World aids day and safe sex To the Editor
Guyana Chronicle
November 28, 2001

Dr. Ramsammy, in observance of World Aids Day, December 1st. 2001, has asked that each one of us help the other understand more about the killer HIV/AIDS.

In response to his call I reproduce hereunder, information distributed internationally by the Aids Virus Education and Research Unit (AVERT) - a leading UK Aids Charity that concentrates on the use of education and medical research to: 1.prevent people from becoming infected with Aids, 2. improving the quality of life of people already affected and 3. working to develop a cure for Aids.

AVERT says: HIV stands for the Human Immuno-deficiency Virus. This is a virus that people can become infected with and that they can then pass on to other people. When someone becomes infected with HIV, it begins to attack their immune system, which is the body's defence against illness. This process is not visible.

A person infected with HIV may look and feel perfectly well for many years and they may not know that they are infected. Then as the person's immune system weakens they become vulnerable to illnesses, many of which they would normally fight off.

When a person is infected with HIV they are likely as time goes by to be ill more and more often. A person is said to have AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) when, usually several years after first becoming infected with HIV, they have developed one of a number of particularly severe illnesses.

HIV is present in the sexual fluids and blood of infected people. It can also be in the breast milk of infected women. A risky sexual activity is anything that makes it possible for the virus to pass from one person to another. This is why sexual intercourse without a condom is risky, because the virus, which is present in an infected person's sexual fluids, can pass directly into the body of their partner. Using a condom properly is a very effective way of preventing transmission of HIV during sexual intercourse. Also, contact with an infected person's blood is risky if it allows the virus to pass into another person's body through cuts or grazes in their skin. It is risky being pricked by, or injected with, a needle or syringe already used by someone else. It is also possible for an infected woman to pass the virus on to her unborn baby either before or during birth. HIV can also be passed on through breast-feeding.

It is not possible to become infected with HIV through sharing cutlery, insect/animal bites, touching, hugging, kissing on the cheek, caressing, shaking hands, or eating food prepared by someone with HIV. Deep or open mouthed kissing is considered a very low risk activity.

There is currently no known cure for AIDS although in many countries greatly improved medical treatments are now available. The keynote, therefore, is prevention, which means practicing safe sex. Safer sex is often taken to mean using a condom for sexual intercourse. Using a condom makes it very hard for the virus to pass between people when they are having sexual intercourse. A condom, when used properly, acts as a physical barrier that prevents infected fluid getting into the other person's bloodstream. If two people are having safe sex then even if one person is affected there is no possibility of the
other person becoming infected.
Shawn Mangru