Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a disease that attacks the body's cells that make up the immune system. The immune system is the body's defense that helps fight off illness, bacteria and foreign bodies that can invade, weaken or attack the body. This virus over time can become resistant to attacks on it by the immune system and can mutate to build resistance to the body's natural defense system. Because HIV attacks the cells that help protect the body and can become resistant to the immune system's defenses , someone infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus becomes more susceptible to viruses, disease and infections.
How Does HIV Spread?
Fortunately this disease is not transmitted through the air, a simple handshake, hugging or many other day-to-day interactions that are common among people.
How is HIV Transmitted?
To contract this immunodeficiency virus a person would have to have to come in direct contact with infected bodily fluids such as semen, female secretions or blood. The following are the most common ways that this Virus passes from one person to another:
Blood Transfusion - this is rare since blood now goes through rigorous testing before being accepted and authorized for medical use. However, direct donor to patient transfusions, that may occur in emergency situations, where blood goes untested or cases of faulty testing or results still make transfusions a risk.
Intimate Contact - Intimate contact where bodily fluids are exchanges such as anal, vaginal or oral intercourse. Kissing and other similar contact is rarely high risk unless the parties involved suffer or have open, oozing or bleeding - sores or gums ( bleeding, pus and other bodily fluids - however transmission of HIV through saliva is an extremely low risk ).
Sharing or Exposure to Unsterile Needles or Other Skin Piercing Objects - Sharing needles for any reason creates a high risk for contracting HIV, as does being in situations that expose you to possible pokes or other contacts with infected needles. This can be through drug use, tattoo's, medical procedures and other situations where objects are used to pierce the skin. (*See more information below)
Mother to Child - A woman infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can pass it on to her unborn child during pregnancy, child birth or in some situations her baby, after birth, through breast milk.
* It is not safe to look at someone and assume that they are healthy and therefore STD or disease free as for the most part, you can not tell by looking at someone that they are HIV positive nor does everyone who is HIV positive know that they carry a possibly deadly disease. Another factor to consider if you engage in high risk activities or behaviors is that there are many who knowingly carry HIV that do not disclose their medical condition nor do they allow it to deter them from engaging in high risk behaviors that can put your health at risk.
The best defense is knowing how does HIV spread, abstinence and protection any time you face a situation that may put you at risk of transmitting or contracting human immunodeficiency virus.
Should you, or someone who you know, suspect that you may have contracted HIV or want to learn more on How does HIV spread, you can visit National HIV and STD Testing resources to learn more about testing for this disease and for help finding a public health facility that offers testing - regardless of financial limitations or insurance availability.
You can also find resources and support through the organization: National Association of People With Aids and for more help finding hotlines, information and rights protection visit The Body -The Complete HIV/Aids Resource.
Living with HIV
HIV does not have to be a death sentence. With medical breakthroughs and technology many HIV positive people go on to lead a long life. There are support groups that were created to help those infected by HIV disease to understand the difference between HIV and AIDS, come to terms with their disease and find ways to live as normally and healthy as possible. If you have been diagnosed take advantage of the programs put in place to help you.