What causes AIDS?

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

People infected with HIV carry the virus for the rest of their lives, primarily in their blood and semen or vaginal fluids.

HIV weakens the immune system, allowing certain infections and cancers to take hold.  When this happens, the person develops AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome)

How is HIV spread?

  1. During sex with a person (male or female) who has HIV.  This includes vaginal, oral, or anal sex.  Never have sex (vaginal, oral, or anal) without a latex condom. Condoms make sex safer, but they are not foolpoof. The only way to prevent contracting HIV through sex is abstinence.
  2. By sharing needles to shoot drugs (or for any other reason) with a person who has HIV.
  3. From a mother infected with HIV to her baby--this can happn before, during, or after birth (through breast-feeding).

Studies indicate you CANNOT get HIV from:

  • giving blood
  • shaking hands or hugging an infected person
  • coughs or sneezes
  • touching toilet seats, telephones, or clothes
  • sharing food or utensils
  • sweat or tears
  • dry kissing

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