Becky Kuhn, M.D., co-founder of Global Lifeworks, covers critical basic information about HIV and AIDS. HIV is a virus that causes the disease AIDS, which can be fatal. There are treatments but no cure.
HIV is spread by contact between body fluids (blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk) and mucous membranes (eyes, nose, mouth, and genitals). It is spread by sexual contact, injection drugs users sharing needles, from mother to child during childbirth or nursing, and (early on during the epidemic) by receiving blood transfusions.
You can reduce your risk by abstaining from sex before marriage, being faithful to a single partner and using a condom and/or dental dam if you are sexually active, and by never injecting drugs or by never sharing needles if you do. It can take up to six months after exposure to HIV for a person to test HIV positive; even before they test HIV postive, the infected person can spread the disease to others. A doctor can prescribe antiretroviral (ARV) drugs to prevent HIV from progressing to clinical AIDS.
It is critical to take every ARV dose on schedule to avoid developing a resistant strain of HIV. If a person is HIV positive, they still need to practice safer sex to avoid spreading HIV to others and to avoid contracting a different, resistant strain of HIV.
This important video is a very comprehensive guide to the basics of HIV / AIDS - although it is a bit long, it is well worth viewing.