HIV… totally manageable!

You may have heard of HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus. Hopefully you have heard the facts, and not the hype. This is an STI that attacks the body’s immune system, which is the system that helps us ward against illness (think of the immune system as your own little army; soldiers that are defending your health against bacteria, virus, and parasites). Having HIV makes it hard for your body to fight off germs. Some people have HIV a super long time before ever showing signs of being sick, but left untreated can possible lead to AIDS. There are so many new medications that can help people with HIV stay healthy a very, very long time but it’s important for people to be checked to see if they have it so they can start treatment early.

How is HIV Spread?

This virus can be passed on when someone exchanges fluids with someone who is HIV positive. These fluids include blood, pre-cum, semen, vaginal fluid, anal fluid, and breast milk. This means the HIV positive fluid needs to come into contact with your fluid. This could happen during sex stuff, sharing needles, breastfeeding, and also by fighting.

Did that last one surprise you? It is possible to get HIV when fighting, and here’s an example. We’ll just call the people fighting “person A” and “person B”; person B has HIV. So, “person A” decides to punch “person B” in the face. When “person A” uses their fist to hit “person B”, their knuckles and fist get injured and there is a break in the skin. That break in the skin has exposed blood, which comes into contact from the blood that is coming out of “person B”’s face where it was cut by the punch. Not all cases of HIV happen because of sex stuff.

How is HIV Not Spread?

So, this is where you might have heard some hype. Back in the day when HIV was new, there wasn’t a lot of info available on the details of how HIV was passed on. People were scared, and they came up with a lot of false info that made people with HIV think they couldn’t have a normal life. Just to be clear, below are ways you can NOT transmit HIV:

  • Shaking hands
  • Sharing a meal
  • Sharing a bathroom
  • Kissing
  • Hugging
  • Sitting next to someone
  • Sharing clothes or towels
  • Masturbating
  • Through mosquitoes
  • Swimming in a public pool
  • Donating blood

PS- only HIV can be passed on, not AIDS. Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome means that the HIV has progressed and is now a life threatening condition. Not everyone who has HIV will get AIDS.

Who gets HIV?

HIV is not limited to one “kind” of person. HIV can happen to anyone. If someone told you that HIV is a “gay disease” they are totally wrong. HIV can affect men, women, the old and young, people of all races and sexual orientations, people who are rich and poor, no matter where they live. That’s why it’s important to use a condom every time you get it on.

Possible Signs & Symptoms

It’s very common for people to not have any symptoms at all when they contract HIV. A few people get flu like symptoms, like feeling tired, having a fever, swollen glands but this is not something everyone goes through. Most people never feel HIV in their body, and they don’t know they have it.

Super important detail: you are better off knowing if you have HIV, rather than never getting a test. To check for HIV, you can get a blood test at a clinic or nursing station. Most medications for HIV are paid for by the government. PS- your sexual partners need testing & treatment too.

Reduce the Risk of HIV

  • Use a condom every time during sex stuff
  • Use a sex dam when doing oral sex or anal stuff
  • Don’t share sex toys, needles, razors, anything that comes into contact with blood
  • Get tested for STIs
  • If using lube, use only water based or silicone based lubes

Check out these links on HIV:

http://pubs.cpha.ca/PDF/P17/21369e.pdf

http://teenhealthsource.com/stisetc/hivaids-details/

http://www.catie.ca/en/practical-guides/hiv-aids-basic-facts