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There is no cure: back to prevention basics (for AIDS).

HIV and AIDS have become a growing concern among First Nations people, and education has proven to be the most effective way to prevent this fatal disease.

HIV is a communicable disease which can be transmitted from one person to another through certain behaviors. There is no cure, only medications that slow the obset of full blown AIDS.

AIDS is caused by HIV over time weakening the immune system, leaving the body an easy target for illnesses and diseases.

What is HIV?

* Human Immunodeficiency Virus - The virus that causes AIDS. It weakens the immune system making it difficult, and over time impossible, to fight infections and diseases.

What is AIDS?

* Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome - The advanced stage of HIV infection.

How do I know if I'm infected?

* Overtime, the body produces antibodies to fight the HIV virus. A blood test can tell if you have these antibodies which show you are infecteed.

* It can take up to six months after infection for these antibodies to show. After infection, some people may not feel or look sick for years, but they can still pass the virus to someone else.

* Over time, the nervous and immune systems become damaged and HIV-infected people become sick with different illnesses.

* People with AIDS are more suseptible to diseases such as infections or cancers, which can kill them.

Is there a cure?

* No. Progress has been made, but prevention is still our only defence.

Who's at risk?

* You.

* Everyone can be affected by HIV / AIDS. Male, female, young, old, rich or poor.

How can I get AIDs?

* Sharing needles or syringes with an infected person. Blood contains a high amount of HIV, so any blood rituals including tattooing or piercing is risky if equipment such as razors, knives or piercing needles that are not sterilized or cleaned properly between individuals.

* Unprotected (without a condom) anal or vaginal intercourse with an infected person.

* Performing oral sex on an infected person is a low risk activity. However, open sores on the lips or inside the mouth and bleeding gums increases the risk.

* An HIV positive woman can pass the infection to her child during pregnancy, delivery or through breast feeding.

* Receiving infected blood or blood products (since 1985 in Canada, all blood and blood products are tested for HIV antibodies).

How do I protect myself?

* Abstaining from sexual intercourse and injection drug use, including steroids is the most effective way to protect yourself.

* Do not share needles or equipment. Use clean needles and equipment at all times. If this is not possible, clean with bleach. Fill the syringe with bleach three times, then rinse with water three times. Also use bleach to clean other equipment. Remember to rinse with water.

* Always use a new latex condom for vaginal or anal intercourse. Any lubricant used must be water-based, like K-Y jelly. Oil-based products like Vaseline, hand lotions or massage oils can cause the condom to break during intercourse. Do not use novelty condoms, they will not protect you from HIV infection.

* Avoid alcohol and drugs, or at least use in moderation. They will affect our ability to make wise and healthy choices.

I CAN'T get infected by:

* Casual, everyday contact

* Shaking hands

* Hugging or kissing

* Coughing or sneezing

* Giving blood

* Using swimming pools or toilet seats

* Sharing bed linen, eating utensils or food

* Mosquitos and other insects, or animals

Will my identity be protected if I want to get tested?

* Yes. There are anoynomous test sites available, however you need to make that request to your doctor.

Who will help me cope with the results?

* There is counselling available before and after testing at anoynmous test sites.

Where do I go if I have more questions?

* Your local health unit or community centre

* Your local AIDS organizations

* AIDS hotlines

* Your doctor

* Your family planning clinic

* National AIDS Clearing-house, 400-1565 Carling Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario, K1Z 8R1, Fax (613)725-9826
COPYRIGHT 1999 Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Wind Speaker
Date:Jul 1, 1999
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