AIDS: How to Protect Yourself and Others

Facts about HIV/AIDS

     
  • HIV symptoms take an average of 10 years to appear, which indicates a large number of people are infected before the age of 25.
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  • The fastest growing method of HIV transmission for both men and women in the U.S. is through heterosexual contact.
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  • STIs (sexually transmitted infections) including gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis, increase the risk of transmitting or acquiring HIV from an infected partner through unprotected sex.
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  • Use of drugs and/or alcohol impairs a person’s willingness and ability to postpone sex or use condoms and other precautions while having sex.
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  • UHC offers confidential HIV testing. The results are recorded in the individual’s health record. Appointments can be made with the assigned primary care provider. The cost is $30.

 

What is HIV/AIDS?

     
  • HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) infects people by entering the bloodstream after direct contact with semen, vaginal fluids, or blood from an infected person.
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  • Virtually all HIV-infected persons will eventually develop AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), although the time from HIV infection to AIDS can range from 2 to 15 years.
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  • People with AIDS usually die from serious infections because the virus permanently invades special blood cells which work to fight off infections and rid the body of cancerous cells.
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  • There is no cure at present, but there are medications to prolong the lives of infected people.

 

How can you tell if someone has HIV/AIDS?

     
  • You can’t! A person infected with HIV can feel and appear well for up to 10-15 years but still be able to spread the virus to others during this time.
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  • Many people are infected but do not know it.
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  • Others may suspect they carry the virus but are afraid to be tested.
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  • Others may not be honest about their HIV infection, their sexual/drug history or pretend that they have been tested when they have not.

 

Spectrum of Risk for HIV Infection

  All people who are having sexual intercourse need to take steps to protect themselves and others from HIV. Consider your risk of infection.

Highest Risk of Infection

     
  • Unprotected (without a condom) anal intercourse
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  • Unprotected vaginal intercourse
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  • Sharing needles for any reason (injecting any drug, including steroids)
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  • Unprotected sexual contact with multiple partners
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  • Unprotected sexual contact with someone whose sexual history is unknown

  Moderate Risk of Infection

     
  • Unprotected oral sex (mouth on genitals without a condom or dental dam)
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  • Attempted protected sexual contact using a condom, but due to tearing/breaking or the condom slipping, some body fluids were possibly exchanged

  Lower Risk of Infection

     
  • Oral sex with a condom or dental dam
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  • Deep (French) kissing when blood may be present

  No Risk of Infection

     
  • Abstinence from vaginal, anal and oral sex
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  • Hugging, touching and massaging
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  • Mutual masturbation (no cuts or sores on hands)
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  • Any sex with a long-term partner who has never used injectable drugs, is monogamous and is HIV negative. Both partners should be tested for HIV before any unprotected

  Note: Because of the presence of blood, it is not a good idea to share razors or toothbrushes with HIV-infected individuals.

Reduce Your Risk of Getting AIDS

     
  • Abstain from sex until you can enter into a long-term monogamous relationship with an uninfected person who does not inject drugs. Be sure you are only having sex with each other.
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  • If you are not certain that your sex partner is uninfected and monogamous, use latex condoms every time—start to finish—using a water-soluble lubricant (such as KY Jelly).
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  • Condoms lubricated with spermicide can cause irritation in the genital area. This can actually increase the chance of HIV infection. Condoms lubricated with spermicide are no more effective in preventing pregnancy. Use only water-based or silicon-based lubricants - never spermicide.
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  • Don’t use drugs. If you do, don’t share needles. If you use drugs or excessive alcohol and can’t stop, get help.

 

When Should You Get an HIV Test?

  When to have an HIV test is determined by the last possible exposure to HIV (unprotected sexual contact, needle sharing, etc.)

     
  • 4 weeks to 3 months after a possible exposure the test is up to 90% accurate*
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  • 3 months after a possible exposure the test is approximately 97% accurate
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  • 6 months after a possible exposure the test is approximately 99.8% accurate

  *While testing at this time is a good indicator of HIV status, a repeat of this test may be needed to confirm the results.

Other Important Considerations

     
  • People with HIV/AIDS need your help and/or emotional support in dealing with this emotionally and financially devastating disease.
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  • HIV infection will not be eliminated by judgment or discrimination against those who are infected. Protect those who are already infected from further harm.
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  • Help reduce irrational panic and resulting discrimination against HIV-infected people.
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  • Please teach others about HIV/AIDS; share this information with other people. You may help save a life.

 

Community Resources

     
  • Anonymous Testing is low-cost and protects your privacy. Anyone who is concerned they may have been exposed to HIV can receive Rapid Anonymous HIV Testing through AIDS Athens.
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  • UHC offers confidential HIV testing. The results are recorded in the individual’s health record. Appointments can be made with the assigned primary care provider. The cost is $30.
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  • Every county in Georgia offers testing at the health department.
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  • Please teach others about HIV/AIDS; share this information with other people. You may help save a life.

  For more information, call:

     
  • AIDS Athens: 706-542-AIDS
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  • AID Atlanta: 1-800-551-2728
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  • National Aids Hotline: 1-800-342-AIDS
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  • National Drug Hotline: 1-800-662-HELP
Sexual Health Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) Contraception

"Getting an HIV test was such an important step for me. I was starting a new relationship and we both decided to get checked out. What a relief to know we are both okay. I feel so hopeful for the future."
--Janine, an African-American woman

"I had a friend who tested positive for HIV. That really scared me, but also made me want to get tested. My test came back negative. I feel lucky and grateful."
--Marcus, a gay man

"This test has been a powerful experience. Not only did I find out that I am HIV negative, but I realized I am a strong person who can face anything."
--Chris, a heterosexual man

"HIV seems so final. Sometimes I feel like it would just be easier not to know if I am positive or negative. Of course treatment for HIV today has greatly improved. I know if I am positive finding out as soon as possible would be a smart thing to do. If I am negative, I can take the steps to stay that way. Whatever the end result, I know I will handle it."
--Ann, rape survivor, age 18