Frequently Asked Questions What is AIDS?
AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is a life-threatening illness caused by a virus, HIV. This virus attacks the immune system and leaves the body susceptible to deadly diseases called opportunistic infections. People who "die of AIDS" actually die from the infections that prey on their weakened immune systems.
What is HIV?
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the virus that causes AIDS. You can become infected with the virus only by direct contact with an infected person's blood, semen, vaginal secretions or breast milk. Since there is no known cure for HIV/AIDS, preventing infection can save your life.
How does HIV spread?
HIV enters the body through direct contact with the bloodstream or through the mucous membranes (the inside of the mouth or throat, lining of the rectum or walls of the vagina). The virus can enter your skin only if the skin is broken or cut and another person's infected body fluids enter your bloodstream. HIV also can be carried from mother to child, before or after birth, or through breast feeding.
Can you get AIDS from everyday contact with a person who has HIV or AIDS?
No. You won't get infected by casual contact with someone living with HIV/AIDS. The virus isn't transmitted through tears, saliva or sweat. You won't get infected by touching toilet seats, doorknobs or eating utensils used by someone with HIV/AIDS. And the virus isn't transmitted in the air, by sneezing or coughing.
Who can be infected with HIV?
Anyone can be infected. The virus doesn't discriminate. People of all genders, races, ages and nationalities are at risk. HIV affects heterosexuals and homosexuals, young and old, men and women. People who are HIV-positive often do not develop AIDS until many years after they become infected. That's why people who appear healthy can, without even knowing it, transmit the virus to others.
What can I do to prevent being infected?
Since the virus is transmitted by infected body fluids entering your body, the best way to prevent infection is to block that entrance. That means using condoms or dental dams during oral, anal and vaginal intercourse. You also can avoid infection by not sharing needles. People who work with or are exposed to blood should use latex gloves and other protective measures to prevent infection.
The Quilt AIDS Memorial|
Broadway Cares/ Equity Fights AIDS
AEGIS - AIDS Education Global Information Service
Elton John AIDS Foundation
The Association François-Xavier Bagnoud - AIDS & children
Center for Disease Control - AIDS/HIV
The Body: An AIDS & HIV Information Resource
Stop AIDS Now
Journal Watch AIDS Clinical Care
A Guide to Coping with HIV/AIDS