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AIDS: How to Protect Yourself and Others
What is HIV/AIDS?
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) infects people by entering the bloodstream after direct contact with semen, vaginal fluids, or blood from an infected person. Virtually all HIV-infected persons will eventually develop AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), although the time from HIV infection to AIDS can range from 2 to 15 years. People with AIDS usually die from serious infections because the virus permanently invades special blood cells which work to fight off infections and rid the body of cancerous cells. There is no cure at present, but there are medications to prolong the lives of infected people.
Q: How can you tell if someone is infected with the AIDS virus?
A: You can't!
A person infected with HIV can feel and appear well for up to 10-15 years but still be able to spread the virus to others during this time.
Many people are infected but do not know it. Others may suspect they carry the virus but are afraid to be tested. Others may not be honest about their HIV infection, their sexual/drug history or pretend that they have been tested when they have not.
Protect Yourself from AIDS
Highest Risk of Infection
- Unprotected (without a condom) anal intercourse
- Unprotected vaginal intercourse
- Sharing needles for any reason (injecting any drug, including steroids)
- Unprotected sexual contact with multiple partners
- Unprotected sexual contact with someone whose sexual history is unknown
Moderate Risk of Infection
- Unprotected oral sex (mouth on genitals without a condom or dental dam)
- Attempted protected sexual contact using a condom, but due to tearing/breaking or the condom slipping, some body fluids were possibly exchanged
Lower Risk of Infection
- Oral sex with a condom or dental dam
- Deep (French) kissing when blood may be present
No Risk of Infection
- Abstinence from vaginal, anal and oral sex
- Hugging, touching and massaging
- Mutual masturbation (no cuts or sores on hands)
- Any sex with a long-term partner who has never used injectable drugs, is monogamous and is HIV negative. Both partners should be tested for HIV before any unprotected sexual contact.
You can't get AIDS from...
- Hugging/touching a person with HIV
- Using any equipment, touching any surface or using a toilet after a person who is HIV positive
- A mosquito bite
Note: Because of the presence of blood, it is not a good idea to share razors or toothbrushes with HIV-infected individuals.
Reduce Your Risk of Getting AIDS
Abstain from sex until you can enter into a long-term monogamous relationship with an uninfected person who does not inject drugs. Be sure you are only having sex with each other.
If you are not certain that your sex partner is uninfected and monogamous, use latex condoms every time-start to finish-using a water-soluble lubricant (such as KY Jelly).
Condoms lubricated with spermicide can cause irritation in the genital area. This can actually increase the chance of HIV infection. Condoms lubricated with spermicide are no more effective in preventing pregnancy. Use only water-based lubricants - never spermicide.
Don't use drugs. If you do, don't share needles. If you use drugs or excessive alcohol and can't stop, get help.
Creating Intimacy in a World With AIDS
Many people want a relationship where they can safely share their feelings and sometimes their bodies. Being intimate with someone does not necessarily mean you are having sex. The more connection you feel with your partner the easier it will be to share your views on safer sex. If a person is turned off by your need for safety, she/he may not be a good long-term partner for you.
A diagnosis of a sexually transmitted infection (including herpes, genital warts, syphilis, gonorrhea or chlamydia) poses increased risk of HIV because of breaks in the protective skin barrier that may allow access for the virus.
If you are in a sexual relationship this would be important information to discuss with your partner.
If you are considering having sex with someone new, discuss this information with him or her ahead of time. Many couples are wisely choosing to get HIV tested anonymously and share their results with each other before they have sex.
If you anticipate getting pregnant and feel you may have any risk for carrying HIV infection, get tested before you conceive. If your test is positive, postpone pregnancy and consult a doctor knowledgeable about HIV/AIDS.
Other Important Considerations
People with HIV need your help and/or emotional support in dealing with this emotionally and financially devastating disease.
HIV infection will not be eliminated by judgment or discrimination against those who are infected. Fear of recrimination will only discourage people from being tested or being honest about their infection, which will in turn hasten the spread of the disease. Protect those who are already infected from further harm.
Children and HIV
Whether you have children or not, this information may be helpful in preparing your children, or those you may have in the future, to deal with the AIDS crisis.
Remember, the best gift you can give them is the knowledge and the skills to take care of themselves by making healthy choices. It is very important to share information with your children that will help them make life-and-death decisions. By age 4 they should know correct anatomic names for body parts. By age 7 they should know about HIV and how it is contracted. By age 11 they should understand reasons for postponing sexual involvement. They must develop the skills to assert themselves regarding sex and drugs in the face of peer pressure.
If you have children, consider what your response to this important question might be: "When is it OK to have sex?" Issues to discuss might include: making sure no harm would come to yourself or your partner; what would happen if pregnancy or infections occurred; and whether or not guilt feelings might occur before, during, or after sex.
Please Teach Others About AIDS
Share this information with other people. You may help save a life. Help reduce irrational panic and resulting discrimination against HIV-infected people.
It's Your Choice
As a member of Utah State University, you have a right to know the facts about HIV infection. You also have the responsibility to use that knowledge when making choices that will affect your quality of life. HIV infection affects every aspect of your well-being-not just your physical health, but your emotional, social, professional, and spiritual health as well.
We are all members of a generation at risk. You are not immune from the effects of HIV on your health, the health of your classmates, and the health of your culture.
Your best defense against HIV will be the behavioral choices you make. And the choices you make are based on a) how you value yourself, b) your ability to communicate your needs, and c) the knowledge you share with your friends and classmates.
Knowledge is nothing without action. Confront these health-related issues. Challenge yourself to understand the reasons behind your behavior; ask questions and seek counsel to troubleshoot on your own behalf. Learn about the risks and options. And learn the rewards of empowering yourself and your university community.
You have a choice to make about your well-being. Make it based on knowledge, self-worth, and action.