What is AIDS?
AIDS is short for: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.
AIDS is a serious condition in which the body’s defenses against some diseases are broken down. People with AIDS develop many different kinds of illnesses which the body would usually fight off quite easily.
What causes AIDS?
There is clear evidence that AIDS is caused by a virus called HIV, which is short for:
Human Immunodeficiency Virus.
If a person becomes infected with HIV, does that mean they have AIDS?
No. HIV is an unusual virus because a person can be infected with it for many years and yet appear to be perfectly healthy. But the virus gradually multiplies inside the body and eventually destroys the body’s ability to fight off a variety of illnesses.
It is still not certain that everyone with HIV infection will get AIDS. However it seems likely that most people with HIV will develop serious problems with their health. This can take many years and varies from person to person. Someone with HIV may not know they are infected but still can pass the virus on to other people.
How could I get HIV?
The two main ways in which a young person can become infected with HIV are:
HIV can be passed on in both ways because the virus is present in the sexual fluids and blood of infected people. If infected blood or sexual fluid gets into your blood, then you will become infected. If the needle or syringe used to inject drugs has already been used by someone who is infected, you will also become infected
If a man with HIV has anal intercourse without a condom, infected fluid could pass into the other man’s blood stream through a tiny cut or sore inside his body. This can be so small that you don’t know about it. The risk of infection is greater with anal intercourse than with vaginal intercourse because the walls of the anus are more fragile than those of the vagina.
If a man with HIV has sexual intercourse without a condom, HIV could get into the other man’s blood through a sore patch on his penis or by getting into the tube which runs down the penis.
If there is any contact with blood during sex, this increases the risk of infection. There can often be bleeding during anal intercourse especially if one partner is very aggressive.
Are any sexual activities safe?
Safe sex means sex which is completely safe. Lots of activities are completely safe. You can kiss, cuddle, massage and rub each other’s bodies. But if you have any cuts or sores on your hands make sure they are covered with band-aids. Self-masturbation is also absolutely safe.
What is safer sex?
Infection from oral sex alone seems to be very rare. ALWAYS use and insist on the use of a condom for anal sex also means using a condom during sexual intercourse. Using a condom is not absolutely safe as condoms can break.
Why is being drunk or high dangerous?
If you’re drunk or high it can be easier for ‘things to happen’. You might have sex with someone and find it difficult to use a condom or you might forget altogether. Your partner might talk you out of using a condom or only pretend to put one on.
HIV can also be passed on by sharing equipment used to inject drugs. Blood can remain on needles and syringes. If you share, and a person infected with HIV used the needle first, the virus can be injected directly into your blood.
Can it happen to me?
Some people think that AIDS is something that other people need to worry about – gays, drug users, people who sleep around. These ideas are mistaken. All young people, whoever they are, wherever they live need to take the threat of HIV seriously.
Your chance of becoming infected depends entirely on how you behave.
You can only become infected with HIV if you engage in risky activities. If you have sex without a condom with a number of different sexual partners, or share needles or syringes with several other drug users, you increase your chances of coming into contact with someone already infected.
Condoms can only be effective if used correctly.
Should I never have sex?
AIDS has made sex more difficult. It is one more thing to think about. But AIDS is not something to be so frightened of that it puts you off ever having sex.
Be clear about the risks and if you do decide to have a sexual relationship with someone, avoid activities which are risky.