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Monday, March 30, 2009

Sue Scheff: HIV Testing and Teens


Source: TeensHealth


The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). The virus gets its name because it infects and damages part of the immune system — the body's natural defense system.


Often the only way to know if someone is infected with HIV is through testing. That's because people who are HIV positive may not know that they have the virus. Most of the signs that someone has HIV don't show up until that person has developed full-blown AIDS. By that point, the person is sicker and the disease can be harder to treat.


Here are the facts on what's involved in getting tested — and who should get tested for HIV and why.


Who Is at Risk?
The only known way for HIV to be transmitted from one person to another is when it is spread through the fluids from an infected person's body. Thousands of U.S. teens become infected with HIV each year.
When teens in the United States become infected with HIV, it usually happens in one of two ways:


By sharing needles used to inject drugs or other substances (including needles used for injecting steroids, and tattooing and body art). If the person who has used the needle is infected with HIV, his or her blood on the needle can infect anyone else who uses the same needle.


Through unprotected sex including anal, vaginal, and oral sex.


This can happen when body fluids such as semen (cum), vaginal fluids, or blood from an infected person get into the body of someone who is not infected.


Everyone who has unprotected sex with an infected person is at risk of contracting HIV, but people who already have another sexually transmitted disease (STD) are even more at risk.


Children can be infected with HIV if an infected pregnant woman passes the virus to her unborn child. Treating the mother and child around the time the baby is delivered, delivering by cesarean section, and avoiding breastfeeding can reduce the baby's risk of infection.



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