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AIDS… A Crisis Among African-American Youth – Fact Sheet

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AIDS. . .
A Crisis Among African-American Youth

A BET Teen Summit Town Hall

Produced in partnership with the Kaiser Family Foundation

Why is HIV important to ME?

Many people still think HIV doesn’t affect them. What many people don’t know is that heterosexualsex is the fastest growing way HIV is being transmitted today. And, HIV infections are on the riseamong young people – one in every four Americans newly infected with HIV is under 22 yearsold. Among 13 to 24 year olds, 63% of new HIV infections are among African Americans. Mostimportantly, you can keep yourself healthy, because HIV is preventable.

How is HIV transmitted?

The most common ways that HIV is spread are during vaginal or anal intercourse, and by sharingcontaminated needles. HIV can also be transmitted during oral sex, and during pregnancy orbreastfeeding (from HIV-infected mother to child). The virus is transmitted through body fluidssuch as blood, semen, vaginal fluids and breast milk. Certain factors, such as having a sexuallytransmitted disease (STD) like chlamydia or gonorrhea (which often have no symptoms), canincrease your risk of getting HIV… read on for more info.

What should I do?

PROTECT YOURSELF. Use a condom every time you have vaginal, anal or oral sex. You can’t tellby looking at someone whether or not they are HIV-positive or have other STDs. These diseasescan affect anyone, and many don’t have any visible symptoms. For more information on condomsand protection during oral sex, see below, and “It’s Your (Sex) Life.”If you are injecting drugs, know that using “dirty” – or previously used – needles increases yourchances of acquiring HIV.

GET TESTED. Though getting tested for HIV may seem very scary, if you are HIV-positive, it isimportant to know as soon as possible. Treatments are available today that are effective whenstarted early on. It can take up to six months for HIV to be detectable in your blood, so if you ifyou’ve had unprotected sex within the last six months, you should play it safe and get testedagain after six months have passed. Getting tested by your doctor, nurse or clinic, where you canbe tested for other STDs like herpes and chlamydia at the same time (you have to ask for thesetests, they don’t do them automatically) is probably your best option. There are also home testsavailable in drug stores that allow you to send in an anonymous blood sample for HIV testing.For more information about getting tested for HIV, see below, and check out “It’s Your (Sex) Life.” To find a testing center near you, call the CDC National AIDS Hotline at1-800-342-2437 (AIDS).

What factors increase my risk of getting HIV?

If you have any STD (like herpes, gonorrhea, or chlamydia), the sores or irritation around yourgenitals makes it easier to get infected with HIV. Any rash, like an allergic reaction to spermicide,can cause the same problem. Having sex during a woman’s period is riskier because of the contactwith blood. Blood contains more HIV than any other body fluid. Some people have anal intercourseto avoid pregnancy. This is a common way of getting HIV, because anal sex often causessmall tears or irritation that lets the virus into the body.

What about oral sex?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is possible to get HIV duringoral sex. Oral sex often involves semen, vaginal secretions or blood – all fluids that can containHIV. During oral sex, the virus could enter the body through tiny cuts or sores in the mouth. TheCDC recommends you use a condom every time you have oral sex, for both men and women. Fororal sex on a woman, the CDC says you can use Saran Wrap, dental dams (square pieces of latexavailable in some drugstores) or cut open condoms as a barrier between the mouth and the vagina.

Do condoms really work?

Outside of abstinence, condoms are the most effective means of preventing the spread of HIV.But, they must be used correctly. It takes practice to learn how to use a condom the right way.Use a new condom each time you have sex. Use them with water-based lubricants made forcondoms, NOT baby oil, vaseline, or other oily lubricants – these cause condoms to break!After sex, withdraw the penis with the condom ON, carefully, so that it doesn’t leak. Learn howto put on a condom the right way (with latex ring on the outside). If you start to put on a condominside-out, throw it away. You can’t turn it over and use it after it has already touched the penis.Practice with condoms before you have sex, and you will be less nervous, and more likely to usethem correctly! Check out “It’s Your (Sex) Life” for more information.

What about some of the new ways to get tested for HIV?

There are lots of new HIV tests. There are tests you can do at home where you prick your fingerfor blood and mail the sample to a laboratory. This is pretty easy, but these kits are expensive($40-$50)! You have to call a number to get your results or to ask questions. At some clinics,there are rapid HIV tests where you can get results within an hour. The main drawback is thatthese tests may not be as reliable as the other kinds. If you hate needles, there are saliva HIVtests available now. The results still take about two weeks. No matter what kind of test youuse, the best way to get tested for HIV is with a trained counselor to support you. To find atesting center near you, call the CDC National AIDS Hotline at 1-800-342-2437 (AIDS).

What about the new HIV treatments?

There are new treatments that work for many HIV-positive people. New medications have beenable to kill the HIV virus and allow HIV-positive people to live longer, healthier lives. However,these medicines are often difficult to take, and have many side effects. The treatments also dono work for everyone. These treatments (also known as “the cocktail”) have given people morehope that we can fight HIV, but they are not a cure.


Resources for more information on HIV/AIDS

CDC National HIV & AIDS Hotline: 1 800 342 AIDS

This hotline will provide information about HIV/AIDS,answer questions about testing and prevention, and willprovide referrals to callers. They will also send out freeliterature on HIV and AIDS.

National Teenage AIDS Hotline: 1 800 440 TEEN

Fridays and Saturdays, 6 pm to midnight, EST.Sponsored by the American Red Cross, this hotline usesa staff of peer educators to provide information aboutHIV/AIDS and other STDs and to refer callers to othernumbers.

CDC National STD Hotline: 1 800 227 8922

This hotline will answer general questions about STDs,their symptoms, transmission, treatment and testing, andcan also provide referrals to clinics and other hotlines.

Planned Parenthood National Hotline: 1 800 230 PLAN

This hotline will automatically connect you to the PlannedParenthood provider nearest you. Planned Parenthood isa source for contraception, testing for sexually transmittedinfections including HIV, pre-natal and post-natal care,pregnancy options counseling, and adoption referrals.