Click on the links below to learn detailed facts about HIV and how to keep yourself healthy.
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus and is passed from person to person, male or female, by the exchange of 4 specific bodily fluids – semen, blood, vaginal fluid and breastmilk. HIV attacks the fighter cells in our bodies called white blood cells and make it harder to for a person to fight off infection. HIV can lead to AIDS, but having HIV does not mean you have AIDS. AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome and has to do with how well your body can fight off everyday infections by itself. When someone does not have enough strong “fighter” cells, and/or gets a very specific infection, they will be told they have AIDS. Once a person has AIDS, he or she can get very sick and die from other diseases and cancers that do not usually infect most people. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS but there are safe and effective medications you can take to stay healthy.
HIV is passed from person to person, male or female, by the exchange of 4 specific bodily fluids – semen, blood, vaginal fluid and breastmilk. Semen, blood and vaginal fluid can spread HIV during anal, vaginal, and maybe even oral sex. HIV can be spread by breastmilk when an HIV-positive mother nurses her baby. HIV is NOT spread through hugging, kissing, sharing a drink, towels or a toilet seat.
At first, you might not know if you have HIV. Most people won’t look or feel sick. Some people might get flu-like symptoms, like a headache, fever, sore muscles and joints, stomach ache, swollen lymph glands, diarrhea, or a skin rash. This can happen four to six weeks after they get the virus. You may also never have any of these symptoms. The only way to know for sure is to get tested.
The type of test you get for HIV will be different depending on where you go to get tested. Usually the test is a blood test. Regardless of where you go, the tests look for evidence that your body is fighting HIV. Because it takes time for your body to develop this evidence, HIV may not show up on the test results right away. Depending on the type of test, it can take up to three months after you have been exposed to HIV for the test to be positive. Check out our map to find a testing site near you!
HIV testing is confidential. That means you and health care professionals are the only ones that see your results. Without your permission, your doctor cannot share your results with your parents, friends, guardians. You should know that if your doctor suspects child abuse or rape of any kind, he/she must report it by law.
Not having sex is the only way to be sure you will not get infected with HIV. If you are having sex, use condoms correctly every time to make sure you stay STD free. Also remember that you may not notice any symptoms of HIV, so it is important to get tested regularly if you are having sex. Get STD check-ups every three to six months (that means at least twice a year, up to four times a year). This makes sure infections like HIV are caught early and treated fast. Finally, the type of sex you have may increase your chances of being exposed to HIV. For example, if you bottom during butt sex and your partner doesn’t use a condom, there is a higher risk of HIV transmission.