Don't be ignorant about this disease
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Risk - any sex with another

Often there are no symptoms

Street names

Hi-v, has the package

What is HIV?

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This is the virus that eventually causes AIDS. You can be infected with the virus for many years and not know it, and not feel really sick, and you don’t have to feel sick to pass the virus to others. HIV is different from most other viruses because it attacks and damages the immune system. The immune system gives our bodies the ability to fight infections. HIV finds and destroys a type of white blood cell (T cells or CD4 cells) that the immune system must have to fight disease. The virus must live inside our body cells in order to survive and actually inserts itself into our genes for protection. People with HIV have what is called HIV infection. Some of these people will develop AIDS as a result of their HIV infection.

This virus may be passed from one person to another when infected blood, semen, or vaginal secretions come in contact with an uninfected person’s broken skin or mucous membranes (A mucous membrane is wet, thin tissue found in certain openings to the human body. These can include the mouth, eyes, nose, vagina, rectum, and the opening of the penis.) HIV can enter the body through a vein (e.g. injection drug use), the lining of the anus or rectum, the lining of the vagina and/or cervix, the opening to the penis, the mouth, other mucous membranes (e.g. eyes or inside of the nose), or cuts and sores. Intact, healthy skin is an excellent barrier against HIV and other viruses and bacteria.

There are wonderful new medicines available for HIV infected people that help keep them from getting really sick, but these medicines do not cure HIV or AIDS. This disease cannot yet be cured and there is no vaccine available at this time.

Infected pregnant women can pass HIV to their baby during pregnancy or delivery, as well as through breast-feeding.

How is HIV transmitted?
  • By having sex (anal, vaginal, or oral) even one time with an HIV-infected person. Remember that oral sex is NOT safe sex and you can get just about any STD, including HIV/AIDS by giving or receiving oral sex.
  • By sharing needles or injection equipment with an injection drug user who is infected with HIV.
  • From HIV-infected women to their babies before or during birth, or through breast-feeding after birth.
  • Through receipt of infected blood or blood clotting factors. However, if blood has been tested for HIV and is negative, the risk of infection through transfusion of blood or blood products is extremely low.
  • By having another STD. This greatly increases your likelihood of acquiring or transmitting HIV.

What is AIDS?

AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome and is the last stage of HIV infection. It can take years for a person infected with HIV, with or without treatment, to reach this stage. Having AIDS means that the virus has weakened the immune system so the body has a difficult time fighting infections like pneumonia. When someone has one or more of these infections and a low number of T cells, he or she has AIDS.

Symptoms of AIDS may include rapid weight loss, intense fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, persistent diarrhea, night sweats, or pneumonia. More importantly, AIDS patients are susceptible to life-threatening infections.

Teenagers' questions

Can a teenager get HIV/AIDS?

Absolutely! It is estimated that almost half of all high school students have had sexual intercourse, and over 7% of them reported first sexual intercourse before age 13. If you are sexually active, you are at risk of getting an STD, including HIV.

Young people 13–24 years of age are at risk for HIV infection if they have sex with infected partners and this means sex between boys and girls and sex where young men have sex with other young men. This risk is especially notable for youth of minority races and ethnicities. In the U.S., African Americans accounted for 55% of all HIV infections reported among persons aged 13–24.

About 2/3 of infected young people are guys and 1/3 are girls.

How many teenagers have HIV/AIDS?

In 2004, over 2000 young people in the U.S. received a diagnosis of AIDS, making a total of over 7500 young people that were living with AIDS, and over 200 young people with AIDS died during that year. Since the beginning of the epidemic in the 1980’s, about 40,000 young people in the U.S. had received a diagnosis of AIDS, and about 10,000 of those young people (about 25%) with AIDS had died.

Will kissing give me HIV/AIDS?

Probably not, especially if it is just a kiss on the cheek or a quick kiss on the lips. Open mouth or wet kisses may increase the risk of infection if one partner is infected but the risk is lower than actually having sex with that person. You also do not get HIV if you simply hug an infected person.

How many times do I have to have sex with an infected person before I get HIV?

Maybe only once! It could be the very first time you have sex with someone.

How would I know if I’m infected?

The only way to know if you are infected is to be tested for HIV infection. You cannot rely on symptoms to know whether or not you are infected. Many people who are infected with HIV do not have any symptoms at all for 10 years or more but can give HIV to anyone they have sex with during that time. You also cannot know if your sex partner is infected unless she/he tells you.


You do NOT get HIV/AIDS by being a friend to someone who has AIDS or even hanging out and doing fun stuff with them. You do NOT get AIDS from toilet seats, towels, books, mosquito’s, drinking glasses, or when people sneeze or cough. Remember that the virus cannot live outside the body and it dies quickly on surfaces.


  • Only 100% completely safe option - choose not to have sex!
  • Latex condoms protect to a great degree if they are used correctly, but they are not perfect.

Individual help

If you have further questions or concerns about STDs, ask Dr. Mike, an internationally known Clinical Microbiologist specializing in STDs. He has worked extensively with teenage boys and contributed all the information and STD images on the disease pages here.

Get answers, get help, get smart - take responsibility for yourself!

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