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by Susie Contreras, Lifestyle editor

According to the Web site www.knowhiv.org, about half of all new human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cases belong to people under the age of 25, with African-Americans and women being hit the hardest. And since it is also believed that about one quarter of people who are HIV infected don’t know they are infected, there could be a lot of young people walking around thinking they are healthy who aren’t.

HIV can be found in bodily fluids including blood, semen, and vaginal fluids. It is transmitted through both penetrative and oral sex, sharing of needles, blood transfusions, and from mother to child. According to the Web site www.unaids.org, 90 percent of infections are sexually transmitted and 60 to 70 percent of these cases involve heterosexual couples.

AIDS is caused by the HIV virus and is basically the later more advanced stages of HIV infection. HIV, if not treated, begins to cause AIDS symptoms in around eight to 10 years. Because HIV viruses infect and destroy immune system cells, people who are infected are more likely to die from infections that their weakened immune systems are unable to fight.

How do you prevent yourself from becoming just another statistic? By abstaining from sex or using condoms, being in a monogamous relationship, making sure all needles and syringes you use are properly sterilized, and getting regular tests.

If you haven’t been careful, get yourself tested. There are two types of HIV tests. The first is confidential testing which means your doctor cannot share your results with anyone other than you, unless you give them written permission. The second is anonymous testing, where you are assigned a number, your name is not used, and no records are kept that could link you to the test. Doctors recommend getting tested three months after a possible exposure. HIV antibodies usually can’t be detected until 12 weeks after an infection, and if you are infected there are treatment programs.

For more information, or to arrange a free test, call the Hawai‘i STD/AIDS Hotline (800) 321-1555 or the Life Foundation (808) 521-2437.


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