WHAT IS AIDS?
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a disease in which the bodyís natural immune (protection) system breaks down,
leaving it unable to fight off infections. A person with AIDS gets illnesses that are little or no threat to others with a
healthy immune system.
WHAT CAUSES AIDS?
The virus called the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) causes aIDS. HIV is present in the blood and other body fluids
such as the semen or vaginal secretions of an infected person.
HOW DO I GET HIV/AIDS?
You can get HIV/AIDS through any of the following ways:
WHO ARE AT RISK OF GETTING HIV/AIDS?
- By having unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected person.
- By sharing drug needles with an infected person
- Through the transmission of blood from an infected source (In Jamaica, all blood entering the blood bank is thoroughly
screened for HIV)
- An infected mother can pass the virus on to her child either during pregnancy, at birth or through
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN HIV ENTERS THE BODY?
- Persons who have sex without a condom
- Persons with many sex partners
- Persons who have had repeated Sexually Transmitted Infections
- Male and female prostitutes
- Sexually active homosexual and bisexual males
- Persons who have sex with someone who is HIV positive
- Past or present users of needles to inject illicit drugs
HIV is a silent virus which slowly destroys the bodyís immune system. The immune system protects the body from infections.
Without a properly functioning immune system, an HIV positive person can have difficulty fighting off common infections.
CAN I TELL IF A PERSON HAS HIV?
A person with HIV can live for many years without showing any outward signs of illness. The majority of persons infected
with HIV do not know they have the virus. However, they can infect others. Persons who have been infected with HIV will
eventually develop AIDS.
HOW CAN I KNOW IF I AM INFECTED WITH HIV?
You can take an HIV test to know if you are infected. This test should be done after proper pre-test counseling. An HIV
test should be done 3-6 weeks after someone suspects that they have been infected. The test looks for HIV antibodies,
which would mean that the virus is present.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE SYMPTOMS OF AIDS?
The symptoms of AIDS resemble that of many other diseases, however, when two or more of the following are present one may
be suspected of having HIV/AIDS:
CAN I GET HIV/AIDS THROUGH CASUAL CONTACT?
- Rapid weight loss
- Swollen glands in the neck, armpits or groin
- Diarrhoea and loss of appetite lasting more than a month
No, you cannot get AIDS through casual contact. There are no cases of persons getting the disease by shaking hands,
sharing the same glass or utensils, using the same toilets, telephones or any other articles.
CAN HIV/AIDS BE PREVENTED?
Yes. HIV/AIDS can be prevented. Here are some ways to help prevent the spread of AIDS:
CAN I GET AIDS FROM A MOSQUITO BITE?
- Abstain or delay sex
- Be faithful to one uninfected partner
- Use a latex condom everytime you have (vaginal, anal, oral) sex
- Do not do drugs or share injection needles
- Do not have sex with prostitutes
- Seek early and complete treatment for STIs
- Get facts on STIs and AIDS
No. Mosquitoes cannot transmit HIV.
CAN I GET HIV FROM KISSING?
You cannot get HIV from kissing an infected person on the cheek. Where saliva is exchanged, it is unlikely that the virus
will be transmitted. However the risk increases if an infected person has a sore or cut in the mouth.
CAN I GET AIDS FROM PERFORMING ORAL SEX?
Yes, AIDS can be transmitted if there is an exchange of blood, semen, or vaginal secretions between an infected and an
uninfected person, especially if there is a cut or sore on the infected personís penis or vagina.
CAN I GET AIDS FROM HAVING ORAL SEX PERFORMED ON ME?
Yes, if your partner has HIV, blood from a cut or sore in the mouth can enter the urethra (the opening at the tip of the
penis) or the vagina and you may become infected. However using a dental dam or latex condom during oral sex reduces the
risk of transmission.
CAN I GET HIV FROM ANAL SEX?
Yes. It is possible to get HIV from anal sex. The lining of the anus is very thin and can easily tear. Any exchange of
blood or semen can transmit HIV.
CAN I GET HIV FROM A TATOO OR BODY PIERCING NEEDLE?
The risk of getting HIV from tattoo or body piercing needles exists if the needles are not properly sterilized or
disinfected. If you are thinking about getting a tattoo or piercing done, ask the staff at the establishment what
precautions they take to prevent the spread of HIV.
ARE CONDOMS A VERY RELIABLE WAY TO PROTECT MYSELF FROM HIV?
Condoms are the best way to protect yourself from HIV and other STIs when they are used consistently and correctly.
WHAT IF THE CONDOM BREAKS DURING SEX?
If the condom breaks during sex, the penis should be removed immediately and washed. A new condom should be used if
you decide to resume sex.
I AM PREGNANT AND HIV POSITIVE. WILL MY BABY BE BORN WITH HIV?
HIV can be passed on to an unborn child either in the womb or during birth as the baby passes through the birth canal.
HIV can also be transmitted through the motherís breast milk. However, there is treatment available that can reduce the
childís risk of getting HIV. All pregnant women should request an HIV test from their doctor.
WHERE CAN I GET AN HIV TEST?
You can get an HIV test at any private doctorís office, health center or hospital.
HOW SOON WILL I GET THE RESULTS?
You will get your results in 1-6 weeks.
WHEN I DO AN HIV TEST, ARE MY RESULTS AVAILABLE TO ANYONE WHO WANTS TO KNOW?
No. Anyone who does an HIV test has the right to confidentiality.