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Can I get HIV from kissing?

Casual contact through closed-mouth or "social" kissing is not a risk for transmission of HIV. Because of the potential for contact with blood during "French" or open-mouth, wet kissing, CDC recommends against engaging in this activity with a person known to be infected. However, the risk of acquiring HIV during open-mouth kissing is believed to be very low. CDC has investigated only one case of HIV infection that may be attributed to contact with blood during open-mouth kissing. In this case both partners had extensive dental problems including gingivitis (inflammation of the gums). It is likely that there was blood present in both partners' mouths making direct blood to blood contact a possibility.     (Source: Centers for Disease Control - CDC)

Can I get HIV from casual contact (shaking hands, hugging, using a toilet, drinking from the same glass, or the sneezing and coughing of an infected person)?

No. HIV is not transmitted by day to day contact in the home, the workplace, schools, or social settings. HIV is not transmitted through shaking hands, hugging or a casual kiss. You cannot become infected from a toilet seat, a drinking fountain, a doorknob, dishes, drinking glasses, food, or pets.

HIV is a fragile virus that does not live long outside the body. HIV is not an airborne or food borne virus. HIV is present in the blood, semen or vaginal secretions of an infected person and can be transmitted through unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex or through sharing injection drug needles.     (Source: Centers for Disease Control - CDC)

Can a woman give HIV to a man during vaginal intercourse?

Yes. If the woman is infected, HIV is present in vaginal and cervical secretions (the wetness in a woman's vagina) and can enter the penis through the urethra (the hole at the tip) or through cuts or abrasions on the skin of the penis. The presence of other STDs can increase the risk of transmission. The correct and consistent use of a latex condom or female condom can reduce the risk of transmitting HIV during vaginal intercourse. For more information, call the CDC National AIDS Hotline at 1-800-342-2437 (English), 1-800-344-7432 (Spanish), or 1-800-243-7889 (TTY).     (Source: Centers for Disease Control - CDC)

How effective are latex condoms in preventing HIV?

Several studies have demonstrated that latex condoms are highly effective in preventing HIV transmission when used correctly and consistently. These studies looked at uninfected people considered to be at very high risk of infection because they were involved in sexual relationships with HIV-infected persons. The studies found that even with repeated sexual contact, 98-100% of those people who used latex condoms consistently and correctly remained uninfected. For more on these studies, including free written information, call the CDC National AIDS Hotline at 1-800-342-2437 (English), 1-800-344-7432 (Spanish), or 1-800-243-7889 (TTY).     (Source: Centers for Disease Control - CDC)

What if I test HIV positive?

If you test positive, the sooner you take steps to protect your health, the better. Early medical treatment, a healthy lifestyle and a positive attitude can help you stay well. Prompt medical care may delay the onset of AIDS and prevent some life-threatening conditions. It is important to know that a positive HIV test should always be confirmed, to be sure that it is a true positive. If your test result is positive, there are a number of important steps you can take immediately to protect your health:

    * See a doctor, even if you don't feel sick. Try to find a doctor who has experience treating HIV. There are now many new drugs to treat HIV infection. There are important tests, immunizations and drug treatments that can help you maintain good health. It is never too early to start thinking about treatment possibilities.
    * Have a tuberculosis (TB) test done. You may be infected with TB and not know it. Undetected TB can cause serious illness. TB can be treated successfully if detected early.
    * Recreational drugs, alcoholic beverages and smoking can weaken your immune system. There are programs available to help you stop.
    * Consider joining a support group for people with HIV infection or finding out about other resources available in your area, such as HIV/AIDS-knowledgea ble counselors for one on one therapy. There are also many newsletters available for people living with HIV and AIDS.
    * There is much you can do to stay healthy. Learning as much as you can is a step in the right direction. Local and/or national resources may be available. Many HIV/AIDS organizations provide services free or on a sliding scale, based on ability to pay.
    * Call the CDC National AIDS Hotline for more information and referrals at 1-800-342-2437 (English), 1-800-344-7432, (Spanish), or 1-800-243-7889 (TTY).
(Source: Centers for Disease Control - CDC)

How long after a possible exposure should I be tested for HIV??

The time it takes for a person who has been infected with HIV to seroconvert (test positive) for HIV antibodies is commonly called the "Window Period."

The California Office of AIDS, published in 1998, says about the window period: "When a person is infected with the HIV virus, statistics show that 95-97% (perhaps higher) of all infected individuals develop antibodies within 12 weeks (3-months)."

The National CDC has said that in some rare cases, it may take up to six months for one to seroconvert (test positive). At this point the results would be 99.9% accurate.

* What does this mean for you?

The three-month window period is normal for approximately 95% of the population. If you feel any anxiety about relying on the 3-month result, by all means you should have another test at 6 months.     (Source: San Francisco AIDS Foundation)

When do you know for sure that you are not infected with HIV?

The tests commonly used to determine HIV infection actually look for antibodies produced by the body to fight HIV. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most people will develop detectable antibodies within 3 months after infection. In rare cases, it can take up to six months. Therefore, the CDC recommends testing at 6 months after the last possible exposure. (unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex or sharing injecting drug needles). It would be extremely rare to take longer than six months to develop detectable antibodies. It is important, during the six months between exposure and the 6-month test, to protect yourself and others from further exposures to HIV.
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