What is AIDS? AIDS is an illness caused by the HIV (human immuno-deficiency) virus. As the HIV virus makes the immune system weaker, and full-blown AIDS develops —infections can set in, and cancerous cells can develop. Who is at risk for HIV/AIDS? Anyone can be at risk for AIDS, since the HIV virus is spread through the exchange of bodily fluids (blood, semen, vaginal discharge, and breast milk). This could happen through sexual activity, using a hypodermic needle used by someone with HIV, or even through a blood transfusion. Almost half the people with HIV in the United States are women —and that percentage is growing. You can decrease the odds of contracting HIV/AIDs by avoiding situations that are risky (e.g., unprotected sexual intercourse, use of others' intravenous needles, etc.) How can you avoid getting HIV/AIDS? Abstinence from sexual intercourse or activity where bodily fluids are exchanged (like oral or anal sex) eliminates the risk. Use of condoms lowers the risk. Can you get HIV/AIDS from using someone's glass or fork? It is highly unlikely that you could get HIV/AIDS through this type of "casual contact." Can you get HIV/AIDS from kissing? It is unlikely that HIV can be spread through kissing. How can you get HIV/AIDS? The most common way HIV is contracted is through heterosexual (man/woman) intercourse. Unprotected oral sex with a man who has HIV could also cause infection in a woman, since a woman may have small cuts in the mouth (tongue or gums). You could also contract AIDS by sharing a needle with an intravenous drug user. Some people have contracted AIDS from tainted blood used in a blood transfusion, and babies can get HIV from their mothers through breast milk if the mother is infected.
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