What is AIDS? Why do I need to know about AIDS? How does someone get infected with HIV?

Are you sure you can't be infected any other way? How do you prevent infection with HIV? How can I find out if I am infected? What can I do if I am HIV-positive? I Can't Cope with my Fear of AIDS How Should I Act Around People with AIDS? What is AIDS? Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a condition that gradually destroys the body's immune defense system and makes the body vulnerable to opportunistic diseases. It is caused by infection with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). After HIV invades the body, it lives and multiplies in the white blood cells, which are the cells that protect the body from disease. As the virus multiplies, it damages or kills these and other cells, and the body becomes prey to a wide range of disease-causing microbes. When HIV has destroyed enough white blood cells, the body is no longer able to fight off many infections, and a person begins to get sick. If a person with HIV infection has not had many white cells die, that person feels fine and looks fine. That person is asymptomatic (that is, has no symptoms of AIDS), but can still give the virus to someone else. People who are infected with HIV can be asymptomatic, looking and feeling well for ten years or even longer. That is why the practice of safer sex is vitally important, even with people who seem to be well. As more and more white cells die, the HIV-infected person begins to get sick and is then said to be symptomatic. When there are very few white cells left,

Everyone needs to know about AIDS because it waits at everyone's door. They live in every state and community in our nation.particularly of the kind called CD4+. by injecting drugs with needles you are sharing with someone who is infected. churches and mosques. how to support the people around us who are HIVinfected. the HIV-infected person has AIDS. In less than 15 years. the virus that causes AIDS. and one or more serious diseases start occurring. People infected with HIV are our friends and neighbors. our brothers and sisters. an estimated 20 million people worldwide have been infected with HIV. Hiding behind the veils of cultural superiority or karma is not an option. Why do I need to know about AIDS? As of today. Each of us must learn how to prevent infection with HIV. They are our children. It has also been found recently that Indians do not have genetic protection against the AIDS virus compared to other groups. This means that they get infected more easily compared to other groups. A person can let that happen in one of three ways: o o o by having sex without a condom with someone who is infected. millions of Indians have been diagnosed with AIDS. Since the epidemic began. they are people in our offices and schools. 50% in South India. state. AIDS has become the principal killer of all Indians between the ages of 15 and 49. by having a blood transfusion with blood from an infected donor. our parents. millions have died. However. and how to make sure that our national. especially the southern population (Haplogroup L. AIDS is a sexually transmitted disease and has to be tackled accordingly. 15% elsewhere and in Pakistan). How does someone get infected with HIV? For someone to get infected with HIV. blood donated for trans-fusions in is now . and local governments deal sensibly with this insidious disease. temples. the virus must get past the skin into the body.

Are you sure you can't be infected any other way? Millions of people in the world have been infected with HIV. or during breast feeding. The best ways to be sure are to practice safer sex by using condoms and to refuse to share drug-injection equipment with anyone. the shared use of contaminated needles for injecting drugs is responsible for a growing proportion of new infections. blood transfusions. A condom will keep the virus. No one has ever been infected by a shared coffee cup. use a latex condom. spoon. and breast milk. shared needles. or fork. Use a latex condom every time you have sex. so by now we would know if there were any ways to get the infection other than through unprotected sex. If you have vaginal or anal sex. Globally.tested for HIV. or while breast feeding. Use a condom or a dental dam (a square of latex) if you have oral sex. or mother-to-child transmission during pregnancy. birth. There is a fourth way in which the virus can pass from one person to another: It can pass from an infected woman to her baby in the womb. which can be found in semen or vaginal fluids. or by the use of a water fountain or a toilet seat. most HIV infections have resulted from unprotected sex. No one has ever been infected by hugging people with AIDS or by eating dinner with them or by dancing with them or by keeping them company and listening when they need to talk to someone. so people are almost never infected through blood transfusions. In the United States. vaginal fluid. You can prevent infection with HIV by making sure that these fluids from an HIV-infected man or woman don't have a chance to enter your body. No one has ever been infected by a mosquito or another insect. during birth. How do you prevent infection with HIV? HIV in sufficient amounts to cause infection exists in blood. from getting into your body. semen. Always use a latex .

