|Title:||HIV/AIDS FACT SHEET||
Status: IN ACES STORE
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UNP-0045 HIV/AIDS Fact Sheet
Most medical professionals believe that the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). HIV weakens the body's immune system or its ability to fight infections by destroying white blood cells (CD4+) called lymphocytes. When someone is HIV-positive, that person has HIV antibodies in his or her body. Antibodies are proteins produced by the immune system to fight germs or infections. However, the presence of HIV antibodies in the blood does not mean an individual has AIDS. A person can carry the AIDS virus for years before it develops into AIDS. He or she may look healthy but still have the ability to infect others. A person is diagnosed with AIDS when his or her CD4+ cell count falls below 200 per cubic millimeter of blood. For uninfected individuals, the CD4+ cell count is anywhere from 800 to 1,200 per cubic millimeter of blood (NIAID, 2009).
How do you get HIV?
HIV is transmitted through the bodily fluids of an individual carrying the virus. These bodily fluids are blood, breast milk, rectal (anal) mucous, semen, and vaginal and pre-seminal fluids (AIDS.gov, 2011). HIV can be transmitted in the following ways:
- Through the exchange or intake of blood, rectal mucous, semen, pre-seminal fluids, and vaginal fluids while having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who is HIV-positive
- By sharing needles used to draw blood, give tattoos, or pierce ears or by sharing syringes used to inject illegal or prescribed drugs with someone who is HIV-positive
- Through mother-to-child (perinatal) transmission when a HIV-positive woman transmits the virus to her fetus during pregnancy, labor, delivery, or to her baby while breast-feeding
- Through infected blood from a blood transfusion or organ transplant, although these cases are rare
Note: Beware of other bodily fluids that may contain substantial amounts of blood, such as saliva, feces, nasal fluid, sweat, tears, urine, or vomit. Health care professionals should also be careful when handling fluid surrounding the brain, spinal cord, bone joints, or the amniotic fluid surrounding an unborn baby (AIDS.gov, 2011).
HIV does not survive long outside the human body and is not acquired through casual contact, such as touching, hugging, talking, or sharing common living quarters with a person infected with HIV or AIDS. You cannot contract the virus from an infected person by using the same eating utensils, swimming pools, hot tubs, drinking fountains, toilet seats, doorknobs, gym equipment, or telephones. You cannot contract the virus from insect bites. Bodily waste such as feces or urine is an uncommon mode of transmission and the waste from an infected person must contain a substantial amount of blood. No one has contracted the disease by having an infected person spit, sneeze, cough, sweat or shed tears on them. Also, HIV transmission through “deep kissing” has rarely been reported, and is usually the result of kissing an HIV-positive person with bleeding gums or with sores in the mouth. And lastly, blood transfusions are safer today because donors are routinely screened for high-risk factors, and donated blood is examined for the presence of HIV antibodies.
There is no cure for HIV, and only a doctor can diagnose AIDS. Individuals infected with HIV undergo antiretroviral therapy (ART), which may involve taking a combination of prescription medicine. ART helps to lower HIV in your body by prohibiting the virus to replicate. This is evident in the decline since 1982 of AIDS-related deaths in Alabama. From the early 1980s to the early 1990s, AIDS-related deaths numbered in the thousands, and a person usually died within two years after being diagnosed – this is still true of undiagnosed and untreated cases today. However, promising advances are being made toward developing an effective vaccine.
What does this mean?
Prevention education and early detection are still important factors in reducing the spread of HIV. While HIV infection in the United States has remained relatively stable in the past few years, the rate of new infections among teens, people of color, women, and adults over 50 continues to climb.
Safe Health Practices
The only way to tell if you have HIV is to be tested. A person living with HIV is generally identified as having AIDS or advanced HIV disease, when a physician diagnoses one or more opportunistic infections. Opportunistic infections are diseases, such as tuberculosis, pneumonia, or Kaposi sarcoma (malignant form of cancer) that take the “opportunity” to damage the immune system. A person who is HIV-positive has undergone an antibody test to confirm the presence of the virus. To avoid being infected, it’s necessary to make smart decisions about sex, drug use, and prenatal and post-natal care. Although the surest way to avoid being infected is by abstaining from sex, sharing needles, or breast-feeding, other preventive measures may be helpful to you, your partner, and/or your baby.
If you’re HIV-positive:
- Inform your current and past sex partner(s) that you are HIV-positive. Note: Take precautions when informing your partner(s) about your HIV status. AIDS is a life-threatening disease with no cure and some people may respond in a violent manner. If you believe this is the case, a trained professional may be needed to inform the individual of his or her HIV status.
- Use a new latex condom each time you engage in sex, even if your partner is also HIV-positive.
- Use water-based lubricants with condoms because oil-based lubricants can cause tears or rips in condoms. Don’t share sex apparatuses (toys), needles, or other drug paraphernalia.
