AIDS / HIV Information
AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. It is a disease caused by a virus that can destroy the body’s ability to fight off illness. The AIDS virus makes you unable to fight other diseases that invade your body. These diseases can kill you. There is presently no cure for AIDS.
Many people feel that the AIDS virus infects only certain “high risk groups.” This is untrue. Who you are has nothing to do with whether you are in danger of begin infected with the AIDS virus. What matters is what you do.
Regardless of what you may have heard, the AIDS virus is easily avoided. You cannot get it through casual contact in school, in the workplace, at parties, in residence facilities and resident camps, child care centers, stores, or by going swimming in a pool where a person with AIDS or one who has been infected with AIDS has been swimming.
You will not get it from towels in a locker room, or the shower, or the whirlpools or by using exercise equipment. It will not be passed through a glass or eating utensil. Nor do you have to worry about shaking hands, hugging, or being in a crowded elevator with a person who is infected with the virus. No one has ever gotten the AIDS virus from a mosquito or any other insect bite, or from a toilet seat, urine, excrement, sweat, saliva, or even from a kiss.
There are actually very few ways you can be infected by the AIDS virus. It is transmitted through semen, vaginal secretions, and blood. Therefore, you can become infected by having sex with an infected person or by using drugs and sharing a needle with an infected person.
Babies of women who have been infected by the AIDS virus may be born with the infection, because it can be transmitted from the mother’s blood to the baby before or during birth. People with hemophilia and other diseases have been infected by receiving blood.
What about giving and receiving blood?
Giving Blood: You are not now, nor have you ever been, in danger of getting AIDS from giving blood at a blood bank. The needles that are used for blood donations are brand new. Once they are used, they are destroyed. There is no way you can come in contact with the AIDS virus by donating blood.
Receiving Blood: Some people were infected with the AIDS virus by getting blood transfusions prior to 1985, before the virus was identified. Today, all donated blood in the United States is tested to make it as safe as possible for those who need it. Call you local blood bank if you have questions.
Can anyone be infected with the AIDS virus?
Yes. The homosexual population was the first to be affected by the disease in this country. But no matter what you have heard or read the number of heterosexual cases is growing. The people who have died from AIDS in this country have been male and female, rich and poor, white, black, Hispanic, Asian, and American Indian.
How do you avoid AIDS?
There is no way to tell whether someone is infected by the virus without a blood test. If you have sex with someone infected with the virus, you are at risk of becoming infected. Condoms with a spermicide are the best means now available for preventing sexual diseases. Also, if you are giving first aid to someone who is bleeding, you may want to wear rubber gloves, if they are available, to avoid direct contact with blood. If blood does get on your skin, simply wash it off with soap and water.
What if you think you might have AIDS?
You have probably heard about the “AIDS test.” The test doesn’t actually tell you if you have AIDS. It shows if the virus has infected you. The test looks for changes in the blood that occur after you have been infected with the virus. The Public Health Service recommends that you should be counseled and tested if, since 1978, you have had any sexually transmitted disease or have shared needles for injecting drugs; if you are a man who has had sex with another man; or if you have had sex with a prostitute, male or female. You also should be tested if you have had sex with anyone who has done any of these things.
If you are a woman who has been engaging in risky behavior and you plan to have a baby or are not using birth control, you should be tested. Your doctor may advise you to be tested if you received a blood transfusion between 1978 and 1985. There has been a great deal of press about problems with the test. It is very reliable if a good laboratory performs it and a knowledgeable physician or counselor interprets the results. It can also be done confidentially. If you have engaged in risky behavior, speak to a doctor or counselor who understands the AIDS problem.
It is not easy to be infected with the AIDS virus
The AIDS virus only can be transmitted in certain ways. You cannot get the disease from casual, every day contact. You may become infected it you:
- Have sex with someone infected with AIDS.
- Use a needle and syringe that has previously been used by someone with the AIDS virus.
- Are born to a woman who is infected with the AIDS virus.
For more information
If you would like more information about AIDS, talk to your doctor, local health department or hospital. In addition, you can get helpful, confidential information from the CDC National AIDS hotline, (800) 342-2437. The Spanish hotline is (800) 344-7432. The hotline number for the deaf is (800) 243-7889.
AIDS Services Center Coalition
Information and Referrals
Crisis and Information Center
Emergency crisis intervention
Jefferson County Medical Society