What is AIDS?
AIDS is a condition caused by a virus called HIV that attacks a person’s immune system, making it defenseless against diseases and infections. The full medical name for AIDS is Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome and the virus is called the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV is transmitted through all forms of sexual intercourse (vaginal, anal, or oral sex) even with the use of a condom, and through sharing needles or syringes with someone who is infected with HIV. Because HIV can “hide” in the body for 10 years or more before it shows up as AIDS, you must never assume that just because you can’t “see” it in a person, that it isn’t there!
Adolescents and AIDS
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HIV/AIDS has been the sixth leading cause of death among 15- to -24 year olds in the United States since 1991. One in five persons newly diagnosed with AIDS is in the 20 – 29 year age group. This means that HIV transmission occurred while they were in their teens, or that they were HIV-positive while they were in their teens. More than half of the new cases of HIV infection in 1994 were related to drug use, either through direct use or through sexual contact with someone who injects drugs.
Research has shown that while most teenagers understand how HIV is transmitted and how they can avoid infection, they need to understand that it can happen to them. According to recent CDC studies conducted every two years in high schools (grades 9-12), many teenagers are engaging in high-risk behaviors which not only make them vulnerable to acquiring HIV/AIDS, but also to acquiring other sexually transmitted diseases associated with drug use.
How can you prevent HIV/AIDS from happening to you?
- Educate yourself. Know the facts. Act smart.
- Do not use alcohol or any kind of drugs.
- Do not use any needles that have been used by other people for tattooing or piercing or for injecting drugs or other substances such as steroids, vitamins, hormones, or insulin.
- Know that it’s OK not to have sex.
- Avoid contact with a person’s blood, semen, or vaginal fluid.
Facts for Girls/Women
Young women are the fastest growing group contracting HIV/AIDS through sex.
- As of December 1994, 58,428 adolescent and adult women have been diagnosed with AIDS. The cumulative number of reported cases of HIV infected women for the same period was 15, 241.
- About 75% of the AIDS cases in women were associated with use of injected drugs, either through direct use or through sexual contact with a man who injected drugs.
- African American and Hispanic women make up 21% of all U.S. women, yet they represent more than 75% of all the AIDS cases reported among women.
- AIDS is the fourth leading cause of death among women between the ages of 25 and 44 in the U.S. It is the number one cause of death among African American women in the same age group. Many of these women were infected while still in their teens.
- While HIV can be transmitted during vaginal, oral, or anal sex, the transmission occurs most often during vaginal intercourse.
- A pregnant woman infected with HIV/AIDS can transmit the virus to her unborn baby.
Click here for valuable resource information about AIDS.
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