or insulin. phone sex. Do this at least twice. But always use a condom with nonoxynol-9 foam or lubricant: the chemical alone is not enough to protect you. Oil-based lubricants. If you use a needle to inject anything: drugs. For additional protection. You can find out if you have been infected with HIV by getting a blood test for the HIV antibody. If you have the HIV antibody in your blood. can make the condom break. or necking. foreplay. choose a lubricant that contains the spermicide nonoxynol-9. remember that many kinds of sex won't put you at risk for HIV infection. If you are thinking about having a child. and squirt the water into the sink. To kill the HIV in your syringe (rig or works) and needle. lambskin condoms don't protect you from HIV. Remember that cookers and cotton can also have HIV in them. don't share it with anyone. then squirt the bleach into a sink. Always use a water-based lubricant. Do this twice. full strength) household bleach. so don't share them with anyone. Clean your injection equipment and never share it. you are HIVpositive.condom. soak the filled equipment in the bleach for 30 seconds. or petroleum jelly (Vaseline). Try massage. such as K-Y Jelly or Foreplay. you should ask to be tested before you become pregnant. If the test does not find the HIV antibody in your blood. How can I find out if I am infected? When HIV infects you. especially since passing the virus from mother to child can now be prevented. you must clean them with undiluted (that is. your body tries to fight the infection in the same way it fights all viruses and bacteria: It produces antibodies against the virus. Also. Not sharing is much easier than cleaning in this case. Being HIV-positive does not mean that you have AIDS. like vegetable oil. Pull the bleach up into the needle and syringe. . Then pull clean water into the needle and syringe. but it does mean that you have become infected with HIV and that you can pass the infection to someone else. hand lotion. which seems to kill HIV. masturbation (with a partner or alone). you are HIV-negative.

see your doctor or go to a health clinic. even if you don't have any symptoms of illness. Be sure to practice safer sex and to use only clean needles in the time between tests. Often they can help you find the best doctor to talk with about your personal situation. If you are pregnant. Since no one can trace anonymous results back to you. Ask if treatment is advised. you have greater protection from discrimination. What can I do if I am HIV-positive? There are treatments for HIV infection that can help keep you healthy and may prevent other infections. If you test negative again.However. when. it may be very difficult for you to get new life. and how. you may find it helpful to talk with others who are HIV-positive. Also. If you are tested in a health clinic. They can help you deal with issues like who to tell. So if you are HIV-positive. you will receive counseling and will have a chance to ask questions. The availability of treatments is one of the best reasons why you should decide to be tested. That is. many people choose anonymous-testing sites for HIV-antibody tests. Before and after testing. if you have had unprotected sex or have shared needles with someone not long ago. hospital. To make sure that you aren't infected. enroll in a prenatal care pro-gram and be tested again. If a company learns that you're HIV-positive. Anonymous testing means that you can be tested without having to give your name or address. however. For that reason. Ask the doctor to perform tests to evaluate the strength of your immune system. but people outside the health-care setting will not be able to get the information without your permission. or disability insurance. then the challenge for you is to stay negative for the rest of your life. that your health insurance company will probably be able to get information about your HIV test from your medical record. it will be entered in your medical record. it's a good idea to have yourself tested again in six months. health. Be aware. There are many useful publications available from your local AIDS . if you are HIV-positive. you are given a code number that you must use when you return for your test result. or doctor's office. the result will be kept confidential. Instead. you may have become infected too recently for the antibody to be detected.

We look away. left alone. We avoid the subject. "The Worried Well" Physically well people living with the fear of AIDS and the fear of getting it have been referred to as the "worried well". but we don't really like to talk about AIDS.service organizations. or depression. They notice that people stop touching them. I Can't Cope with my Fear of AIDS Many of us are physically well yet troubled that we might have AIDS. sickness. How Should I Act Around People with AIDS? We get nervous. You shouldn't be ashamed. This fear is often reasonable -. anxiety. nearly everyone is frightened and concerned however well they feel. They feel themselves gradually being pushed outside. joyless. cast off by society. They know that their friends avoid certain subjects with them. We don't want to know. and death. People with AIDS know all of this. spouses or unborn children . AIDS forces us to confront parts of life we are uncomfortable with. People in these organizations can help you to learn more about living with HIV and to arrive at decisions that make sense for you. and unsatisfying. They hear us talk about "innocent victims of AIDS" and wonder if they are among the guilty. If you haven't . It's normal to have some fear or troubling thoughts and uncertainties about what to do or say.an emotional call to do something concrete to reduce the actual danger of contracting AIDS. like sexuality. we don't know how to act around people with AIDS. not called. been infected with the AIDS virus. But there are those of us among the "worried well" who think so much about AIDS that worry itself becomes a central part of our lives. but our behavior shows the effects of fear. Some of us may not even be aware of worrying. We'd rather avoid them. and worse still. We may not like to admit this to ourselves. but with newspapers carrying daily stories about AIDS. The information above was provided by The American Foundation For AIDS Research (AmFAR). we lead lives that are sad. Everyone is unsure of how to act in new situations. or be passing the virus to our sexual partners.

