Like other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV doesn’t discriminate by age. In fact, youth make up a large portion of all new cases of HIV yearly.
What You Need to Know:
HIV/AIDS is a viral sexually transmitted infection (STI); though there is no cure, it can be treated with medication. These medications (Anti-retroviral therapy or ART) work so incredibly well that people who are HIV positive (living with the virus) can live long, healthy lives, and they are so effective that preventative medications (PEP/PrEP) have been developed from them.
HIV is transmitted through unprotected sex (including vaginal, anal, and oral), sharing needles of any kind (tattoos/piercings/drugs), or birth and breastfeeding; and is found in blood, sexual fluids (semen/vaginal fluid), and breast milk.
Traditional preventative methods that help to ensure you will not be exposed to the virus include abstinence (not having sex) and not sharing needles, but there are now very effective medications that can be taken to prevent HIV infection.
PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) is taken after a potential exposure to the virus and must be taken within 72 hours of possible exposure in order to be effective.
PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a preventative medication taken before potential exposure to HIV. Recent guidelines have broadened for PrEP so that it is now recommended for anyone who may come into contact with the virus, including those whose partners are HIV positive.
Protection involves reducing the risk of being exposed to HIV but does not eliminate it. This includes using condoms or other barrier methods, reducing your number of partners, getting tested and knowing your status, and communicating with your partner about sexual and drug use histories.
Testing is absolutely essential!
It’s the only way to know for sure if you have HIV! Early detection of the virus is important because the earlier you find out you’re positive, the sooner you can start treatment, so the infection doesn’t progress. It’s also important to know that even if someone doesn’t know they are living with HIV, they can still pass the infection to others – so testing helps protect us all!