AIDS/HIV

If you remember nothing else about AIDS, remember, you are vulnerable if you are sexually active.

There is no immunity if you are involved in penetrative sex (vaginal or anal intercourse) or if you do injection drugs. There is no cure. There are treatments which slow down the effects but you still are HIV Positive and can spread the disease.

HIV is caused by a virus which gains access to your body by sex or dirty needles. It gets into your blood supply, knocks out your immune system leaving you vulnerable to other infections.

SIGNS and SYMPTOMS of HIV INFECTION:

About 2 weeks after infection you may have flu-like symptoms which will pass. Later you may find yourself exhausted, have swollen glands in your neck, armpits or groin. You may lose weight, have severe diarrhea, unusual blue-black lumps on your skin, (Kaposi's Sarcoma), or a chronic hacking cough that does not respond to treatment (PCP, pneumonia).

For infected women the symptoms may be a chronic yeast infection or irregular, heavy, painful menstrual periods. Females, because of our genital anatomy, are much more vulnerable to infection than males. Women are even more vulnerable if they have unprotected sex during menstruation.

If a male partner is infected and not practicing SAFER SEX, (condoms), his lubrication (pre-cum) is loaded with the virus, which if ejaculated into her vagina, gains access to her body through minute tears in her vaginal walls or cervix. So, unless you are in a long-term stable committed relationship, and he has no other outside sexual contacts including same sex activity or has never done injection drugs, a woman must insist on SAFER SEX. Sexual intercourse without protection is classified as High Risk behavior.

Males are less vulnerable if a female sexual partner is HIV positive, but not immune. It is possible for an infected female to spread the virus to a male during unprotected intercourse. Males and females are both vulnerable if they are involved in receptive unprotected anal sex. Again, this is High Risk behavior. The mucous membrane of the rectum tears easily and does not heal quickly, so if there is anal intercourse with an infected partner, his pre-cum and ejaculate can spread the infection.

Oral sex can also spread the disease. Originally, oral sex was classified as 'low risk behavior', but that risk level has been increased. Although it is not as high risk as unprotected intercourse, the virus can spread through microscopic cuts in the mouth or through irritated, raw skin on the penis or in the vaginal opening. For oral sex on a man, use a condom. For females, use a dental dam or a cut-open condom, squared off.

In general, the best protection is careful, consistent condom use. However, condoms can break or slip, so there is still a risk of infection. That's why it's called SAFER SEX, not SAFE SEX. Safe sex would be solitary masturbation or no sex at all.

INJECTION DRUG USE

If you or your partner are doing "heavy duty drugs", injecting using dirty needles and syringes, you may be injecting the virus from the previous user directly into your blood stream and you can be infected. It is possible to sterilize your "paraphernalia" with diluted bleach, but most drug users don't bother sterilizing, putting themselves at high risk.

DIAGNOSING

In Canada, a sample of your blood, taken at your doctor's office or a special HIV AIDS Clinic is confidential but the doctors must report positives to the government for statistics. In some areas confidential/anonymous testing is available. In this case, you do not give your name and address, but you are given a number.

Because it takes up to thirteen weeks for the effects of the virus to be picked up by the Lab, a negative result is not reliable unless you have abstained from all unsafe sexual contact or drug use for three months. This is called the "Window Period". Do not rely on any "home tests".

The doctor or Clinic will not give you the results over the phone. They want to talk to you about risk reduction, and if the results are Positive, they want to make sure you have a support system (friends, partner, or family), that you will practice SAFER SEX and they want to be sure you get follow-up medical care. They will strongly recommend that you tell your sexual partner that you are infected.

HIV/AIDS is not a Gay Disease. In Africa, where it is almost epidemic, it is spread by heterosexual contact, and now in North and South America, the incidence of HIV infection is rising among women. And because of "condom fatigue", more young males, believing they are immune or that a cure is just around the corner, are taking risks. I can't stress condom use, SAFER SEX OR NO SEX enough. No condom, no sex must be our mantra. Nobody cares more about you than you, and only you are responsible for you.

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