Get to know people living with AIDS Knowing people who are living with HIV helps to humanize the disease and allows you to see beyond the staggering headlines and statistics. We also may feel uncomfortable around.and show . however. you're probably not going to know what to do when you first meet someone who does. What then. It's important to remember the difference between being HIV positive and having AIDS. a few wrong assumptions many of us make about what to say or do around people with AIDS that can lead to thoughtless and mistaken characterizations and prejudgment. people we don't know.anywhere you meet people. however. they often look just like everyone else.known anyone with a fatal disease before. As the disease progresses. co-workers and caregivers.on the job. . We only need to treat them with the same respect and humanity with which. People who have AIDS may seem scary as well. The obvious way to solve this problem is to get to know some people living with AIDS. You probably already know people who are HIV positive. or have wrong ideas about. or visiting the AIDS ward. ideally. There are. whether you are delivering meals. and you just are not aware of it. at the grocery store . These are probably the people you will meet if you begin volunteering for AIDS service organizations. While we should be aware of some basic health issues and special sensitivities people with AIDS might have. they may need more assistance and support. there is no need to learn any special new kind of behavior to use with them. you can't tell who has been infected. AIDS isn't really about numbers and risk groups-it's about people. we treat everyone. are beginning to feel . at a baseball game. Unless people tell you their HIV status. AIDS is a scary disease. about friends and family. Those who have been diagnosed with AIDS. People who are HIV positive may be healthy. providing practical support.the effects of a weakened immune system. is the best way to reach out to people living with AIDS? The following suggestions should help. You can meet people with HIV anywhere . Most of us are afraid or unsure of ourselves in unfamiliar situations.

a friend. Your local library probably has a number of the excellent books listed in the back of this chapter. These works contain many inspiring and moving stories about the lives of people with AIDS. For instance. watch documentaries.There are many ways to learn about AIDS and how it affects the lives of those who live with it. A good first step is to read books. work at a dropin center. even a family member. Don't misspeak about AIDS Language and how we use it is very important. There are no "AIDS victims" One of the most important changes we should make is to stop using the term victim to refer to people who are living with AIDS. or even read plays by or about people with AIDS. there are a number of disrespectful and dehumanizing words we may use unintentionally. It reveals a lot about what we think and how we feel. We . There are many ways to make a difference. As the disease takes hold in more communities across the country and around the world. When talking about AIDS. you may want to become acquainted with people who are living with AIDS. and families. If AIDS has not yet touched your life so personally. their caregivers. a film about the AIDS Memorial Quilt. it becomes more and more likely that you will know someone who is affected by AIDS . By calling someone an AIDS victim we are saying that he or she is powerless in the face of this disease and should have no hope. One of the best and most helpful ways to get to know a person with AIDS is to volunteer f or an AIDS service organization in your community. Many video stores rent films like Philadelphia or Longtime Companion and documentaries such as Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt. a co-worker. or help to provide practical or emotional support to people who are living with the disease. you can deliver meals to people with AIDS. Once you have an understanding of AIDS as a force in the lives of individuals and not just as a faraway and terrifying plague. you may feel ready to become involved in the fight against the disease.

It implies that some of the ways of contracting the virus are all right and others are not. This question serves no real purpose and gets in the way of getting to know a person living with AIDS. No one deserves to suffer. No one with AIDS deserves to have it. There are no "innocent victims" Early in the epidemic . serves only to increase the stigma attached to this awful disease. it suggests how the individual being referred to is seen by the group." These phrases and acronyms help to maintain the humanity of the person involved." This implied that anyone who caught the disease because of doing something unsafe was some sort of guilty perpetrator of AIDS who deserved to suffer a terrible death. "person with AIDS.and even today. People . how do we relax enough to be casual with a person who has AIDS? Many people become very nervous about this. Worrying that they might offend or upset. simply. which casts some as innocent and lays blame on others. Be yourself: behave normally toward people with AIDS Now that we know AIDS can't be spread by casual contact. People are often confused about what to call a person living with AIDS. If the term victim is out. what can you say? Most say. A name signifies more than just the words used. It's like asking someone if they are an innocent victim or if they deserved it. unfortunately ." Others even make it "PLWA" or "person living with AIDS. There are just people with AIDS What you call someone is important." which is often shortened to "PWA.it was common for people to talk about the "innocent victims" of AIDS who caught the disease "through no fault of their own.should instead use our words to emphasize the strength and the hope of those fighting AIDS. and they avoid reducing anyone to a diagnosis or condition. they find it hard to relax and behave naturally. Do not ask how a person caught HIV It's tactless to ask how a person got AIDS. This sort of judgment.

