Safe Sex and HIV

by Garreth Myers

HIV is a virus that affects the immune system of an individual. AIDS occurs when the immune system becomes so damaged that it can no longer fight against other infections. An individual infected with the HIV virus may develop AIDS after a period of 10 years. However an individual who does not receive proper nutrition may develop the disease even before that. The HIV virus is present in the blood and bodily fluids of an infected individual. It is also contained in the breast milk of an infected mother. The virus spreads when infected bodily fluids enter the bloodstream of an individual. Transmission of HIV Aids can occur in various ways. One of the most common ways in which HIV is transmitted is through unprotected sexual intercourse. The virus can also spread when a sufficient amount of infected blood enters another individual's bloodstream. In some cases, HIV infection occurs when contaminated blood and blood products are used in blood transfusions. Use of contaminated injecting equipment is another way by which HIV is transmitted. Certain sections of people such as prisoners, sex workers and drug users are more susceptible to HIV infection because of their lifestyles. However the infection can also spread to just about anyone if there is no proper awareness about HIV and how it can be prevented.

Individuals infected with HIV may not show any symptoms at all and may appear perfectly healthy. However they will be able to pass on the infection to someone else immediately after they have been infected. An HIV test is the only way to know if an individual has been infected with the virus. There are medications that can help individuals to cope with an HIV infection and AIDS, but there is no cure from the infection and no vaccine available to prevent infection. Therefore the health of an infected individual will continue to deteriorate as the immune system continues to fail. Considering the serious implications of this infection, education about the virus, its transmission and how it can be prevented become the main focus. Practicing safe sex is the best way to prevent HIV. This means that both partners must not be infected with HIV or any other sexually transmitted diseases. Both partners should also not have other sexual partners and must not use injectable drugs.

Safe sex also means that there should be no exchange of or contact with bodily fluids. Extra precaution must be taken when either of the partners has bleeding gums, sores or cuts on their body. Safe sex must be practiced all the time using male or female condoms. Male latex condoms are the most commonly used protective barrier for safe sexual intercourse. The female partner can also use condoms which are meant especially for women. There are certain things one should known about condoms and other such barriers. A condom should never be used twice. Only latex condoms should be used and these are available at all drug stores. It is important not to use oil based lubricants as they can cause ruptures in latex condoms. Those who are allergic to latex may use polyurethane condoms. One must never use condoms that are in damaged packages or are discolored or brittle. A condom must be used even if one is taking birth control pills or contraception injections as these only serve to prevent pregnancy and do not prevent spread of HIV or other STDs. Contrary to the misinformation spread by vested interests, no matter how well intentioned, condoms are the best protection against HIV infection.

If both partners are HIV positive, one would think that safe sex is not necessary. However apart from preventing the spread of HIV, safe sex also prevents the spread of STDs. It also helps to prevent transmission of other HIV strains which may be more unresponsive to medication.

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