AIDS–Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome–is caused by HIV, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV impairs your immune system, making it less resistant to diseases and infections.
HIV is transmitted through exposure to the bodily fluids of someone infected with HIV. This exposure most commonly occurs during unprotected sex, by sharing needles, through blood transfusions, or by contact with open wounds. Babies born to women with HIV can also become infected.
It’s not a “gay thing.” HIV infections among all teenagers and young adults are increasing. Also, nearly one-fourth of AIDS cases among adolescents and adults under age 25 stem from injection drug use.
Alcohol and drugs affect your self-control. Alcohol and illicit drugs lower your inhibitions and impair your judgment. Drinking and drug use can lead to risky behaviors you’re less likely to do if sober, including having unprotected sex. This increases your risk for exposure to HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Any drug use increases the risks for HIV/AIDS. Non-injection drugs also contribute to the spread of HIV/AIDS when users trade sex for drugs or money or when their judgment and decision-making skills are impaired.
KNOW THE SIGNS:
How can you tell if you or someone else may already have HIV? If you have not shared a needle or had unprotected sex, it is very unlikely that you have HIV. The only way to be certain is to be tested. Most people with HIV do not have any visible symptoms for many years. Once symptoms do begin to show, some of the more common ones include:
- Rapid weight loss
- Profuse night sweats
- Ongoing, unexplained fatigue
- Swollen lymph glands
- Diarrhea that lasts longer than a week
- White spots or blemishes in the mouth or throat
Do not assume you are infected if you have any of these symptoms. Each of these symptoms can easily be related to other illnesses. Again, the only way to determine for sure whether you are infected with HIV is to be tested.
What can you do to help someone whose substance abuse problem is putting them at risk for HIV/AIDS? Be a real friend. You might even save a life. Encourage your friend to stop using substances or seek professional help.
TIPS FOR USING YOUR MEDICINES SAFELY AND SMARTLY:
Ask your doctor and your pharmacist for the exact times you should take a medicine and what effects-good and bad-to expect from it.
Tell each doctor you see, and your pharmacist, about other medicines you’re taking, both prescription and over-the-counter. Some cause side effects when they bump into each other.
Write down the name of each drug and a daily schedule of doses. Put a check mark on the list each time you take the medicine.
Stick to the dose on the label. More is not better-it may be harmful.
Tell your doctor or pharmacist if a medicine gives you new symptoms or makes you feel worse.
When you take antibiotics: Take the full course, even if you start feeling better before all the pills are gone. When people stop too early, infections often come back.
Never start or stop taking medicine without telling your doctor.
Never take medicine prescribed for someone else. Never share your medicines with anyone else.
Throw away leftover medicine if the label date shows it has expired.
AIDS is a condition that, in one way or another, has impact on us all. Continuing community education is of vital importance.