While the gay and lesbian response has been inspiring. you probably won't take the precautions that could save your own life. . The AIDS epidemic provides an opportunity to accept others and to practice compassion. Treat people with AIDS with respect and awareness. class. people with AIDS miss out on this ordinary physical contact. It is not simply a gay disease. less love. not with velvet gloves. Without touch. and the spread of fear and hatred in our society. these issues should not stop people from making contact. there is less reinforcement. While it is true that gay men were among the first and hardest hit. Understand that anyone can have AIDS AIDS crosses all lines of gender. religion. your friendly intention makes more of an impact than a few wrong words ever could. there is a sense of isolation. it's one of the ways we know that we are liked and trusted by others. Don't be afraid to touch Humans crave touch. poor choices. You may also think of those who are infected with HIV or living with AIDS as different or as deserving of their fate. Gays and lesbians responded very publicly and heroically to the epidemic.with AIDS will be much more upset by distance and restraint than by anything you might say. When you make a genuine attempt to know someone. Hugging and shaking hands are completely safe and can make a huge difference in the life of someone with AIDS. Because so many people are afraid of touching them. it leads to unnecessary risk-taking. The main challenge is to not behave differently toward people with AIDS. less comfort. Don't be afraid of saying the wrong thing Although it is important to learn about respectful language and other sensitivities. This attitude not only stigmatizes those living with AIDS. If you see AIDS as a disease that only touches other people's lives. Without touch. and sexuality. of being alone. Being touched is comforting. the public has been less receptive to AIDS information because it perceives AIDS as a gay disease. AIDS has spread far beyond this community.

both in our homes and offices. When you go to work sick. Be aware of special health needs There are many things we take for granted in our daily lives. A healthy environment is good for everyone and can help reduce the risk of spreading common colds. and sense of humor. but which feels very different to the person on the receiving end. and more serious infections among all people. People with AIDS have special health needs that force them to worry daily about things most of us never even think about. like anyone who is facing a terminal illness. the environment presents many challenges and hazards. without pity. you not only run yourself down and increase your own recovery time. and keep things clean. and so on-you may wonder if your relationship with that person will change. There are a number of things we can do to make life easier-and more healthy-for people with AIDS. Make sure there is adequate ventilation at home and in the workplace. perhaps a friend of a friend. Make sure that airconditioning filters are cleaned regularly and that thermostats are not set too low. Since people with AIDS have a tough time fighting off infections. Also. flus. Pity is an emotion that may seem loving or kind to the one who feels it. dislikes. a person with AIDS wants and deserves to be treated with respect. . Provide a healthy space. Bacterial and fungal infections that are airborne or spread on surfaces can be very damaging to people with weakened immune systems. particularly in kitchens and bathrooms. you may also give what you have to co-workers. Don't go to work sick. including people with AIDS or HIV. It's important to keep this in mind when relating to people with AIDS.If you know someone who has AIDS-if not a friend. no one likes feeling powerless or like a burden. It is kinder to ask "May I help you?" than to say "Do you need help with that?" No one wants to feel patronized or condescended to. But for someone with an immune weakness. or being able to move comfortably in many environments. Remember. a person's personality doesn't change when disease strikes. most importantly. such as the ability of our immune system to fight off everpresent germs. a friend's family member. dignity and. They still have the same likes. keeping your cold and flu bugs at home helps everyone stay healthier.

. dairy products. is spread most commonly through cleaning out kitty litter. overdo the cologne or the air freshener. or soft. Strong scents can be overpowering to someone with a weakened immune system. Avoid undercooked. unwashed.Avoid strong scents in personal care and household products. raw fish. Keep pet waste out of the way. and aged foods. undercooked meats. since people with AIDS are more sensitive to harmful bacteria than healthy people are. Be sure to wash foods that may have been chemically treated. Psittacosis is an infectious disease-causing organism that is spread through bird feces. including lots of fruits. Although animals can be a tremendous source of love and joy for people living with AIDS. they can be harmful to the health of people with AIDS. vegetables. available. sausage. and eggs (sushi. and death. While caffeinated beverages seem to be what makes the world go 'round. Don't serve risky foods. ripened cheeses (like Camembert). such as cheeses. coma. a serious fungal infection that leads to seizures. handling their waste products can be dangerous-even deadly. Some foods to avoid are: Unpasteurized milk. for example. eggnogs). Be sure to have noncaffeinated options. and whole grains. meats. oysters. Do not. such as herbal teas. Good foods for people with compromised immune systems are basically the same foods that are healthy for the rest of us. or moldy items. or potentially spoiled foods. Toxoplasmosis. Have noncaffeinated beverages available.