Love, Sex, STDs and AIDS
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
- STDs are sexually transmitted diseases.
- Young people aged 15-24 acquire one half of all new STDs.
- HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus is an STD, which is the base infection for AIDS.
- You cannot tell if someone has HIV or another STD just by his or her looks. Many STDs have no signs.
- Genital herpes is a common STD. It is an infection caused by the herpes simplex virus. Many people mistake it for a simple skin irritation. Genital herpes is a common infection Nationwide with 1 in 6 people ages 12 and older infected.
- Chlamydia is a curable sexually transmitted infection, which is caused by bacteria. Chlamydia can be passed on during oral, vaginal or anal sex contact with an infected partner. If left untreated, it can cause serious problems in men, women and newborn babies of infected mothers. In 2018 61.8% of reported cases of chlamydia in the US were under the age of 21.
- Crabs are parasites that live on the pubic hair in the genital area.
- Gonorrhea is a treatable bacterial infection of the penis, vagina or anus that causes pain or a burning feeling as well as a pus-like discharge. Gonorrhea is also called the “clap.”
- Hepatitis is a STD that affects the liver.
- Genital warts are a virus that affects the skin in the genital area, as well as a female cervix.
- Syphilis is a treatable bacterial infection that can spread throughout the body and affect the heart, brain and nerves.
- Vaginitis is caused by different germs including yeast or trichomoniasis. It is an infection of the vagina resulting in itching, burning, vaginal discharge and an odd odor.
- Every year there are 20 million new cases of STDs.
- One half of all STDs occur in people 25 years of age or younger. (CDC 2020)
TOPIC: What is AIDS?
AIDS, which stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, is a very serious disease that affects children, teens, and adults. It is caused by a virus called the Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). This virus is acquired and causes a deficiency in the body’s immune system. AIDS is rapidly becoming the leading cause of death in young adults and children in many areas in the United States. There is no cure for AIDS, but there is one way to prevent it – educate yourself and your children about AIDS and HIV, including those behaviors that can increase the risk of getting AIDS.
What are HIV and AIDS?
HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. When persons are infected with HIV, it means the virus is attacking their immune system. The immune system is the body’s way of fighting infections and helping prevent some types of cancer. Damage to the immune system from HIV can occur over months, as sometimes happens in infants. Sometimes occurs slowly over years, as more often happens in adults. AIDS is diagnosed in an HIV-infected person when the immune system is severely damaged or when certain other serious infections or cancers occur. Many people do not know they are hiv-infected because it can take many years for serious symptoms to develop. However, even if they feel well and have no symptoms they can spread the infection to others.
Many people with HIV-infection look and act healthy. You cannot tell just by looking at people whether they are HIV-infected. A blood test for HIV is the only way to be sure.
How is HIV Spread?
HIV is spread from one person to another through certain body fluids. These fluids include blood and blood products, semen (sperm), fluid from the vagina, and breastmilk. The following are ways HIV can be spread:
- By sexual intercourse (vaginal, anal, or oral) with a person who is HIV infected. Both males and females can spread HIV. Latex condoms can help prevent the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The safest course, however, is to abstain from all forms of sexual intercourse until married or in a long-term mature relationship with an unaffected partner.
- Through contact with an infected person’s blood. Sharing syringes or needles for drug use or for other activities such as tattooing or ear piercing can spread HIV. Accidental injuries from contaminated needles can also cause HIV infection. This can happen if a person comes into contact with used needles that have been thrown away. Rarely, HIV has been spread by an infected person’s blood directly through the mucous membranes, cuts, scrapes, or open sores of another person.
- To a baby by his or her HIV-infected mother. This can happen during pregnancy, labor, delivery, or breastfeeding.
- Through blood or blood products from blood transfusions, organ transplants, or artificial insemination. This occurs very rarely because donors or blood, tissues, and organs in the United States are tested routinely for HIV. Test results must be negative before the donated fluids and tissues are used.
How is HIV Not Spread?
It is very important to know how HIV is not spread. Fear and wrong information about HIV and AIDS have caused much suffering to those who have been infected with HIV. Make sure you and your children understand that HIV cannot be spread through casual contact with someone who has AIDS or is HIV infected.
You cannot get HIV from:
- Shaking hands
- Sitting next to someone
- Sharing bathrooms
- Eating food prepared by an hiv-infected person
- The air
- Insect bites
- Giving blood
- Swimming pools
Teaching Your Young Child About HIV and AIDS
Children need to learn about HIV and AIDS at a very early age. By the time your children are 3 or 4 years old, make sure you have clearly explained the following to help them:
- They should never touch anyone else’s blood or open sores.
- They should never touch needles or syringes.
- If they see someone who is bleeding or if they find a needle or a syringe, they should tell an adult.
- Remind your children never to touch a needle or syringe if they find one in the garbage or on the ground.
- AIDS cannot be caught by playing with HIV-infected children.
