HIV and AIDS
Almost half of the people infected with HIV last year were between 15 and 24 years old. It is important for anyone who is sexually active or who shares injecting equipment to be aware of the potential risks of HIV. Unfortunately, simply trusting your partner may not necessarily protect you. Learning the facts about HIV and AIDS and how to prevent its spread is the important first step to protect yourself and your community. It begins with YOU!
You can download and print off the dance4life condom fact sheet.
What are HIV and AIDS?
HIV is the abbreviation of ‘Human Immuno Deficiency Virus’, and it can cause AIDS by breaking down your body’s resistance to infection and illness. It is a virus that can be passed from person to person through sexual fluids, blood and breast milk.
The term “AIDS” is used only when the immune system of a person living with HIV is so broken down that serious infections occur. AIDS is an abbreviation of ‘Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome’, indicating that it isn’t one disease, but a syndrome, or compound of diseases.
Stigma and discrimination
The stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV and AIDS often prevent people from talking openly about the facts and realities of these infections. As a result, inaccurate information and common misunderstandings continue to spread. This in turn, leads to more stigma and discrimination, which contributes to the further propagation of HIV and the denial of human rights.
Help to break the vicious circle:
• make sure you are accurately informed about HIV and AIDS
• feel confident to talk openly about the facts about HIV and AIDS
• don’t discriminate against those living with HIV and take action to eliminate stigma and discrimination. Anyone can contract HIV – the virus doesn’t discriminate so neither should we.
Youth and HIV: one of the biggest problems facing young people today
• about half of all new HIV infections are among young people under 25 years old
• every 12 seconds there is a new infection
• 5,700 deaths due to AIDS every day
• 15 million children under age 18 have lost one or both parents to AIDS
HIV lives in the bodily fluids of an infected person - blood, vaginal secretions, semen and breast milk – and often in high concentrations. Transmission can take place when any of these fluids are transferred from an HIV infected person into the blood stream of another person. It’s important to remember that a person who is HIV positive can look and feel healthy for many years, but unknowlingly pass the virus on to others.
Most people are infected through:
• Unprotected sex (vaginal or anal) with an infected person. If you're having sex and any of your partner's blood, semen (including pre-cum), or vaginal secretions come in contact with a cut or a tear in the lining of your vagina, the tip of your penis or anus - even tiny, invisible cuts or tears - you are at risk of being infected.
• There is risk involved in oral sex, when quantities of semen, blood or vaginal fluids get into the mouth. However, this risk is much smaller than vaginal or anal sex.
• Pregnancy, childbirth or breast-feeding when the mother is HIV positive. A mother has a 35% chance of passing HIV to her baby during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. Fortunately, with adequate medical care, this risk can be 2% or even less.
• Sharing needles/syringes when injecting drugs, using unclean tattooing and piercing equipment.
You can NOT get HIV from:
• kissing, touching, hugging, shaking hands, sneezing, coughing, playing sports, sharing eating utensils, food, a bathroom, or toilet seat with a person living with HIV or AIDS.
• mosquito, insect or animal bites
• saliva, sweat or tears
There is still NO cure for AIDS, nor is there a preventative vaccine. Although scientists continue to research the disease, the development of an effective vaccine will likely take several more years. Thus, once infected, there is no way to get the virus out of your body. However, there are some drugs that help to slow down the damage HIV does to your immune system and therefore slow down the onset of AIDS. These drugs are called antiretroviral treatments (ARVs). ARV’s are very strong drugs and can cause a number of side effects, so administration of ARVS must be closely monitored.
Unfortunately, access to these drugs is still insufficient in many parts of the world, particularly in Africa and Asia. In fact, in global terms, only 1 in 10 people who need ARV’s have sufficient access to them.
It can be scary, but a test is the only way to find out your HIV status. By taking a test you are taking responsibility for your health and wellbeing, as well as those of others around you.
An HIV test looks for antibodies to the virus in your blood and these antibodies can take up to 3-6 months to develop. Therefore, it is best to take a follow-up test 3-6 months after your initial test to be certain of the results.
Why are women more at risk?
Today, women account for nearly 50% of all infections worldwide, and 60% of 15-24 year olds who become infected are girls. Why?
Biologically, women are about twice as likely as men to get infected by HIV during sex. This is because the exposed surface area of women and girl’s genitalia is much greater than that of men and boys. Also, young women and girls are more prone to tears and cuts in their vaginal lining during sex. Further, women and girls’ position in society makes them much more vulnerable. In many parts of the world, women are not granted the freedom to choose when to have sex, how to protect themselves or to control when their partners use a condom.
Prevention - Take responsibility!
Avoiding contact with certain bodily fluids, namely blood, vaginal secretions, and semen (including pre-cum) will help to reduce the risk of infection. Also, learning the facts about HIV and AIDS and sharing them with your peers and community will help prevent the spread of HIV.
You can eliminate or reduce the risk of becoming infected with HIV during sex by choosing to:
-Abstain from sex or delay first sex – this could mean having close physical contact but avoiding penetrative sex
-Be faithful to one partner or have fewer partners – remember, this only reduces the risk
-Condomise, which means using male or female condoms consistently and correctly
Visit the Vietnam Administration of HIV/AIDS control (VAAC) for more information.