| Aids resource manual - A guide for teaching about AIDS in Thailand |
|Section I - Basic facts about AIDS|
QUESTION: Who can get AIDS?
People who choose certain dangerous behaviors are at risk of HIV infection. Risky behavior determines who will become infected, NOT risk groups.
QUESTION: Are some people more at risk of getting AIDS than others?
Yes. Some people are more likely to get HIV infection than others. It depends on their behavior. This is because of the way the virus spreads.
At high risk are:
• people who have extra marital affairs
• people who have multiple sex partners
• people who already have other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and are sexually active, especially with multiple sex partners
• people who sleep with HIV infected person
• people who get injections with needles that are not sterilized properly or who inject themselves, or who share needles
• people who receive blood transfusions with contaminated blood
• infants born to mothers who have HIV infection.
QUESTION: Why not test as many people as possible to find out who has the infection?
Widespread testing for AIDS may tell us more about the epidemic, but it can also create many other problems.
Testing by itself does not stop the spread of AIDS. Widespread testing requires widespread follow-up work, and the testing must be matched by an equal capacity for counselling everyone who is tested, depending on their positive or negative result.
It is difficult for tests to give the full picture. There is a latency period, called a "window period," between the time when the virus enters the body and when its presence shows up on the test. Thus, a test shortly after the virus enters someone's body may find the person not infected. Testing blood during this window period may not give the correct result.
It is also difficult to reach all the persons for whom testing might be important, and if testing is made compulsory, it may drive underground the very people one is trying to help. It would certainly run counter to the voluntary testing and counselling that are important parts of a national AIDS program.
QUESTION: How can you avoid AIDS ?
It is fairly simple to avoid AIDS, even if some people find it hard to change their behavior. Many people are not at risk: they do not have sex with casual acquaintances or commercial sex workers, nor do they have multiple sex partners. For someone to be as safe as possible, he or she should stay with one sexual partner who is faithful to them and not infected.
If they have more than one sexual partner, men should use condoms every time they have sex and women should make sure that their partners use condoms. Remember, condom use alone is not 100% safe against infection. A properly used condom, however, can significantly reduce your chances of HIV infection.
Also, to avoid AIDS, needles and syringes used for injections should always be sterilized. This rule applies to any instrument that comes into contact with blood, such as ear piercing needles, knives and razor blades.
Finally, drugs such as alcohol are known to impair judgement and create situations that may put individuals at risk for HIV infection. Being aware of one's behavior is vital. Therefore, drug use must be checked to insure safe practices. Being under the influence of a drug such as alcohol has been known to raise risk factors towards HIV infection.
QUESTION: if you have HIV infection, can you still have sex?
You can hug and caress safely, but any sexual activities that involve sharing of sexual fluids will put your sexual partner at risk of getting the infection from you. Both you and any potential partner must know and understand the risk. You are responsible for informing your partners and for agreeing with them on what is safe. Health workers can help you with this sensitive question.
QUESTION: When should you use condoms?
Use condoms whenever you have sex with a person who is not your regular partner or who might be infected. If your regular sexual partner has sex with other people, the best practice is always to use condoms with him or her each time you have sex.
QUESTION: Is there a cure or vaccine for AIDS?
There is presently no cure for AIDS. There are some medicines that have prolonged the lives of some people. There is hope that additional treatments will be found to prolong life. Treatment is not the same as cure. There is no cure.
There is also no vaccine to prevent uninfected people from getting the infection. Researchers believe it may take years for an effective, safe vaccine to be found.
The most effective way to prevent AIDS is avoiding exposure to the virus, which you can control by your own behavior.