What are the risk activities?
HIV is passed directly from one person to another through blood, semen, vaginal fluids or breast milk. There are three main ways you can get it: by having unprotected sex (without a condom or other protection) with an infected person; by sharing needles or 'works' with someone who has the virus; or by being born to or breastfed by, a women who has HIV.
The most common ways for women in India to become infected are through unprotected heterosexual activity or by sharing needles.
If you shoot drugs, you can become infected if your share a needle, syringe, cooker, or other 'works' with a person who is infected. A shared needle is a direct link between someone else's infected blood and your blood stream.
You risk getting HIV if you have vaginal sex (intercourse, penis in the vagina) without a condom. You are at even greater risk if you have anal sex (penis in the bum) without a condom, because the tissue around the anus tears more easily than the tissue of the vagina. Oral sex (when the mouth is in contact with genitals) without a condom or dental dam is less risky than unprotected vaginal or anal intercourse, but a few people have become infected with HIV in this way. During her period, an HIV-positive woman may be more likely to transmit the virus to others due to the presence of blood.
Most woman-to-woman sexual contact (e.g. oral sex, using toys, rubbing genitals together) is considered to be low risk. However, lesbian women, or women in same-sex relationships, who have had male partner, have used injection drugs, have had heterosexual sex to become pregnant, or have had artificial insemination with semen from an unscreened donor, may have become infected with HIV.
What about Testing?
You have to ask specifically for and HIV test ? on one is able to test your blood for HIV without your permission. The HIV test does not detect the virus. It can take up to three months from the time of infection from your body to produce enough antibodies t be detectable b the HIVE test, which is simple blood test. So, in order to have an accurate test, you need to be tested at least three months after you last had unprotected sex or shared needles.
A 'negative' HIV test results indicates that no HIV antibodies were found in your blood. This can mean that you are not infected, or that you are infected but that not enough antibodies have been produced yet. A positive on an HIV test, another test is usually performed to confirm whether our not you are infected with HIV. It is good to know your HIV status so that you can protect others and get proper care and support.
Can You Tell If Someone Is Infected?
A person who is infected with HIV does not look any different. Most people who have a sexually transmitted infection (STI), including HIV has no noticeable symptoms.
The past behavior of your sex partners may be a risk for you. A direct question to your partner does not guarantee a correct answer, because many people who are infected with HIV do not know it themselves. And even if they have taken risks in the past, they may not be comfortable talking about it. Stigma and discrimination are major obstacles to effective HIV/AIDS prevention and are. Fear of discrimination prevents people from seeking HIV testing and treatment, or from acknowledging their HIV status publicly. Thousands of HIV-positive people face HIV-related stigma and discrimination. If you are with a new partner, or if you have been separated from your partner and then get back together, it's best to assume that you are at risk. You should practice safer sex (use condoms or dental dams) for at least three months, at which time you can both be tested for HIV.
What is Safer Sex?
Because you can't be sure who has HIV and who doesn't, many women protect themselves at all times and with all partners.
Women are more likely to protect themselves from pregnancy using methods that do not depend on partner co-operation, such as oral contraceptives. But the pill and most other methods of birth control will not protect you from HIV or other STIs.
There are ways of having safer sex, where the risk of getting an infection from your partner is reduced. The most common safer sex measure is to use a condom for any penetrative sex ? like vaginal or anal intercourse and for oral sex.
A latex condom is the best protection. You can use condoms for vaginal, anal or oral sex. It is safe to stop using condoms only if both partners test negative for HIV and other STIs, and only if both do not have any other sex partners or share needles with other.
Try buying your own condoms and learning how to use them (see instruction in safe sex). Talk to your friends. Think about ways in which you might raise the subject of condoms with partner. Figure out what you would say to a partner who gives you a hard time about using condoms.
Guy: "don't you trust me?"
You: "I do trust you, but either of us could have the virus and not know it."
Guy: "condoms don't feel as good!"
You: "let's try it a few times. It will be more fun if I feel safer and can relax. Lets put a drop of lubricant in the inside tip of the condom so you can fell more sensation."
Guy: "condoms are too small for me."
You: "if it can fit over my hand and arm (demonstrate), it can fit on your penis."
Even tough oral sex is low risk for HIV infection, protected oral sex reduces the risk of getting HIV and other STIs even more. To have protected oral sex, use a condom when your mouth is in contact with a the penis (fellatio) or use a dental dam when your mouth is in contact with the vulva and vaginal (cunnilingus).
