How HIV is spread

Anyone who is involved in risky behaviors should get an HIV test. Anyone who wants to know whether or not they have HIV can be tested. However, a negative test does not mean a person is uninfected if the risky behaviors took place only a few months before the test.

The following symptoms may suggest a need for HIV testing:

While there is no cure for HIV or AIDS, there are medications that can help delay symptoms, help prevent the spread of HIV to an unborn baby, and help prevent additional infections in HIV-infected people.

HIV and AIDS are important issues to think about and discuss. Educating yourself and your family about HIV and AIDS is the best way to keep your family healthy. Make sure your child or teens knows the facts about this serious yet preventable disease.

It's important to introduce these discussions to your child at an early age. This will open the door to future communications and your child will be more willing to come to you with questions she may have. By the time your children are 3 or 4 years old, make sure you have clearly explained the following to them:

By grade-school age, your child should begin to have a better understanding of illness and body parts. He or she should begin to learn more about how HIV can and cannot be spread.

For preteens and teenagers it is important to know that the best way to protect themselves against HIV and AIDS is to refrain from having any type of sexual intercourse. Urge your teenager to postpone sexual intercourse until married or in a long-term, mature relationship with an uninfected partner. Neither person should have any other sexual partners.

If teenagers do not postpone having sexual intercourse, then proper use of latex condoms and limiting the relationship to one partner will help them avoid HIV infection. This will also lower the risk of getting other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as syphilis, gonorrhea, Chlamydia infection, and genital warts. Adolescents should also know about other types of birth control. However, it should be emphasized that other forms of birth control do not prevent HIV infection or other STDs.

Adolescents also need to know about the extremely high risk of being infected with HIV if they use drugs, especially intravenous (IV) drugs that are injected with needles. Sharing a needle or syringe spreads blood from one person to another. Also, people who do not use drugs themselves but are having sexual intercourse with an HIV-infected drug user can be infected with HIV. Sharing needles for non-drug use, such as for tattoos, ear piercing, intentional scarring or cutting with a razor or needle, or injecting drugs like steroids, can also spread HIV.

When talking to your adolescent about drugs, make sure your adolescent understands that using drugs is very dangerous. The risk of getting HIV increases even when non-IV drugs like alcohol or cocaine are used. This is because these drugs affect a person's judgment and may lead to risky behaviors such as having sex without a latex condom or having sex with multiple partners.

If your preteen or teenager is using drugs or alcohol or is involved in risky sexual behaviors, he is at higher risk of HIV infection. If you think that your adolescent or child is at risk of becoming infected with HIV, it is very important to discuss this with your pediatrician.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics