Teen STI Card—HIV

Think you can’t get HIV and AIDS? Are you positive?

Every year, nearly 4 million American teenagers get a new STD (sexually transmitted disease).1,2  If you’ve had sex, you could have an STD. Some STDs cause symptoms. Others don’t. You could have one now and not even know it. Just because you don’t know you’re infected doesn’t mean you’re not being affected. Some STDs make you sick today and others cause problems like cancer, infertility or death later. So get your facts straight about HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) and AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).

What is it?

HIV is a virus that invades the immune system and destroys it over time; this reduces a person’s ability to fight off infections and cancer. People with HIV eventually develop AIDS, which is often fatal.

How do you get it?

You can get HIV from contact with infected blood or body fluids during vaginal or oral sex, and the risk is greatly increased if you have anal sex, multiple partners or shoot drugs.3 Infected pregnant girls can pass it on to their babies.4 You don’t get HIV from the type of casual contact you have at school. 

What happens if I’m infected?

At first, you may just have short-lived, flu-like symptoms (tiredness, fever aches). You may have no other symptoms for years.5 Even with no symptoms, you can still pass on the disease during sex. If you go on to get AIDS, you may get multiple infections that other people fight off easily.

How do you treat HIV and AIDS?

Most people with HIV can prolong their lives by carefully taking medicine every day for the rest of their life. These drugs are expensive, hard to take and have side effects. 

Am I safe if I always use a condom or switch to oral sex?

Using condoms exactly as directed every time you have sex can reduce your risk of getting HIV by about 85%.6 However, this still leaves a significant chance of getting a deadly disease. It is also possible for HIV to be passed during oral sex.

What can I do to avoid being infected with HIV and AIDS?

Don’t shoot drugs. If you’re single, abstain from sexual activity. If you get married, be faithful. If you haven’t had sex (oral, vaginal or anal) and don’t shoot drugs, your chances of getting HIV and AIDS are small. Already had sex? Get checked out—and next time, get your facts straight.

References:

1 American Social Health Association. Sexually Transmitted Diseases in America: How Many Cases and at What Cost? Menlo Park, CA: Kaiser Family Foundation, 1998. Available at: http://www.kff.org/womenshealth/1445-std_rep.cfm. Accessed 2008 Aug 20.

2 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Healthy People 2010: Understanding and Improving Health. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, November 2000. Available at: http://www.healthypeople.gov/document/html/volume2/25stds.htm#_ednref28. Accessed 2008 Aug 20.

3 Del Rio C, Curran JW. Epidemiology and prevention of acquired immune deficiency syndrome and human immunodeficiency virus infection. In Mandell GL, et al., eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier, Inc; 2005:1477-1506.

4 Ibid.

5 Sterling TR, Chaisson RE. H. General clinical manifestations of human immunodeficiency virus infection (including the acute retroviral syndrome and oral, cutaneous, renal, ocular, and cardiac diseases). In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 6th ed. Philadelphia: Elsevier; 2005:1546-1566.

6 Davis KR, Weller SC. The effectiveness of condoms in reducing heterosexual transmission of HIV. Fam Plann Perspect. 1999;31(6):272-279.