HIV is a virus that causes damage to the body’s immune system. The immune system is the body’s way of fighting infections. When the immune system does not work well, the body cannot fight off many serious illnesses.
The damage caused by HIV can occur over months, as sometimes happens when infants have HIV. In adults with HIV, the damage can occur more slowly. People with HIV are said to have AIDS when their immune systems are severely damaged or when HIV-related infections or cancers occur.
Because it can take years for symptoms to develop, many people do not know they have HIV. During this time, they can unknowingly spread the virus to others. Most people with HIV appear healthy. You cannot tell just by looking at people whether they have HIV. A blood test is the only way to be sure.
HIV can be spread in the following ways:
By sexual intercourse (vaginal, anal, or oral) with a person who has HIV. Both males and females can spread HIV.
Through contact with an HIV-infected person’s blood. This can happen when sharing syringes or needles, accidentally getting stuck by a needle with a person’s blood on it, or contact with other body fluids containing blood.
To a baby by a mother with HIV during pregnancy, labor, delivery, or breastfeeding, or sharing pre-chewed food.
Through blood or blood products from blood transfusions, organ transplants, or artificial insemination. This is very rare because today donated blood, sperm, tissue, and organs are routinely screened and tested for HIV.
It is very important to know how HIV is
Shaking hands or hugging a person with HIV
Sitting next to or playing with a person with HIV
Eating food prepared by a person with HIV
Sharing a glass, utensil, or plate with a person with HIV
Insect bites (including mosquito bites)
Teach your children the facts about HIV and AIDS, including how HIV is
Young children will not be able to understand all of the information, but they should know
To never touch anyone else’s blood.
To never touch needles or syringes. If they find one in the garbage or on the ground, they should tell an adult.
Older children and teens should know about
Condoms. The best way to lower the risk of getting HIV and other STIs, if they are sexually active, is to use a latex condom and limit the number of sexual partners they have.
Teens should also know about other types of birth control. However, make sure they know that other forms of birth control will
Drug use. Drugs that are injected with needles are the riskiest because the needle or syringe can spread blood from one person to another. Using other drugs like alcohol, marijuana, or “club” drugs can also increase the risk of getting HIV. This is because drugs affect a person’s judgment and can lead to risky behaviors, like having sex without a condom or with multiple partners.
Anyone involved in the risky behaviors listed previously
The following symptoms may suggest a need for HIV testing:
Loss of appetite
Poor weight gain or rapid weight loss
Swelling of the lymph nodes (glands) that does not go away
Extreme tiredness or lethargy that does not go away with rest
White spots in the mouth
Recurring or unusual infections
There is no cure for HIV or AIDS. However, there are medicines that can help delay symptoms, prevent the virus from spreading to an unborn baby, and help prevent additional infections in people with HIV. Because starting treatment for an HIV infection
HIV and AIDS are important issues to think and talk about. Knowing the facts about HIV and AIDS is the best way to keep you and your family healthy. If you need more information, talk with your child’s doctor.