WHAT IS HIV?

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV attacks the body’s immune system which fights against infections. A person who has HIV can feel healthy for many years; they do not know they have HIV unless they get a special blood test. As HIV weakens the body’s defense system, the person gradually loses the ability to fight off diseases and germs. They begin to get sick more often. The illnesses gradually become more serious. A doctor diagnoses someone with AIDS when certain blood cells are low and the person shows signs of a serious infection.

HIV is not spread through casual contact. This means it is OK to play and work together, shake hands, or hug a person who is infected with HIV. You can share the same room, breathe the same air, and swim in the same water. HIV does not get passed through the air like a cold or flu bug. Mosquitoes or animals do not spread the virus. You cannot get HIV from spit or saliva, tears or urine.

There are only four body fluids of an infected person that have enough HIV in them to pass this virus on; they are blood, semen, vaginal fluids and breast milk.

There is no cure for HIV. Many people live a long time with HIV. However, over time the person may die. Maybe one day, with time and research, a cure will be discovered and AIDS will no longer exist. Until then, the best thing is to know the facts and avoid putting yourself at risk.

What parents should know

It is important for parents to talk clearly and early to their children about sex and values. Awareness and education can reduce the risk of teens becoming HIV infected.

What teachers should know

Teens are faced with many influences that impact their decisions regarding sexual behavior. Heart 2 Heart, a BJC School Outreach and Youth Development sexual behavior program, can help students by providing education and resources for making the best decisions regarding sexual health.

Understanding the importance of prevention education, media influences, and life management skills provides a healthy foundation for middle school students participating in the Heart 2 Heart program.

Session activities include:

  • Defining and understanding sexuality
  • Decoding media messages and its targeted influence
  • Puberty and body image
  • Identifying healthy communication and refusal skills

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