What is HIV?
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that affects some of your white blood cells (which are also referred to as CD4 T cells). These cells help manage your immune system responses. When these blood cells are damaged, it becomes difficult for us to fight off infections or diseases. This condition is called "HIV disease."
Human - the virus can only infect human beings. Although similar diseases exist in other animals, such as monkeys and cats, those viruses cannot infect us nor can HIV infect other animals.
Immunodeficiency - the virus creates a deficiency with our body's immune system, causing it to stop working properly.
Virus - the organism is a virus which is incapable of reproducing by itself; it must use our human cells as a host to reproduce.
What is AIDS?
When HIV disease was first recognized in the early 1980s, it was called AIDS. Today, the term "HIV disease" is a better description of the condition. However, term the AIDS is still used, primarily for the purpose of counting infections and as a description for advanced-stages of HIV disease. AIDS refers to individuals who have particular AIDS-defining conditions such as a very low CD4 white blood cell or specific opportunistic illnesses.
Acquired - the disease is not hereditary but develops after birth from contact with a disease causing agent (in this case, HIV). HIV is not a condition passed on genetically; you can become infected with HIV.
Immunodeficiency - the disease is characterized by a weakening of the immune system.
Syndrome - a group of symptoms that characterize a disease. In the case of AIDS this can include the development of certain infections and/or cancers, as well as a decrease in the number of certain cells (CD4 T cells) in your immune system.
You can get HIV from:
- Unprotected vaginal, anal and oral sex
- Direct blood contact, which may occur through needle sharing, transfusions, accidents in health care settings, or certain blood products
- Mother to baby; in the womb, during birth, or through breast milk
How does HIV enter the body?
HIV can enter the body through open cuts or sores, and by directly infecting cells in the mucous membranes of openings your body.
From having unprotected sex
You can get HIV from sexual intercourse, both vaginal and anal. HIV can easily pass through the mucus membranes in the genitals and the rectum, or may pass through cuts and sores. Your risk of HIV infection from oral sex is quite low, however, risk can be higher for other sexaully transmitted diseases through oral sex.
From a Mother to her Infant
It is possible for a mother who has HIV to pass the virus to her fetus in the womb. This can happen when the fetus is exposed to blood and vaginal fluids during birth, or through breast milk during feeding.
From Sharing Needles
Sharing syringes [needles, works or fits] to inject medicines, hormones, steroids or drugs can pass blood directly from one person's blood stream to yours. Sharing needles is a huge risk factor for transmitting HIV and other blood borne viruses such as Hepatitis B (HBV) and Hepatitis C (HCV).
From Blood Transfusions
Since March 1985, all blood in the United States has been screened for HIV using the HIV antibody test. This practice has virtually eliminated the risk of getting HIV through a blood transfusion in our country.
What are the Fluids that can infect me with HIV?
HIV can be transmitted from an infected person to you through:
- Semen, including pre-seminal fluid (cum and pre-cum)
- Vaginal and cervical secretions
- Breast milk-expressed through feeding
How can you not get HIV?
Kissing, masturbation, and getting another person's semen/cum or vaginal fluids on your skin does not spread HIV. The HIV virus cannot enter your skin unless there is a fresh break. Scientific evidence shows that HIV is not passed through your saliva, tears, or sweat.
There is absolutely no danger of becoming infected from casual contact. HIV cannot live outside of the human body, so you cannot be infected from:
- toilet seats
- water fountains
- the virus cannot be transmitted in the air through sneezing or coughing
- you cannot get it from mosquitoes or other insects or animal bites
- you cannot get it from liviing with an HIV-infected person, unless you have unprotected sex or share needles with him or her
For more general information on HIV/AIDS check out