- Avoid donating blood, plasma, or organs.
- Do not share toothbrushes or razors.
- If pregnant, a doctor may prescribe zidovudine (also known as ZDV, AZT or Retrovir) to reduce the risk of transmission to the fetus. Once the baby is born, don’t breastfeed. Consult your doctor about prescribing ZDV for your infant during the first six weeks after birth to reduce the risk of prolonged HIV transmission.
If you have a same-sex partner:
- Wear a condom when having sex and use a dental dam or another protective barrier during oral sex because you are at risk of being infected via bodily fluids (See page 1), including menstrual blood.
- Avoid sharing sex apparatuses (toys).
If you’re heterosexual:
- Use a latex or polyurethane condom with a water-based lubricant. The female condom also provides protection against HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
- Use a new condom or another protective barrier during oral sex. Note: A male or female condom does not provide 100 percent protection against HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases.
- Avoid sharing sex apparatuses (toys).
If you’re an injection drug user:
- Seek treatment for drug use immediately.
- Use sterile injection equipment and avoid sharing needles, syringes, or other equipment.
- Be sure all equipment and supplies, such as cotton, water, and the drug itself, are not contamnated.
What to do if Infected with HIV
If you believe you are infected with HIV or AIDS, get tested and stop engaging in risky behavior. Risky behavior includes having vaginal, anal, or oral sex without condom or dental dam protection and sharing needles for drug use or tattooing. If you are pregnant or breast-feeding, you are putting your baby at risk for HIV infection. Consult a health professional certified to treat people with HIV and AIDS.
HIV testing is generally free at county public health departments or at some AIDS service organizations. However, only a medical doctor can diagnose AIDS. If you test positive for HIV, you will still have to see a physician and undergo additional confirmatory tests such as the Western Blot or the immunofluorescent assay test. If you do not wish to consult your private doctor or you do not have medical insurance, you can be tested or receive medical treatment for HIV and AIDS at the Alabama facilities listed below.
Where to go for help in Alabama
Contact your local health department or one of these AIDS service organizations.
1917 Clinic at UAB
908 South 20th Street – CCB 245
Birmingham, AL 35294-2050
Phone: (205) 934-1917
AIDS Action Coalition
Phone: (256) 537-4700 / Toll-Free: (800) 728-3603
3521 7th Avenue South
Birmingham, AL 35222
Phone: (205) 324-9822
Alabama Department of Public Health
Direct Care & Services Branch
201 Monroe Street, RSA Tower
Montgomery, AL 36104
Phone: (334) 206-5364
Alabama AIDS Hotline
Birmingham AIDS Outreach
205 32nd Street South
Birmingham, Alabama 35233
Phone: (205) 322-4197
East Alabama Medical Center
Unity Wellness Center
Phone: (256) 887-5244
Health Services Center, Inc.
608 Martin Luther King Drive
Hobson City, Alabama 36201
Phone: (256) 832-0100 / Toll-Free: (866) 832-0100
Montgomery AIDS Outreach
Copeland Care Clinic
2900 McGehee Road
Montgomery, Alabama 36111
Selma AIDS Information and Referral
410 Birch Avenue
South Alabama CARES (Community AIDS Resources, Education, and Support)
2054 Dauphin Street
P.O. Box 40296
Mobile, Alabama 36640
Phone: (251) 471-5277
West Alabama AIDS Outreach
2720 Sixth Street
Tuscaloosa, AL 35401
Phone: (202) 759-8470 / Toll-Free: (800) 722-2437http://www.waao.info
Remember: People diagnosed with HIV or AIDS can live productive lives, but precautions are necessary to avoid infecting others. As with many chronic diseases, early detection can improve the quality of life. For those who are not infected, HIV and AIDS is 100 percent preventable. Wise choices can help safeguard your health and the health of your loved ones. As the saying goes, “It is not who you are but what you do that puts you at risk for HIV infection.”
AIDS.gov. (2011, June 20). How do you get HIV or AIDS? HIV/AIDS Basics. Retrieved July 22, 2011.
AIDS.gov. (2011, June 20). Treatment. HIV/AIDS Basics. Retrieved July 22, 2011.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010, March 25). HIV Transmission. Retrieved July 22, 2011.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (1997, July 11). Transmission of HIV possibly associated with exposure to mucous membrane to contaminated blood. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Retrieved July 22, 2011.
United States Depoartment of Health & Human Services. (2009, January 5). More on how HIV causes AIDS. National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases/National Institutes of Health. Retrieved July 22, 2011.
United States Food and Drug Administration. (2009, April 30). HIV and AIDS: Medicines to help you. For Consumers. Retrieved July 22, 2011.
UNP-0045, Revised July 2011, Wendi Williams, Extension Communications Specialist and Certified HIV/AIDS Prevention Educator, Alabama A&M University
Published by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M University and Auburn University), an equal opportunity educator and employer.
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