By grade school age, your child should begin to have a better understanding of illness and body parts. They should begin to learn more about how HIV can and cannot be spread.
What are the Symptoms of AIDS?
Symptoms of the opportunistic diseases associated with AIDS may include:
- Swelling or hardening of glands located in the throat, groin, or armpit
- The appearance of hard, discolored or purplish growths on the skin or inside the mouth
- The appearance of a thick, whitish coating on the tongue or mouth, called “thrush,” which may also be accompanied by a sore throat
- Increasing shortness of breath
- Periods of continued deep, dry coughing that are not due to other illnesses or to smoking
- Recurring fevers and/or night sweats
- Rapid loss of more than 10 lbs of weight that is not due to increased physical exercise or dieting
- Bruising more easily than normal
- Unexplained bleeding from growths on the skin, from mucous membranes or from any opening in the body
- Repeated occurrences of diarrhea
Whether or not such symptoms prove to be AIDS related, a doctor should be consulted if any of the symptoms occur.
How Can People Avoid Getting AIDS?
- When having sex, follow “safer sex” guidelines and always use condoms.
- Know your partner’s health status and whether or not he or she has other sex partners.
- Do not exchange certain bodily fluids (blood and semen).
- Limit the number of sex partners (preferable to one person who has done the same).
- Never share needles to inject drugs (boiling does not guarantee sterility).
- Do not share toothbrushes, razors, or other personal items that could be contaminated with blood.
- Maintain a strong immune system: eat well, get enough rest and exercise, avoid recreational and illicit drugs, avoid heavy use of alcohol, have regular medical checkups
- People with HIV are at risk for AIDS and people who carry the AIDS virus must not donate blood, plasma, sperm, body organs or other tissues.
How Do Women Get AIDS?
Like men, women can get AIDS by sharing needles with HIV drug users or by having sexual intercourse involving exchange of bodily fluids with a person who has AIDS or who is infected with the AIDS virus. A few women have developed AIDS following transfusions of contaminated blood.
Any pregnant woman who knows or thinks she may carry the virus should immediately consult a healthcare provider who is knowledgeable about AIDS, as the AIDS virus is very likely to spread from her to the fetus during pregnancy. It is also important to consult a healthcare provider if your partner has AIDS, if she or her partner is an HIV drug user or if either is having other sexual relationships.
Is There a Test to Determine if a Person Has Been Exposed to Aids?
Blood tests determining exposure to the AIDS virus are available through private physicians, Hospital clinics and blood banks, as well as most local, state and federal health departments. The tests are designed to detect antibodies to AIDS. The presence of AIDS antibodies in a person’s blood means that they have been exposed to the AIDS virus, but does not mean that the person has, or will have, AIDS. Though they are highly accurate, AIDS antibody tests can only be reliable in detecting infections that are more than four months old.
Who Should be Tested for Antibodies to AIDS?
There are several considerations to make before deciding to be tested for antibodies to AIDS:
- Testing positive for AIDS antibodies does not mean that a person has, or will develop, AIDS;
- Test results cannot distinguish persons who have developed immunity to AIDS from those who have not;
- Positive test results, if leaked to an employer or insurance company, can lead to serious and prejudicial consequences;
- Since there is no cure for AIDS, a positive result testing might lead to overwhelming anxiety and psychological distress;
- Technical issues, Epstein-Barr virus infection, pregnancy and other factors may cause false positive results indicating infection when there is none.
Confidential testing may be appropriate, however, for people at risk for AIDS and/or for their partners who:
- Are considering Parenthood;
- Are considering enlistment in the armed forces;
- Have been exclusively monogamous for a number of years and wish to disregard safer sex guidelines.
How is AIDS Treated?
Currently, there are no medicines that can cure AIDS. For now, there is no vaccine to prevent it but treatment is available. Anonymous testing is available, as well as therapy to treat separately each of the many opportunistic diseases affecting people with AIDS, but these therapies vary in success from one person to another, and none of them is a permanent cure.
It is possible, though, to ease the burdens of this frightening, tragic and often lengthy illness. Many people with AIDS, their families, friends, neighbors and healthcare workers have made major strides by coming to terms with the feelings of fear, helplessness and inadequacy that surround AIDS. Learning to cope with the overwhelming personal catastrophe of AIDS has also led them to recognize that there are other non-medical elements that are essential in the treatment of people with AIDS.
People with AIDS not only require the most advanced medicines and chemical therapies, they also require a psychologically positive environment. The latest Medical Research indicates that there is a direct relationship between a person’s psychological outlook and the function of his or her immune system. The ingredients for maintaining the healthy outlook of a person with AIDS are those of any normal and healthy life. They include: companionship, access to places of worship in the community, access to social, educational and recreational facilities, access to a job.
Members of the community need to realize that no one has ever contracted AIDS in any way other than those listed previously.
(Modified from Planned Parenthood of America and the American Academy of Pediatrics.)