravenous drugs and to share needles with others, and most of us won’t need blood transfusions.
Some statistics tell us that at least in the United States, 61% of 14-21 year people have sexual intercourse. Similar statistics also indicate high frequency of sexual contact between same sex partners in the same age group. So, the reality is that most of you are going to have some sexual contact. Therefore, the next best way to avoid catching the HIV virus is by practicing "Safe Sex." The basic concept of safe sex is to always use " protection " when engaging in sexual contact with others.
Protection means that the male penis is covered by a condom in either vaginal or anal intercourse or in oral sex. When the female vaginal area is involved in sexual activities other than intercourse with a protected penis (one in a condom), a vaginal dam should be used.
You may use this tool provided by Growth House, Inc., to link to a wealth of informational links on AIDS and related matters.
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