Many people think HIV and AIDS is nothing for them to worry about and that it is something that affects other people, but whoever you are you need to take the danger seriously.
To ensure you don’t become infected with HIV you need to know all the facts. HIV and AIDS can affect everybody – men, women, adults and children. It is estimated that more than half of those infected worldwide are under the age of 24.
What are HIV and AIDS?
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus and is the virus that causes AIDS. HIV attacks the cells in the body’s immune system which stops the ability to fight against infections.
AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome and it is the name used to describe the number of diseases people can be affected by. People with AIDS can get many different types of diseases which a normal healthy person’s body would easily fight off and this means two people can have different symptoms.
People with AIDS have a very weak immune system which can lead to serious illness or death.
How you can become infected with HIV or AIDS?
You can become HIV positive if the virus enters your bloodstream. It can be transmitted in many ways such as having unprotected sex (including oral sex and even if it is your first time), by sharing hypodermic needles or through contaminated blood or tissue – although this has been screened in the UK since 1985.
Pregnant mothers can also give the disease to their unborn child whilst in their womb or by breast feeding.
You can’t catch the virus from:
- coughing or sneezing.
- using cutlery, crockery or glasses.
- hugging and kissing.
- sharing toilets or bathrooms.
- using swimming pools.
- insect bites such as mosquito bites.
- saliva, urine or sweat as it doesn’t contain enough of the virus to infect someone.
How you can tell if someone has HIV?
You can’t tell if someone has the HIV virus as they can look and feel fit and healthy and it can take up to 15 years for the virus to destroy the body’s immune system. The only way of knowing is to complete a blood test at a clinic or through your GP.
If you have HIV or AIDS, do you have to tell people?
If you have HIV or AIDS you aren’t required to tell your teacher or employer. If you choose to tell your employer or they find out, they have to keep it confidential and are not allowed to tell your colleagues unless you give your consent.
Your employer cannot sack you for having HIV unless your work is affected. If you apply for a job, the employer can ask you to take an HIV test and if they find out you have HIV, they are entitled to turn you down. If you lie and they find out you’re HIV positive afterwards, you might be sacked.
Is there a cure for HIV or AIDS?
At the moment there are treatments for HIV which help stop the virus reproducing in the body, but there is no vaccine against HIV and no cure for AIDS. However, due to positive developments in medicine people with HIV can be healthy for a lot longer than when the disease was first diagnosed.
Who can help?
If you want more information on HIV or AIDS then call the National AIDS Helpline on 0800 567 123 which is open 24 hours a day.
The AVERT website contains loads of information on HIV, AIDS and many sexual health issues. www.avert.org/young.htm
Youthinformation.com is The National Youth Agency’s online information toolkit for young people www.youthinformation.com/Templates/Internal.asp?NodeID=90355
Youth Health Talk is a website about young people’s real life health experiences, covering topics including teenage cancer, diabetes, epilepsy and sexual health. You can watch videos of young people talking about their experiences and join in the conversation on the forums at www.youthhealthtalk.org.