Frequently Asked Questions: AIDS

Here are some frequently asked questions related to AIDS.

Q: What if I’m attracted to someone I don’t really know? What should I do?

A: Know the sexual history and health status of partners. Avoid anonymous sexual contact and learn about safe sex practices, such as the use of condoms.

Q: Are my children going to get AIDS if other children in the school have it?

A: No. Casual contact, even over a long period of time, is not regarded as dangerous. This includes all typical sports and activities.

Q: What if I eat at a restaurant where a cook or a waiter has AIDS? Am I at risk?

A: No. Eating in restaurants does not increase the AIDS risk. There are no cases of AIDS transmitted from food preparations or handling.

Q: Is an AIDS test required of new job applicants and/or employees?

A: Probably not. In fact, under most state laws, employers cannot ask whether applicants or employees have AIDS – only if they can do the job.

Q: Should I avoid sharing personal hygiene items, like razors or toothbrushes?

A: Yes. These devices might be contaminated with blood. However, this is an unlikely mode of transmission for the AIDS virus.

Q: Does everyone who has AIDS die from it?

A: When scientists first recognized AIDS in 1981, most people died within a year or two. Now, with numerous drugs available to help suppress HIV’s attack on the immune system and prevent or treat AIDS-related opportunistic illnesses, many people with AIDS are living longer and healthier lives. However, AIDS still is considered a fatal illness. Few people survive five years from the time they are diagnosed with AIDS, although this is increasing with improvements in treatment techniques.

Q: How can a person tell if she is infected with HIV?

A: A blood test can determine whether or not a person is infected with HIV. The most commonly used test detects antibodies (disease-fighting proteins) against HIV. It may take as long as three to six months for HIV antibodies to reach levels that are measurable in standard blood tests.

Q: Can I keep my test results private?

A: People can have the procedure done at HIV testing centers that offer anonymous HIV testing.

Q: How safe is a blood transfusion?

A: The risk of acquiring HIV through a blood transfusion in the United States is very small. All donated blood in the U.S. is routinely screened for HIV.

Q: Can HIV be spread by casual contact, such as touching or hugging?

A: HIV is not transmitted by casual contact such as touching, caressing, hugging or massaging a person with the infection. Studies indicate that HIV transmission requires intimate contact with infected blood or body fluids (vaginal secretions, semen, pre-ejaculation fluid, and breast milk).

Q: Can HIV be spread through kissing?

A: Although studies have found tiny amounts of HIV in the saliva of some people with HIV, researchers have found no evidence that HIV is spread to other people through kissing. However, the CDC recommends against “French” or open-mouthed kissing because of the possibility of contact with blood if the people kissing have any cuts or sores in the mouth.

Q: Is it safe to share a household with an HIV-infected person?

A: Studies of families of HIV-infected people have found that HIV is not spread through sharing utensils, towels, bedding, or toilet facilities. Behaviors that increase the likelihood of contact with blood from an HIV-infected person, such as sharing a razor or toothbrush, should be avoided.

Q: Is it safe to share a sauna, swimming pool, hot tub, or toilet with an HIV-infected person?

A: Using such facilities does not put a person at risk for HIV infection. Only activities that cause intimate contact with blood, vaginal secretions, semen, pre-ejaculation fluid, or breast milk of an HIV-infected person can transmit HIV.

Q: Can HIV be transmitted through a cough or a sneeze?

A: Although some viruses (such as the common cold or influenza) are spread through aerosol droplets when an infected person sneezes or coughs, HIV is not transmitted in this manner.

Q: Can HIV be transmitted during oral sex?

A: Although the risk of infection during oral sex is considered lower than during vaginal or anal intercourse, HIV may be transmitted during oral sex through contact with vaginal secretions, semen, pre-ejaculation fluid, and blood.

Q: Can HIV be spread by mosquitoes?

A: Studies have found that HIV is not spread by biting insects, such as mosquitoes or bedbugs.

Q: Is a home test kit for HIV available?

A: No approved HIV test kit will give you a result at home. There is a kit available that is designed for you to collect a sample of your blood at home. Then you send the sample to a laboratory where it is tested for HIV.

Q: I’ve read on the Internet stories about people getting HIV after being stuck by needles in phone booth coin returns and movie theater seats. Is this true?

A: t’s true that discarded needles are sometimes found in public, probably from people who use insulin (to treat diabetes) or illegal drugs. Occasionally someone is stuck from discarded needles – but the risk of transmission of HIV in this case is extremely low. The Centers for Disease Control is not aware of any cases where HIV has been transmitted by a needle-stick injury outside of a health-care setting. However, anyone who is injured in this manner should contact their physician or go to an emergency room as soon as possible.


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