How to Protect Yourself From HIV/AIDS

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Protect Yourself From HIV/AIDS
Protect Yourself From HIV/AIDS

How to Protect Yourself From HIV/AIDS. HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome or AIDS. AIDS attacks the body's immune system, making the body vulnerable to many illnesses. HIV is spread when the blood, urine, feces or semen of an infected person enters an uninfected person's blood stream through cuts, scrapes, punctures, abrasions or tiny breaks in the skin. Read on to learn how to protect yourself from HIV/AIDS.

Things You'll Need

  • Medical latex or non-latex gloves
  • Fresh needles or syringes
  • Dental dams
  • Condoms
  • Spermicide

Avoid stereotypes. Anyone can be infected with HIV/AIDS, from the out-and-proud guy across the street to the girl next door.

Get tested. It is important to know your own HIV status.

Talk to new sexual partners honestly about your risk factors and request the same frank disclosure from them. Risk factors include sharing needles during IV drug use, having unprotected sex with a partner whose HIV status was unknown or unclear and having another sexually transmitted disease.

Remember that many people who are infected don't realize they are infected. They may not even realize they are at risk. When you come into contact with another person's blood, urine, feces or semen, assume they are infectious unless proven otherwise.

Practice safe sex. This means using a condom with spermicide for anal, vaginal or oral penetration. Lesbians may wish to use a dental dam, a thin latex square, for oral sex.

Use medical latex or non-latex gloves if you will be coming into contact with another person's blood, urine, feces or semen. Health care workers consider this a "universal precaution" which means they wear protective equipment regardless of the client's HIV/AIDS status.

Avoid sharing needles if you use IV or injection drugs. Some cities have needle exchange programs and some states allow pharmacies to sell certain types of syringes without a prescription.

Keep in mind that abstinence from sexual activity outside of a committed monogamous relationship is one of the best ways to protect yourself from HIV/AIDS.

Learn more about how to protect yourself from HIV/AIDS. The American Red Cross offers several excellent community programs as well as publications to help keep both youths and adults safe. See the Resources section below for a link.

Tips & Warnings

  • You can't get AIDS through casual contact such as shaking hands, giving a hug or sharing a meal, nor can you get AIDS from being bitten by a mosquito that has bitten someone with AIDS, swimming in the same pool as someone with HIV/AIDS or using the toilet after someone with HIV has used it.
  • While traces of HIV have been found in saliva, sweat and tears, there is no evidence that the disease has ever been spread through contact with these bodily fluids. Thus, it is safe to dry the tears of a crying friend with HIV.
  • If the bodily fluids of another person enter your bloodstream, get to a doctor as soon as possible. The doctor may decide to start you on antiretroviral medication to help protect you against developing HIV.
  • Even if you and your sexual partner are both already infected with HIV, it's still a good idea to practice safer sex. Just as there are several different strains of influenza, there are several different strains of HIV, and being infected with more than one strain of HIV/AIDS can make your condition more difficult to treat.

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