HIV/AIDS

Cause: Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

The information we have on AIDS is very difficult to condense and encapsulate into the space provided. This is due to the amount of information that needs to be read and understood by all people,whether they are sexually active or not. This site does not mean to provide a conclusive and all-inclusive bank of knowledge and information. It is to provide people with useful information on AIDS and HIV that is easy to understand. This site is meant to be a starting point for people who want information on AIDS and HIV.

Your education should not end here! There are many sources of information available in and outside the Internet. Contact your local Public Health office.

What is AIDS?

AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. It is caused by HIV, a virus that primarily attacks the person's immune system, but also affect other parts of the body. The immune system is what allows the body to fight off diseases, from the common cold , to vaginal infections, to cancer. When the virus attacks the immune system, the immune system is not able to fight infection as well as it used to.

What are the symptoms of AIDS and HIV infection?

For a person who is a HIV+, he/she may not have any symptoms, and not know he/she has the virus. It may take several months to over 10 years for a person carrying HIV to develop symptoms of AIDS. Symptoms of AIDS include:

  • Unexplained weight loss or tiredness
  • Flu-like symptoms that do not go away (fever, night sweats, general malaise, loss of appetite)
  • Diarrhea
  • White patches on the tongue and in the mouth (candida)
  • Recurrent vaginal yeast infections in women

As the disease progresses, the person’s condition will get progressively worse. Symptoms now include…

  • Opportunistic infection: bacterial, viral, fungal, parasitic (ranging from mild to severe)
  • Kaposi’s sarcoma, lymphoma, cervical cancer (in women)
  • Neurological conditions: dementia, memory loss, mood changes, gait changes, loss of feeling in extremities

How can you test for HIV and AIDS?

HIV testing is done through a blood test. There are many testing and counseling centers available that perform the test at present. Contact your local Health Department for local testing sites.

Who should be tested?

The decision to have an HIV test is up to the person him/herself. Testing is suggested for people in high risk groups. These people include:

  • Anyone with more than one sexual partner, or who has a partner who had/has more than one sexual partner
  • Anyone who has injected drugs intravenously
  • Anyone who has had sex with someone who they don't know well enough
  • Anyone who has received a blood, platelet or tissue donation between the years of 1977 to 1985

How can HIV transmission be prevented?

No method is completely foolproof. People who have only one sexual partner are the least likely to get HIV. If you do have or have had more than one partner, or are unsure if your partner may have more than one partner, it is very important to use condoms. It should be noted, however, that condoms cannot protect areas they do not cover. For example: the groin area, the upper thighs and the abdomen.