Tips For Teens About
GET THE FACTS
AIDS--Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome--is caused by HIV, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV weakens your body's immune system, making it less able to fight against diseases and infections. HIV passes from one person to another through contact with the bodily fluids of someone infected with the virus. Most often, the virus spreads through oral, vaginal, or anal sex during which a condom is not used, or by sharing a needle. Mothers can pass the virus on to their babies during pregnancy or birth or by breast-feeding.
It's not a "gay thing." Many persons who become infected are heterosexual. In a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more females than males ages 13-19 tested positive for HIV. The most common source of infection for females of all ages is heterosexual sex.
Using alcohol and drugs increases your risk. Alcohol and drugs affect your judgment and lower your inhibitions. As a result, drinking or taking drugs can lead you to take risks you are less likely to take when sober, such as having unprotected sex.
Injected drug use was the cause of at least 11 percent of infections for young people ages 13-24.3 Any drug use, however, contributes to the spread of HIV/AIDS when users trade sex for drugs or when they engage in risky behaviors while under the influence of drugs.
BEFORE YOU RISK IT
Get the facts. Not having sexual intercourse is the most effective way to avoid STDs, including HIV/AIDS. For teens who choose to be sexually active, these prevention measures lower your risk of an HIV infection.
Know the risks. The majority of young people who have HIV are infected sexually. As more teens have become aware of the risk, fewer are having sex and more teens who are sexually active are using condoms.4 The second most common source of HIV is intravenous drug use, but any activity where blood exchange is possible is risky. Teens should not share needles for any activity, including steroid drug injection, tattooing, or body piercing.5
Stay informed. While most people who have the disease now live much longer due to medical research and new drugs, there is no cure.
KNOW THE SIGNS
How can you tell if you or someone else may already have HIV? If you have not had unprotected sex or shared a needle, it is very unlikely that you have HIV. The only way to know if you are infected is to be tested. The following may be warning signs of HIV infection:
No one should assume they are infected if they have these symptoms. Any of these symptoms can be related to other illnesses. Again, the only way to find out if you are infected with HIV is to be tested.
What can you do to help someone whose substance abuse problem is putting them at risk for HIV/AIDS? Be a real friend. You might even save a life. Encourage your friend to stop using substances or seek professional help. For information and referrals, call the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information at 800-729-6686.
Q. Can you get HIV/AIDS from casual
contact with an infected person or their stuff?
A. No. HIV/AIDS is not spread through sweat, tears, or saliva. The body fluids that have been shown to contain high concentrations of HIV include blood, semen, vaginal fluid, breast milk, and other body fluids containing blood.
Q. If you already have HIV, does it
really matter if you drink or use drugs?
A.Yes. Not using tobacco, alcohol, or drugs improves your chances of staying healthy longer. Use of any of these substances can cause other health problems, interfere with your treatment medications, or both.
Q. Who is most likely to get HIV/ AIDS?
A. Anyone who has unprotected sex, shares a needle, or exchanges blood with an infected person is at risk. HIV is a virus. AIDS is a disease. Viruses do not care about age, race, gender, or sexual orientation.
The bottom line: If you know someone who is risking exposure to HIV/AIDS, urge him or her to stop. If your behavior places you at risk of an HIV/AIDS infection--STOP! If you have already placed yourself at risk, get tested and follow your doctor's instructions. The longer you ignore the real facts, the more chances you take with your life. Talk to your parents, a doctor, a counselor, a teacher, or another adult you trust. You also can call the CDC National AIDS Hotline at 800-342-2437 for more information.
Do it today--it's your life.
Info Provided By: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services