(Dental dams are think latex sheet and are available from some public health units, pharmacies and specialty condom shops. If you can not obtain a dental dam, you can make one by cutting a non-lubricated condom lengthwise.)
If you have unprotected sex, it is better not to floss your teeth for 30 minutes before having unprotected oral sex (flossing cause small cuts in the mouth which can be a way for viruses to get into your bloodstream). For similar reasons, you should wait at least 12-24 hours after having dental work before having unprotected oral sex.
Sex toys (dildo, vibrators, butt plugs) that are not shared posed no risk of passing on HIV. But if toys are used by more than one person, there can be a small risk of passing the virus from one person to another. This risk can be greatly reduced by covering the toy with a new condom before each person uses it, or by disinfecting it properly between uses.
You can choose not to have any penetration or intercourse at all, and find pleasure instead in massage, hugging, fingering, petting, mutual masturbation, erotic fantasizing, etc. These activities are sometimes called "out course".
What is Safer Shooting?
If you shoot drugs, use a new needle every time. Have your won works and don't share them, and learn how to inject yourself. If you find yourself in a situation where now new needle is available, you can clean your works with clean water and bleach as a last resort. Make sure you know where to go to access local needle-exchange programs.
Remember that alcohol and drugs make it harder to think and act clearly. They lead to situations that you may not be able to handle and that can put you at risk for infection with HIV or other STIs. Most of us make different decision under influence than we would make sober.
What about having a baby?
If you are planning on having a baby, you and your partner may want to consider having an HIV test first, as the result may influence your decision to get pregnant. If you have a male partner and he is infected with HIV, you will risk getting infected when you have unprotected sex in order to get pregnant.
And if you are HIV positive, you can pass the infection on to your baby during pregnancy at birth or while breastfeeding. There are anti-HIV medications that can substantially reduce the chance of passing the virus to the baby.
You cannot predict whether a new baby will have HIV, but if you know about your own HIV status, you can make your won decision about whether you have enough support from family and friends to get pregnant and take on the responsibilities of having child. It is important to know for you to plan to have proper support and medical care throughout your pregnancy.
Some women get pregnant though the use of alternative reproductive technologies, like artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization. In some countries, there are uniform national standards and guidelines which help to decrease the risk of getting infectious diseases, like HIV, through semen that has been donated to a fertility service. Whether you are using sperm from a sperm bank or from a known donor, make sure that the donor undergoes rigorous screening for medical and genetic diseases and all sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.
What do I want?
Whether you are 14 or 64 years old, you may find yourself taking about condoms or dental dams with your partner for the first time. It can be difficult, funny or embarrassing. It can bring you closer together, or it can split you apart. But if you feel comfortable enough to have sex with your partner, you should feel comfortable enough to talk about safety first.
You have the right to tell your partner that you don't want to have sex unless it's "safe sex". You can choose to "play safe" by using condoms, dental dams, or by avoiding penetration. You have the right to decide whether to have sex, what level of risk you take and what sexual activities are right for you.
If your partner doesn't care or doesn't want to use safer sex methods, then think twice about having sex. Your feelings are important. And your health might be at stake. If you don't feel like you have choices in your relationships with your partner, you can get support from a counselor or group in your community.
What if I am HIV positive?
If you have tested positive for HIV, you have lots to think about. Due to new treatments and better care, people with HIV are living longer and healthier than before. By having good medical and social support networks and by taking responsibility for your health, you can maintain your health and live a more satisfying life.
You can still be sexually active with HIV and learn how to protect your partner(s). be aware of your rights (to privacy and confidentiality) and your responsibilities (to disclose your HIV status to someone prior to any risky behavior like unprotected sex or sharing needles).
It's important to get the information you need to make your choices. There are networks developed by HIV positive women ? get in touch with one through a local AIDS organization or health clinic.
CONDOMS HELP PROTECT YOUR AND YOUR PARTNER FROM STIs AND HIV
Instruction for how to use male condom
Instruction for how to use female condom
It's Worth Knowing the Facts....
Living with the reality of HIV is a challenge to all of us. Think about it. Learn about it. Decide what your own needs are. Talk with friends. Talk to your partner. Practice safer sex methods.
Do everything you can to avoid having sex or taking drugs with people who won't respect your right to make safe decisions. There are no second chances with HIV.
For more information about HIV and other STIs call your local:
Public health unit, community health centres
Health care provider
Women's support services
Family planning clinic
Local AIDS organizations or AIDS hotline.
Some minor changes has been made considering the Indian context
source: Canadian HIV/AIDS Information Centre