This Friday, December 1st, is World AIDS Day, a day to raise awareness about HIV. HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus and is the virus that leads to AIDS. HIV attacks a person’s white blood cells and that makes it hard for them to fight off infections. There are almost 1.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the US.
You can get HIV through contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids. The only bodily fluids that can transmit HIV are blood, pre-cum, semen, vaginal fluid, and breast milk. That means that HIV can be spread through unprotected sex and sharing needles. HIV can be passed to babies during pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding but a pregnant woman who has HIV can take medication to reduce the chance that her baby will get HIV. These medications are very effective. HIV cannot be spread through kissing or sharing food and drinks because saliva does not carry the HIV virus. You can’t know if you or someone else has HIV without getting tested. It can take months or years before you feel sick or show any serious signs but you can still pass it to others. The only way to know if someone has HIV is to get tested. Many clinics can do the test very quickly with a cheek swab or finger prick.
How can I protect myself from HIV and AIDS?
- The best way to protect yourself from HIV and other STDs is to be abstinent, which means choosing to not have sex.
- If you are sexually active, the best way to avoid HIV is by being monogamous with someone who has been tested and tested negative.
- Using a condom every time you have sex also helps to reduce your risk of getting HIV. Find FREE condoms on teensource.org.
- People who are at very high risk of HIV can take PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) to reduce their risk of contracting HIV.
- If you go for piercings, tattoos, or medication, make sure you go to a place you can trust to use clean, sterile needles. Never share needles.
What can I do this World AIDS Day?
- The symbol for World AIDS Day is the red ribbon. You can make and wear red ribbons on December 1st to raise awareness about AIDS. Many people also wear the color red to show their support.
- Share information about HIV and AIDS on your social media to help spread the word. Follow @TeenSource on Facebook and Twitter and @TeenSourceOrg on Instagram for ideas!
- Spread the word in your community- pass out red ribbons, create posters with information, share facts about HIV and AIDS at your school.
- Watch a movie! Find a list of HIV/AIDS themed films. You could even host a film screening and talk about the issues from the movie.
- Share medically accurate information with your friends to help stop HIV stigma and myths.
- Get tested! Find a clinic near you.