What is the best way to prevent HIV? How is HIV transmitted?
According to the CDC, in 2015, youth ages 13-24 accounted for 22% of all new HIV diagnoses.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) causes Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) by infecting and damaging part of the body’s defenses against infection. HIV is passed if a person has unprotected sex (vaginal, anal or oral) with someone that has HIV through sharing bodily fluids.
Another way that HIV is spread is through sharing needles, either to inject drugs or used for tattoos/body piercings. One last way that HIV can be passed is from mother to baby during childbirth.
A person cannot pass HIV through casual hand holding, hugging, kissing, sneezing or coughing or by sitting next to someone that has HIV. Mosquitoes and bugs don’t carry the virus and it is very rare for someone to contract it through a blood transfusion.
How to prevent HIV?
If a youth is sexually active, one of the best ways to protect against HIV is to use condoms, female condoms or dental dams when having any type of sexual contact. All three act as a barrier to sharing bodily fluids and limiting or eliminating skin-to-skin contact, which can pass the virus.
Another thing a youth can do is to be tested regularly, because even if condoms are being used, they aren’t 100% effective and mistakes can happen. Also, abstinence or not having sexual intercourse or contact with another is the only 100% effective way to avoid HIV/AIDS.
Talking with a healthcare professional about options available to them can help a youth make informed, healthy choices.
What are the symptoms of HIV?
If a youth contracts HIV, it could be years before symptoms begin to show which is why testing is so very important; receiving treatment for HIV can help a person live much longer and feel healthier. The first symptoms of HIV resemble the flu: body aches, fever and feeling generally sick. At this time, the virus is at its strongest, so passing it to others happens much quicker and is much easier.
These symptoms usually only last for a few weeks and then may not reappear for a few years. However, the virus is still in the body, meaning it can pass through to others. HIV becomes AIDS after it has destroyed the T4 cells in the body, making it harder to fight off infections. On average, it takes about 10 years for HIV to become AIDS if there is no treatment.
Some signs of AIDS include:
- Extreme and rapid weight loss
- Bruising easily
- Diarrhea, fevers or night sweats for a long time
- Purplish growths on the skin or inside the mouth
June 27th is National HIV Testing Day. Here is some valuable information on how youth and teens can protect themselves.
- There are locations nationwide that provide HIV testing, treatment and support.
- Planned Parenthood provides information and education on HIV/AIDS, STI’s and testing.
- HIV.gov and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are also great resources to learn more.
The National Runaway Safeline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week if a youth needs resources or a supportive, listening ear. A compassionate, trained frontline team member can help connect with local agencies, Planned Parenthood or to discuss other options that may be available. Reach NRS at 1-800-RUNAWAY (786-2929) or through the website for online chat, forum and emails.