What is HIV?
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It kills or damages the body's immune system cells (white blood cells or CD4 T cells).
HIV is transmitted from person to person via exchange of bodily fluids - semen, blood, and vaginal fluids - during anal, vaginal, and possibly oral sex. It may also spread by sharing drug needles or through contact with the blood of an infected person. Women can give it to their babies during pregnancy or childbirth.
The first signs of HIV infection may be swollen glands and flu-like symptoms. These may come and go a month or two after infection. Severe symptoms may not appear until months or years later.
There is no cure, but there are many medicines to fight both HIV infection and the infections and cancers that come with it. People can live with the disease for many years.
What is AIDS?
Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is the final stage of HIV infection. People at this stage of HIV disease have badly damaged immune systems, which put them at risk for opportunistic infections (OIs).
You will be diagnosed with AIDS if you have one or more specific OIs, certain cancers, or a very low number of CD4 cells. If you have AIDS, you will need medical intervention and treatment to prevent death.
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 sexually 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.
here 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
- Sneezing, coughing, or breathing the air
- Mosquitoes or other insects or animal bites
- Living 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 AIDS.gov.