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  • AIDS means Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. It is a disease that destroys your ability to fight other infections through your immune system. You get AIDS from a virus called HIV – Human Immunodeficiency Virus.
  • People who get HIV can stay healthy for many years and most infected people do not even know that they are HIV positive. There are no visible signs to show that a person is infected. They can pass the disease on to other people by having unprotected sex with them. 
  • The second phase of the disease is when you get AIDS and start becoming ill more easily. AIDS itself does not kill people – they usually die from other infections like flu, diarrhoea, pneumonia or TB. Poor people who are not well nourished and live in bad conditions, tend to become ill and die much sooner than others.
  • Some of the symptoms of a person living with AIDS could be losing weight very quickly and getting ill often with things like flu or pneumonia or stomach problems.


There are only three ways to get AIDS: unprotected sex, contact with infected blood or body fluids and mother to baby transmission.

  • Unprotected sex. This is the most common way that people get AIDS. If you have sex with an HIV positive person and there is direct contact between the penis and vagina or anus, you can easily get infected. The virus lives in the fluids inside the penis and vagina and can easily enter your bloodstream. Using condoms properly is the only protection against this kind of infection.


  • Contact with infected blood. If you have an open wound and it comes into contact with the blood of an HIV positive person, you can get infected. This contact could be through using the same needles for drugs or unsafe instruments used for circumcision. You can also get it from blood transfusions if the blood is contaminated. Medical workers can get it from accidentally pricking themselves with needles they have used to inject HIV positive people.

Mother to baby transmission.
 HIV positive mothers can pass the infection to their babies, although this does not happen in all cases. Transmission can happen during pregnancy, or childbirth because of the contact with blood, or during breastfeeding.   You cannot get AIDS from kissing someone on the lips, hugging, sharing food and drink or using the same bath or toilet as someone who is HIV positive. [BUT Deep kissing or French kissing can pass on HIV if you have sores in your mouth]   After HIV infects the body, the virus has been found in saliva, tears, nervous system tissue and spinal fluid, blood, semen (including pre-seminal fluid, which is the liquid that comes out before ejaculation), vaginal fluid, and breast milk. Only blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and breast milk have been shown to transmit infection to others.


  • The biggest problem in fighting AIDS is breaking the silence that surrounds the epidemic. Although thousands of people are ill or dying, it is not spoken about and families often hide the fact that their relatives had AIDS.
  • People still feel that it is something that happens to others and not to their families. People who are infected fear rejection and discrimination from those around them and try to hide their illness. Although testing is available, only about one in ten people who are HIV positive know it. This means that they can carry on infecting others without knowing it.
  • There are myths around AIDS and they lead to people seeing it as a scandal that should be kept secret. Many people see those with AIDS as people who were promiscuous or homosexual. AIDS is almost seen as a plague that you can catch just from being with someone who is HIV positive. In some communities people with AIDS have been chased out or attacked.
  • In countries where the infection rate has gone down, this only happened after so many people became ill that people could no longer pretend it was not happening and everyone started fearing that they will be next. We cannot afford to wait that long and must find ways of bringing the epidemic into the open now.
  • This means that we have to make it easier for people to be open, to go for tests and to seek care. We have to treat it as an illness and not a scandal that has to be kept secret. We have to create an environment where communities become more caring towards people living with AIDS and orphans and we all take responsibility for education around prevention.


Within 2-4 weeks after HIV infection, many, but not all, people experience flu-like symptoms, often described as the “worst flu ever.” This is called “acute retroviral syndrome” (ARS) or “primary HIV infection,” and it’s the body’s natural response to the HIV infection. Symptoms related to acute HIV infection (when a person is first infected) are often flu-like: Diarrhea Fever Headache Mouth sores, including yeast infection (thrush) Muscle stiffness or aching Night sweats Rashes of different types Sore throat Swollen lymph glands But many people have no symptoms when they are infected with HIV and most will not have any symptoms at all for 10 years or more. You cannot rely on symptoms to know whether you have HIV. The only way to know for sure if you are infected with HIV is to get tested . Almost all people infected with HIV, if they are not treated, will develop AIDS. (A small group of patients develop AIDS very slowly or never at all. These patients are called nonprogressors. Many seem to have genes that prevent the virus from significantly damaging their immune system.) People with AIDS have had their immune system damaged by HIV. Common symptoms of AIDS are:

