Photographer : Meredith James
: ‘I can get AIDS if a person with AIDS coughs or sneezes near me or if I use the same toilet seat.’MYTH
: ‘Insects, such as cockroaches, bed bugs and mosquitoes spread AIDS.MYTH
: ‘If I kiss a person with AIDS on the cheek or drink from the same glass, then I can get the disease.’MYTH
: 'I’m a heterosexual woman. I’m not at risk’So, how could I get AIDS?
First of all you can’t ‘catch’ AIDS. You get HIV and then as your immune system wears down, AIDS develops. You can get HIV from anyone who is infected by HIV, even if they don’t look sick and even if they haven’t yet tested HIV positive.
HIV is spread through certain body fluids:
- vaginal fluids
- breast milk (for infants only).
Infection can occur when fluids pass from one person’s body to another. There are 3 main ways this can happen:
- through unprotected sex (sex without a condom), this includes anal, vaginal or oral sex
- by sharing ‘works’ (needles and syringes, cookers, cottons and water) when injecting drugs or other substances
- from a mother to her child before birth, during birth or while breast-feeding.
Note: the chance of having a healthy baby greatly increases with proper medical care; so getting advice from a health care professional is recommended.
There are no documented cases of HIV being passed on by tears or saliva. However, it is possible to be become infected with HIV through oral sex, or in rare cases, through deep kissing, especially if you have open sores in your mouth or bleeding gums.
Blood transfusions were once a way that people got infected with HIV but blood supplies are now screened very carefully and the risks are low.How do I know if I have HIV/AIDS?
You might not know if you are infected with HIV. You might have a fever, common cold or saw joints. One way to know for sure is to take a HIV antibody test.
If a person is infected with HIV, their body will produce HIV antibodies, which can be detected via a HIV antibody test. However after infection, the body can take up to three months to produce HIV antibodies; so although you may have HIV, the test results can come out negative. This period is called the ‘window period’. Recent developments in testing means there are now special blood tests available, called nucleic acid amplification that can detect HIV infection during the window period.Where can I get tested?
If you think you might be HIV positive, you can get tested by your local GP or at a sexual health centre. If you don’t want to get tested by your local GP there are AIDS councils in your state or territory that can recommend a GP with experience in HIV testing.
If you would like to have a HIV test or sexual health check up, you can use the ASHM directory to locate a service near you: http://www.ashm.org.au/hivdir/index.php
How do I know this?
AIDS.org, Safer Sex Guidelines
AIDS.org, Acute HIV Infection
Acute-HIV-Infection.html (last accessed 20.9.05)
AIDS.org, What is AIDS?
Australasian Society for HIV Medicine, ASHM Directory, http://www.ashm.org.au/hivdir/index.php
Gay Men’s Heath Crisis, HIV AIDS and Basics
Youth Noise, Top 10 Myths About AIDS
, http://www.youthnoise.com/page.php?page_id=452 Affected by this issue yourself or know someone who is? Check out our sister site http://www.reachout.com.au