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 Frequently Asked Questions about HIV & AIDS
Q. Can I become infected with HIV by shaking hands with, kissing, eating the same food as, or being sneezed or coughed on by someone who has HIV? Can I get HIV from a toilet seat? Or by being bitten by an infected mosquito? Or from a swimming pool?
No. This is because HIV is not an airborne, water-borne or food-borne virus. HIV can be passed from one person to another only when people exchange blood or sexual fluids (like semen or vaginal secretions). HIV cannot survive for very long outside of the human body. So you can't get HIV by having ordinary social contact with an infected person.

Q. Can I Get HIV From Open-mouth Kissing?
Open-mouth kissing is considered a very low-risk activity for the transmission of HIV. However, prolonged open-mouth kissing could allow HIV to pass from an infected person to a partner through cuts or sores in the mouth. Because of this possible risk, the Centers for Disease Control recommends against open-mouth kissing with a person infected with HIV.

Q. Can HIV Be Passed Between Women(lesbians) During Sex?
It is possible to sexually transmit HIV from one woman to another, but this is rare.

However rare such transmission may be, there is a small potential for infection with HIV among women who have sexual contact with other women. Women should be aware of any risky behaviors of their sex partners. Vaginal and cervical secretions and menstrual blood are potentially infectious. Oral or vaginal contact with infected blood or secretions can lead to HIV transmission. Cells in the mucous lining of the mouth may carry HIV into the lymph nodes or the bloodstream. This risk increases when there are cuts or sores in the mouth, throat, or genital area. Therefore, it is possible to transmit HIV through oral-vaginal contact.

Q. What Is the Risk of Contracting HIV From a Single Sexual Contact?
The actual risk from a single contact is not clear. Transmission of HIV has been reported after only one sexual contact with an infected partner. In other cases, though, people remain uninfected despite hundreds of contacts with an infected partner. This suggests that unexplained biologic or behavioral factors may determine transmission.

Q. Can I Get HIV From Getting a Tattoo or Body Piercing?
A risk of HIV transmission exists if instruments contaminated with blood are either not sterilized or disinfected, or are used inappropriately between clients. Instruments intended to penetrate the skin should be used once, then disposed of or thoroughly cleaned and sterilized.

Personal service workers who do tattooing or body piercing should be educated about how HIV is transmitted. They should take precautions to prevent transmission of HIV and other blood-borne infections in their settings. If you are considering getting a tattoo or having your body pierced, ask the staff at the establishment what procedures they use to prevent the spread of HIV and other blood-borne infections, such as hepatitis B virus.

Q. Can I Get Infected With HIV While Playing Sports?
The very low risk of transmission during sports participation would involve sports with direct body contact in which bleeding might be expected to occur. If someone is bleeding, they should be removed from play until the wound stops bleeding. The wound should be antiseptically cleaned and securely bandaged.

There is no risk of HIV transmission through sports activities where bleeding does not occur.

Q. Is There a Connection Between HIV and Other Sexually Transmitted Diseases?
Yes, there is a connection. Some sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as syphilis and herpes cause irritation, breaks, or sores of the skin. These lesions provide a route for HIV to enter the body during sexual contact.

However, there is also a risk for transmission even when an STD such as chlamydia or gonorrhea causes no breaks or open sores. These infections can stimulate an immune response in the genital area that can make HIV transmission more likely. In addition, if an HIV-infected person is also infected with another STD, that person is three to five times more likely than other HIV-infected people to transmit HIV to others through sexual contact.

Q. How and where can I get tested for HIV?
The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention currently recommend testing 6 months after the last possible exposure. Common testing locations include local health departments, offices of private doctors, hospitals, and sites specifically set up to provide HIV testing.

Q. How long will the HIV test take?
HIV tests don't take very long. The test involves taking a small sample of blood, which is analyzed for the presence of HIV antibodies. Depending on the kind of test used by the center you go to, you can get your test result in a few hours or the next day.
There are latest HIV tests which give results in 20 minutes flat.

Q. What do my HIV test results mean?
A positive result means:
# You are HIV-positive, meaning the virus that eventually leads to AIDS was found in your body.
# Being HIV-positive means that you could infect others with HIV if you have unprotected sex.
# Finding out you are HIV-positive can be a traumatic experience. Many people worry about what their families, friends, and community will think. Talking to a counselor can help.

A positive result does NOT mean:
# You have AIDS.
# You will die soon. People who take good care of their bodies by eating nutritious food, maintaining good hygiene, and avoiding contact with those who are sick can live for many years with HIV.
A negative result means:
# No antibodies were found in your blood at this time.
# A negative result does NOT mean:
# You are not infected with HIV (if you could have been exposed to HIV at any time in the last 3-6 months).
# You are immune to AIDS or will never get AIDS.

Q. If I am an HIV-positive woman who is pregnant or thinking about it, are there things I need to know about how passing HIV infection to my baby?
Yes. A pregnant woman can pass HIV/AIDS to her baby while she is pregnant or during the birth of the baby. A mother can also pass HIV/AIDS on to her baby through breastfeeding (there are small amounts of HIV in the breast milk of HIV-infected women).

If a woman is HIV-positive, there are several ways to reduce the likelihood she will pass the HIV infection on to her baby. A doctor might give her drugs such as zidovudine (AZT) and nevirapine (if they are available) to a pregnant woman with HIV/AIDS to decrease her chance of passing the infection to her baby. Good nutrition and antenatal care can also reduce this risk. An HIV-positive woman may wish to talk to a counselor or doctor about the advantages and disadvantages of breastfeeding her baby.

If a woman knows whether or not she is HIV-positive, she can make careful decisions to protect the health of her child if she is pregnant or plans to become pregnant.

Q. How long can people with HIV survive?
There is no answer this question. It is true that with antiretroviral therapy, people living with HIV have had a significant decrease in HIV related illnesses and an increase in survival. Some individuals have already been alive over 20 years with the virus. And many people with HIV die from causes unrelated to their HIV.

How HIV will affect a person's life span in the future is unknown. As humans continue to learn more about HIV, the lifespan of those infected with HIV will continue to increase.

Q. How long does the virus survive in a corpse?
This question has relevance for those involved in burial practices e.g. bathing the body and touching the body while preparing it for burial. The risk does not only lie with the HIV virus but also with other opportunistic infections. A corpse, particularly of a person known to have been HIV infected, must be handled as if infectious. This would be irrespective of the duration of time since death. Any fluids or tissues should be handled utilising universal precautions - i.e.: with gloves. During autopsy, gloves and eye protections should be used at all times. As above - there is risk from infection beyond HIV. Most other pathogens are heartier and longer-lived than HIV. You would be concerned about hepatitis, and TB amongst many others.

Q. How long does it survive in the blood outside the body?
If the blood is dry, the virus will be dead. If it is wet, a chance exists that it could still be active. The risk is very small, but rather be safe. Always try and use gloves when you are in a situation where you might be in contact with blood. HIV is very short lived on an inanimate surface. In wet fluid, consider infectious.

Q. Do traditional healers cure AIDS?
Traditional healers can be very successful in dealing with the symptoms of HIV/AIDS and this is where this myth has come from. They have an important role to play in treating symptoms and in boosting the immune system but they cannot cure AIDS.

Q. Is masturbation good?
Masturbation is the safest option people have with regards to sexual practice and the transmission of sexually transmitted infections such as HIV/AIDS.

Q. Do you think the AIDS virus will ever go airborne?
Currently research indicates that the AIDS virus does not thrive outside the human body. Although not impossible, it is not likely to become an airborne disease.

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