1. How Do People Become Infected?
Ans. This virus is spread through the blood, semen, and vaginal discharges of an HIV-infected person. People can get HIV infection when they have contact with these fluids. This can happen by engaging in specific sexual and/or drug use practices. Also, HIV-infected women can pass the virus to their newborns during pregnancy and childbirth. Lastly, some people who received blood products before March 1989 got infected blood. Now all donated blood is being screened for HIV. Many people do not know they have this virus and therefore can unknowingly pass it to others. This is because they usually look and feel fine for many years after HIV infection occurs.
Sex and HIV Both men and women, including teenagers, can pass HIV to a sex partner, whether he or she is the same sex or the opposite sex. This can occur during unprotected anal, vaginal, and oral (mouth) sex through contact with infected semen, blood, or vaginal secretions.
Drugs, Sex and HIV People can get infected with HIV through sharing needles, cookers, or cottons (works) with someone who is infected. This can happen even when the person passing the works looks clean and healthy.
Some people stopped shooting and/or sharing works many years ago and do not realize that they may have become infected with HIV back when they were still shooting drugs. They also may not realize they can pass it through unprotected sex now.
Pregnancy and HIV Treatment during pregnancy can help an HIV-infected woman protect her baby from becoming infected. Without treatment, more than a third of all babies born to HIV-infected women will have the virus and eventually get sick.
2. How can I tell if I’m infected with HIV? What are the symptoms?
Ans. The only way to determine for sure whether you are infected is to be tested for HIV infection. You cannot rely on symptoms to know whether or not you are infected with HIV. Many people who are infected with HIV do not have any symptoms at all for many years.
The following may be warning signs of infection with HIV: 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, 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. However, no one should assume they are infected if they have any of these symptoms. Each of these symptoms can be related to other illnesses. Again, the only way to determine whether you are infected is to be tested for HIV infection.
3.Should I get tested for HIV
Ans. For some people taking the HIV antibody test can be a scary decision. No matter the reasons, taking the HIV antibody test can be a good idea. Sometimes taking the test is a way to make a new found commitment towards safer practices. One thing that is important to remember is that getting tested for HIV will not change your HIV status, just tell you whether or not you have it. With all the new treatments available finding out your HIV status early on can extend your life.
*To find out if you are at risk for HIV, ask yourself the following questions:
Have you had unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex (e.g., intercourse without a condom, oral sex (without a latex barrier)?
Have you shared needles to inject street drugs or steroids or to pierce your skin?
Have you had a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or unwanted pregnancy?
Have you had a blood transfusion or received blood products.
4.What is Window Period?
The “window period” is the time it takes for a person who has been infected with HIV to seroconvert (test positive) for HIV antibodies.”Antibodies generally appear within three months after infection with HIV, but may take up to six months in some persons.”
5.Is there a complete cure for HIV infection?
Ans. Currently there is no way to get rid of all the virus once a person is infected. However, new medicines can slow the damage that HIV causes to the immune system. Also, doctors are getting better at treating the illnesses that are caused by HIV infection. Many people now consider HIV infection a manageable, long-term illness. HIV treatment consists of 3 major components – treatment of opportunistic infections, prevention of opportunistic infections , and ART( anti –retroviral therapy). ART decrease viral load, increase CD4 count and slow progression to AIDS in people with HIV infecti
6.Do condoms give 100 percent protection against HIV?
Ans. Like seatbelts or bike helmets, condoms can’t offer 100 percent protection; and sex with condoms can feel different from unprotected sex. The risks associated with not using condoms, such as getting pregnant, getting HIV, sexually transmitted infections (STD’s) such as hepatitis and chlamydia, or just having to worry about it, make condoms well worth the hassle. You’ve probably heard a lot of old myths about condoms: “They have holes, they’re too tight for me, you can’t feel anything”, etc. Since AIDS, condoms are thinner, stretchier, stronger, and packaged to last longer on the shelf. Each condom is individually tested for holes.. If one condom fails the leakage test, the whole lot is discarded.
7.Can I get HIV from kissing on the cheek?
Ans. HIV is not casually transmitted, so kissing on the cheek is very safe. Even if the other person has the virus, your unbroken skin is a good barrier. No one has become infected from such ordinary social contact as dry kisses, hugs, and handshakes.
8.Can I get HIV from performing oral sex?
Yes, it is possible for you to become infected with HIV through performing 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. Blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, and vaginal fluid all may contain the virus. Cells in the mucous lining of the mouth may carry HIV into the lymph nodes or the bloodstream. When giving oral sex to a man (sucking or licking a man’s penis) a person could become infected with HIV if infected semen got into any cuts, sores or receding gums a person might have in their mouth. Giving oral sex to a woman (licking a woman’s clitoris or vagina) is also considered relatively low risk. Transmission could take place if infected sexual fluids from a woman got into the mouth of her partner. The likelihood of infection occurring might be increased if there is menstrual blood involved or the woman is infected with another STD.Currently, risk reduction options when performing oral sex on a man (fellatio) include the use of latex condoms, but also include withdrawal before ejaculation without a condom (avoiding semen in the mouth) and/or refraining from this activity when cuts or sores are present in the mouth. When performing oral sex on a woman (cunnilingus), moisture barriers such as a dam (sheet of latex), a cut-open and flattened condom, or household plastic wrap can reduce the risk of exposure to vaginal secretions and/or blood
9. Can I get HIV from anal sex?
Ans. Yes, it is possible for either sex partner to become infected with HIV during anal sex. HIV can be found in the blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, or vaginal fluid of a person infected with the virus. In general, the person receiving the semen is at greater risk of getting HIV because the lining of the rectum is thin and may allow the virus to enter the body during anal sex. However, a person who inserts his penis into an infected partner also is at risk because HIV can enter through the urethra (the opening at the tip of the penis) or through small cuts, abrasions, or open sores on the penis. Having unprotected (without a condom) anal sex is considered to be a very risky behavior. If people choose to have anal sex, they should use a latex condom. Most of the time, condoms work well. However, condoms are more likely to break during anal sex than during vaginal sex. Thus, even with a condom, anal sex can be risky. A person should use a water-based lubricant in addition to the condom to reduce the chances of the condom breaking.
10.I have an HIV positive person in my family. Do I have any risk of getting infection?
No. This is because HIV is not an airborne, water borne or food-borne virus. Also, the virus does not survive for very long outside the human body. Therefore ordinary social contact such as kissing, shaking hands, coughing and sharing cutlery does not result in the virus being passed from one person to another. No. HIV is not transmitted by day to day contact in the home, the workplace, schools, or social settings. HIV is not transmitted through shaking hands, hugging or a casual kiss. You cannot become infected from a toilet seat, a drinking fountain, a doorknob, dishes, drinking glasses, food, or pets. HIV is a fragile virus that does not live long outside the body. HIV is not an airborne or food borne virus. HIV is present in the blood, semen or vaginal secretions of an infected person and can be transmitted through unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex or through sharing injection drug needles