Information On HIV/AIDS
Like many epidemics that are currently being researched and continually affecting people, HIV and AIDS can quickly become a complex topic. It is necessary to know the simple facts, dispel common myths, and, ensure that people are aware of the basics. HIV affects more and more people every day, in some countries infection rates are high as 30%. It has infected over 60,000 people in Canada alone (since 1985).
What is HIV?
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is a virus that eventually can weaken and destroy the immune system, leaving the body vulnerable to different types of diseases and cancers called opportunistic infections.
Once in the body, the virus attacks your immune system, gradually weakening it until it can no longer defend the body against certain illnesses, infections, and diseases.
There is no cure for HIV. There are drugs that can slow down the progression of the disease so that people can live longer, healthier lives, but they can have serious and sometimes life threatening side effects.
What Is AIDS?
AIDS stand for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. AIDS is the advanced stages of HIV infection. It is a diagnosis given to a person in the later stage of HIV infection once they begin to develop opportunistic infections. It is a technical classification that depends on a person's viral load and whether or not they have contracted an opportunistic infection. People are living longer with HIV before it develops into AIDS.
HIV Survival Outside of the Body
The length of time HIV can survive outside the body depends on the amount of HIV present in the body fluid, what conditions the fluid is subjected to in the environment, and the conditions necessary for HIV to survive outside the body are very unlikely to exist outside of a laboratory. Air does not "kill" HIV, but exposure to air dries the fluid that contains the virus, and that will break up much of the virus very quickly.
HIV can only be transmitted through direct contact with certain body fluids of someone who is HIV positive. There has to be an appropriate route of entry into the body, usually through a break in the skin or absorption through mucosal membranes (the lining of the vagina, rectum, mouth, eyes, etc).
There are only 4 body fluids which are infectious:
- Semen (including pre-cum)
- Vaginal secretions
- Breast milk
Body fluids may be passed from person to person by:
- Sharing needles or works to inject drugs
- Sharing needles for tattooing, body piercing, steroids, acupuncture, etc.
- Unprotected anal, vaginal or oral sex
- Mother to child transmission
- Contact with infected blood (menstrual blood, fighting, etc.)
The presence of other sexually transmitted infections (STI) increases the risk of HIV transmission because other STI's may leave open sores and lesions that would make it easier for HIV to get into the blood stream.
HIV is NOT transmitted through:
- Casual contact such as talking, shaking hands, or sharing spaces
- Using public spaces will not give you HIV
- Kissing, hugging, heavy petting
- Tears, sweat or saliva
- Sharing utensils, food, furniture
- Sharing bathrooms, sports facilities, offices
- Insects and animals cannot give you HIV
- Donating blood
- Swimming pools
- Being around someone who is HIV positive
"Tops can't get HIV. That's bull. Tops are less likely to get HIV than bottoms, but tops do get HIV. HIV can enter through your urethra (piss hole) or through STI sores (especially herpes). If you are uncircumcised, your foreskin can also trap HIV. If you're butt fucking for extended periods of time or you play rough, you might end up getting a few tiny tears on your dick as well. So there are lots of ways HIV can enter your body. And tops can also get STIs just as easily as bottoms." - Amphetazine, October 2003, p.4 (The sexual routes of transmission are further discussed later).