Sweats (particularly at night)
Swollen lymph glands
Weight loss
Lack of energy
Frequent yeast infections
Bleeding gums
Flaky skin
Severe Headaches with neck stiffness
Cough and shortness of breath
Difficult or painful swallowing
Each of these symptoms can be related to other illnesses. So, as noted above, the only way to know for sure if you are infected with HIV/AIDS is to get tested.   FIGHTING AIDS/HIV


Preventing HIV/AIDS:

Safer sex practices, Using latex condoms. Use a condom every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Condoms are effective in preventing HIV transmission
Do not use illegal drugs and do not share needles or syringes. Many communities now have needle exchange programs, where you can get rid of used syringes and get new, sterile ones. These programs can also refer you for addiction treatment.
Avoid contact with another person’s blood. If possible, wear protective clothing, masks, and goggles when caring for people who are injured.
If you test positive for HIV, you can pass the virus to others. You should not donate blood, plasma, body organs, or sperm.
HIV-positive women who plan to get pregnant should talk to their health care provider about the risk to their unborn child. They should also discuss methods to prevent their baby from becoming infected, such as taking medicines during pregnancy.


Breastfeeding should be avoided to prevent passing on HIV to infants through breast milk.


HIV-positive patients who are taking antiretroviral medicines are less likely to transmit the virus.
Talk to your health care provider about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). PrEP is an HIV prevention method that involves taking an HIV medicine every day. PrEP is intended for people who don’t have HIV but who are at high risk of sexually transmitted HIV infection. PrEP should always be combined with other prevention methods, including condom use.
If you believe you have been exposed to HIV, seek medical attention right away. Do not delay. Starting antiviral medicines can reduce the chances that you will be infected. This is called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). It has been used to prevent transmission in health care workers injured by needle sticks.


You can find out whether you are HIV positive by having a free blood test at any clinic or hospital. The results will only be given to you. If you are positive you should tell your sexual partners so that they can also be tested and you should only practice safe sex. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS. But treatments are available to manage symptoms. People are treated with antiretroviral drugs that strengthen their immune system and slow down the virus. These drugs cannot cure you, but sometimes help people live healthy lives for longer. People can live with AIDS for many years if they get proper care. Healthy eating, exercise, a clean environment and a positive mental attitude can make a big difference. Insurance companies can insist on people being tested for HIV and may refuse life insurance. But many insurance companies do have special policies for people who are HIV positive.


Finding out that you have HIV can be scary and overwhelming. If you feel overwhelmed, try to remember that you can get help and that these feelings will get better with time. Testing positive for HIV often leaves a person with lots of questions and concerns. So the first step after testing positive is to see a health care provider (HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. If ignored, it can lead to illness and death. This is why it is so important to get medical care if you find out you have HIV. Do not be afraid to seek a doctor or nurse practitioner with experience in treating HIV-infected patients–he or she can help you to stay well) People with HIV work closely with their health care providers to make important decisions, such as when to start treatment and what HIV medicines to take. Making these decisions begins with a baseline evaluation. Testing positive for HIV is a serious matter but one that you can deal with.   There are some things that you should know about HIV that may ease some of the stress or confusion you are feeling.

You are not alone. Many people are living with HIV, even if you don’t know that they are.
HIV does not equal death: Having HIV does not mean that you are going to die of it. Most people with HIV can live long healthy lives if they get medical treatment and take care of themselves.
A diagnosis of HIV does not automatically mean that you have AIDS.
Don’t freeze: Learning how to live with HIV and getting in touch with a health care team that knows how to manage HIV will help you to feel better and get on with your life.
Sometimes it can be difficult to explain that you have HIV to people you have had sex with or shared needles with in the past. However, it is important that they know so that they can decide whether to get tested. If you need help telling people that you may have exposed them to HIV, many city or county health departments will tell them for you, without using your name. Ask your provider about this service.     No-one should be blamed if they get the disease. It can happen to any of us.       Hotlines: The CDC National AIDS Hotline, including its Spanish Service and TTY Service, is operated under contract with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Group calls can also be arranged by calling the hotline.
English: 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Spanish: 1-800-344-7432, 8 am – 2 am eastern time, 7 days a week.
CDC National STD Hotline: 1-800-232-4636, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.