If you want to make a difference and help others while learning about sexual health and keeping yourself safe, then you need to join SMART Youth! You can come to any of our events around the city or come to one of our movie nights or Open Mic events. Check out our schedule to learn what we are doing or e-mail

Thursday, September 6, 2012

10 Days of Activism - Day 6

September 6, 2012

The Basic Facts About HIV/AIDS

As sexual health educators and advocates, SMART Youth facilitates workshops at schools and youth organizations all over New York City. We talk a lot about safer sex, communicating about sex with your partner (particularly about using a condom), and most importantly we talk about HIV/AIDS. The topic is essential to us because SMART is an organization for women and youth living with or affected by HIV/AIDS, and we want to make sure that people have the correct information about what is HIV/AIDS to protect themselves and to reduce the stigma (and ignorance) that comes from many of the myths about HIV/AIDS. Since there's no way we can go to every school or youth organization in New York City, let alone the world, we thought we could put up some basic HIV/AIDS information here so that youth are informed and ready to advocate for the right to protect themselves by being able to get condoms, get tested and go see a doctor without parental permission.

 Here's some typical questions that we hear on a regular basis from other teenagers and our responses.

What does HIV stand for?

HIV stands for  
Human (it can't be transmitted from a cat or dog)  
Immunodeficiency (it attacks our bodies natural defense mechanism -- the immune system)  

Basically, Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a lot like other viruses, including those that cause the "flu" or the common cold. But there is an important difference – over time, your immune system can clear most viruses out of your body. That isn't the case with HIV – the human immune system can't seem to get rid of it. Scientists are still trying to figure out why.
We know that HIV can hide for long periods of time in the cells of your body and that it attacks a key part of your immune system – your T-cells or CD4 cells. Your body has to have these cells to fight infections and disease, but HIV invades them, uses them to make more copies of itself, and then destroys them.
How do you get HIV?
I think it's best if we let the experts answer it.  The response below is posted on at HIV/AIDS 101: How do I get HIV?
HIV is found in specific human body fluids. If any of those fluids enter your body, you can become infected with HIV. HIV lives and reproduces in blood and other body fluids. We know that the following fluids can contain high levels of HIV:
  • Blood
  • Semen (cum/ejaculate)
  • Pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum/ejaculate)
  • Breast milk
  • Vaginal fluids
  • Rectal (anal) mucous
HIV is transmitted through body fluids in very specific ways:
During sexual contact: When you have anal, oral, or vaginal sex with a partner, you will usually have contact with your partner’s body fluids. If your partner has HIV, those body fluids can deliver the virus into your bloodstream through microscopic breaks or rips in the delicate linings of your vagina, vulva, penis, rectum, or mouth. Rips in these areas are very common and mostly unnoticeable. HIV can also enter through open sores, like those caused by herpes or syphilis, if infected body fluids get in them.
During pregnancychildbirth, or breastfeeding: Babies have constant contact with their mother’s body fluids-including amniotic fluid and blood-throughout pregnancy and childbirth. After birth, infants can get HIV from drinking infected breast milk.
As a result of injection drug use: Injecting drugs puts you in contact with blood-your own and others, if you share needles and “works”. Needles or drugs that are contaminated with HIV-infected blood can deliver the virus directly into your body.
As a result of occupational exposure: Healthcare workers have the greatest risk for this type of HIV transmission. If you work in a healthcare setting, you can come into contact with infected blood or other fluids through needle sticks or cuts. A few healthcare workers have been infected when body fluids splashed into their eyes, mouth, or into an open sore or cut.
Who Gets HIV?
Anybody can get HIV
HIV is a virus; once it gets into your body, it can make you sick. It does so if you are rich or poor; 14 years old or 70; black or white; gay or straight; married or single. It's what you do, not who you are, that puts you at risk for HIV.
Okay, those were answers to the most basic information about HIV/AIDS.  There is still a lot to know! We didn't even start about testing, window periods, condom use, treatment options or populations of people more vulnerable than others... But before you get overwhelmed, know that there are so many places to get more information.  Or you can always come by and hang out with us on Fridays if you happen to be in East Harlem! 
Here's some more resources: 

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