What Every Teen Needs to Know About HIV
There are so many misconceptions surrounding HIV and AIDS; myth
and misunderstanding fueled by the media, by fear, and by ignorance.
Let's take a look at the truth; five things every teen should know
about HIV and AIDS.
Does Not Discriminate
Since the epidemic began over twenty years ago, stereotypes have
surfaced as to who are HIV infected people. White gay males, drug
users and prostitutes are labeled as the faces of HIV and AIDS.
Nothing could be further from the truth. HIV knows no boundaries
and certainly doesnt discriminate.
The fact is
that anyone can get HIV, from elderly men and women living in a
nursing home to teens planning their next prom. Men and women, adults
and children, rich and poor, the homeless and the college professor;
HIV can infect anyone who doesn't take the proper precautions. Keep
this in mind the next time you hear HIV cant impact you. Since the
epidemic began, over 50,000 teens like yourself have contracted
HIV and progressed to AIDS, many of them dying before the age of
twenty.Oral Sex Is
As Safe As You Think
While most everyone knows how HIV is spread from person to person,
most people underestimate the risk involved in some behaviors. Oral
sex is often thought of as the "safer sex". Its incidence
among young adults and teens is well documented. In fact, some studies
have shown that oral sex in high schools is as common as kissing
was twenty years ago. Many adolescents believe that oral sex is
a safe way to engage in sex, free from the worry of pregnancy and
disease. The truth is that oral sex is not as safe as you think.
Studies have concluded that infected bodily fluids such as semen
and vaginal secretions have high concentrations of HIV and can enter
the blood stream through the mucous membranes of the mouth. One
such study revealed that in one group of newly infected HIV positive
young adults, many reported their only sexual contact was oral sex.
Is More To Worry About Than Pregnancy
Even with all
the media attention HIV gets these days, many teens still believe
that the only risk associated with unprotected sex is pregnancy.
So, to prevent pregnancy, teens used birth control techniques such
as oral sex or the withdrawal method (pulling out) prior to ejaculation.
Unfortunately, there is more to be concerned about. The incidence
of sexually transmitted disease, including HIV, is on the rise among
teens. Many of these STDs are for life, meaning there is no cure.
Herpes, syphilis, and HIV are real concerns that if contracted will
be with you a lifetime. For these reasons, to minimize your risk
of STDs and HIV, latex condoms are a must each and every time you
have oral, anal or vaginal sex.
People Hide the Truth / Sometimes People Don't Truly Know
Not every teen ignores the risks of HIV. Some ask the important
questions of their partners but what they do with the answers they
receive is just as important. Think about it for a moment. How many
people will admit they are HIV infected if asked by the new love
in their life? How many will admit to their sexual history when
they are trying to win the affections of their new love interest?
How many people really know their HIV status and the status of the
people they have been with in the past? Unfortunately, in part due
to the prejudices surrounding HIV and AIDS, many people are not
willing to disclose their status to potential sexual partners for
fear of discrimination and prejudice. Furthermore, many are reluctant
to ask the questions of their partners prior to sex or if they do,
the tendency is to take the answer they get as fact. The only way
anyone knows their HIV status is to get tested. A claim of my
past partner was negative is only acceptable if they are backed
by a negative test.
Kills And There Is No Cure
We hear about the success of HIV medications. People are living
longer due to the advent of powerful HIV medications that help fight
the virus. Unfortunately, the medications are not a cure. While
they do allow for longer lives, HIV still kills. Since the epidemic
began, over one half million people have died from HIV and AIDS.
Liver disease, pneumonia, and serious infection of the brain and
other internal organs are constant companions of those living and
fighting the disease. The medicines are not a quick fix to an HIV
infection. They are difficult to take and cause many side effects
such as fat accumulations in the stomach and neck, diarrhea, extreme
fatigue, rashes, and vomiting. They have to be taken many times
each day and often lead to liver and kidney disease. And they cost
thousands of dollars each year. The best way to stay healthy is
not through HIV medications, but by avoiding HIV in the first place.
can be dangerous, especially where HIV and AIDS are concerned. Know
the important facts about HIV and insist on condoms if sex is part
of your relationship. Remember, HIV
and AIDS are for life and they do kill. For info
and HIV, go there. For info on the HIV
Home Test, go there.
Written by: Mark Cichocki, RN
Mark is an HIV/AIDS nurse specialist at the University of Michigan