Learning the Facts

Course Objectives:

The goal of the Learning the Facts course is to help participants develop a common knowledge and skillset for sharing information regarding HIV and AIDS.

This course will prepare participants to:

  • ŸDistinguish between HIV and AIDS
  • ŸUnderstand how HIV infection progresses
  • ŸUnderstand how HIV is and is not spread
  • ŸScore 80 percent or higher (40 or more correct questions) on a multi-discipline HIV/AIDS Fact Test

Additional course objectives include:

  1. Sharing accurate and up-to-date information about HIV and AIDS with a group.
  2. Recognize and acknowledge when they do not know an answer, and refer community members to appropriate resources.
  3. Distinguish facts about HIV and AIDS from misinformation.
  4. Distinguish facts about HIV and AIDS from opinions.
  5. Share information about HIV and AIDS without using labels to describe people.

To complete the course successfully, participants must perform the following:

  1. Demonstrate knowledge of the basic facts about HIV and AIDS and skill in communicating these facts accurately.
  2. Understand and demonstrate the ability to communicate basic factual information from a culturally sensitive and non-judgmental perspective.
  3. Use language that describes behavior rather than by using labels.
  4. Share information and answer questions without expressing personal opinions.



 The HIV/AIDS Frame

  1. What is HlV?
  2. What is AlDS?
  3. How do people get infected?
  4. What are ways people don’t get infected?
  5. How do people prevent HIV infection?

Modes of Transmission

  1. Unprotected anal, oral or vaginal sex with an infected person
  2. Sharing needles and syringes with an infected person
  3. Infected mother to child (during, before or after birth)

Body Fluids That Transmit the Virus

  1. Blood
  2. Semen
  3. Vaginal Fluid
  4. Breast Milk


What is HIV?

HIV, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, is the virus that can cause AIDS.

What is AIDS?

AIDS is Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

How do people get infected?

People become infected with HIV by:

  • Having unprotected anal, oral or vaginal sex with an HIV infected person.
  • ŸSharing needles and syringes (drugs, steroids, vitamins, tattooing, body piercing and body jewelry) with an HIV- infected person.
  • ŸInfected mother to child: before, during, or after birth
  • ŸExchanging the body fluids that transmit HIV (blood, semen, vaginal fluids or breast milk) with an HIV-infected person.

What are ways people DON’T get infected?

People don’t get infected with HIV by:

  • ŸCasual contact (sitting next to someone who is HIV infected, sharing eating utensils, using the same restrooms, drinking fountains, etc.)
  • Donating blood.

How do people prevent HIV infection?

People prevent HIV infection by:

  • Abstaining from sex, drugs and alcohol.
  • Ÿ Postponing sexual activity.
  • Ÿ Maintaining a mutually faithful monogamous relationship with an HIV negative person.
  • Ÿ Not sharing needles or syringes.
  • Ÿ Using a latex condom/barrier with a water-based lubricant (K-Y Jelly, ID Glide, Cornhuskers lotion, Wet, SK-70) correctly each and every time you have sex.


What is HIV?

HIV is the Human Immunodeficiency Virus.  HIV is the virus that can cause AIDS (a result of HIV infection).  The virus was identified in 1983.

What is AIDS?

AIDS is Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS is a condition that results from HIV infection.  The infection is caused by a virus (HIV).  By the time people with HIV develop AIDS, their immune systems have become damaged and may no longer be able to fight off other infections.  Although treatments for HIV infection, including AIDS, have greatly improved, these infections may eventually lead to death.

What is the immune system? Why is the immune system important? What are antibodies?

The immune system is a collection of cells and substances that act as the body’s defense against germs and other things that make people ill. Antibodies usually defend against illnesses and infections, although this is not the case with HIV antibodies.

What happens when someone gets the virus that causes AIDS?

HIV (the virus that can cause AIDS) attacks the body’s defenses. People with HIV may be free of symptoms; however, they may develop severe or prolonged fevers, swollen lymph glands, diarrhea, and other symptoms. After some time, many develop AIDS (a result of HIV infection), making them susceptible to diseases that most healthy people are able to resist.

How long does it take for someone who is infected with HIV to develop AIDS? What is the incubation period for AIDS?

Since 1992, scientists have estimated that about half the people who have HIV (the virus that can cause AIDS) will develop AIDS within 10 years after becoming infected. The time between becoming infected with HIV and developing symptoms of AIDS is known as the incubation period.  However, combination treatments that include protease inhibitors have been shown to slow the pace of infection in some people, extending life and improving its quality.

How is AIDS diagnosed?

AIDS is a result of infection caused by a virus (HIV).  Doctors look for signs of HIV by ordering special tests.  Before making an AIDS diagnosis, doctors count the number of T-helper cells (a type of white blood cell) in the blood, a measure of how strong the immune system is.  A T-cell count of less than 200 indicates AIDS.  Doctors also look for other signs that the body’s defenses are damaged–for example, cancers or illnesses that usually only attack  people whose defenses are not working.

How can I tell if I have the virus that causes AIDS?

People can find out if they have HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) by getting counseled and tested.  Using a sample of blood or fluid from the mouth, EIAs (enzyme immunoassays, formerly called ELISAs) can show whether people have antibodies to HIV (the virus that can cause AIDS).  If the tests show that a person has HIV antibodies, it is assumed that he/she has HIV infection.


Why are condoms important for safer sex?

Because when used correctly for each act of vaginal, anal or oral sex, latex condoms are the best way for sexually active people to reduce the risk of unplanned pregnancy, infection from HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) and sexually transmitted disease (STDs).  Not having sex (abstinence) is the only 100% sure way to avoid pregnancy and contraction of STDs.

What is safer sex?

Safer sex means protecting yourself and your partner(s) from STDs, including HlV.  Safer sex can mean choosing activities other than vaginal, anal or oral sex.  For example, some people find sexual pleasure in fantasizing, caressing, dry kissing (with mouths closed), mutual body massage using heat-producing lotions (water-based only), or mutual masturbation (no contact with semen nor vaginal fluids).

How can condoms protect me?

Latex condoms are an effective barrier against body fluids during sex.  They help prevent contact with a partner’s semen, blood (including menstrual blood) and vaginal fluids.  These body fluids can contain germs that cause: HIV infection, Syphilis, Gonorrhea, Herpes, Chlamydia, Hepatitis B, genital warts and Trichomoniasis.  Latex condoms also offer 2-way protection because they protect you and your partner from disease when used properly.

Latex condoms are also an effective means of birth control, which is essential unless you’re planning to have a baby. Condoms work very well in preventing pregnancy, especially when used with water-based creams, jellies or foams that contain spermicide, a chemical that kills sperm.

Are natural skin condoms as effective?

Some people think “skin” or “natural skin” condoms provide a more natural feeling.  However, skin condoms, which are made from lamb intestines, do not protect against HIV nor other STDs.

Why use latex condoms?

Latex is safest.  Male latex condoms are considered the most effective protection against HIV infection and other STDs, and male condoms give you choices.

  • ŸLubricated or non-lubricated:  You can buy latex condoms already lubricated.  Some latex condoms have a spermicide and a lubricant; however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend using condoms with spermicide as they may cause irritation to the vagina and anus.
  • ŸRegular or flavored:  Some latex condoms come in your favorite flavors: strawberry, grape, chocolate, vanilla, banana, and other yummy flavors.  Flavored condoms cannot be used for vaginal or anal sex as the coloring and flavor may cause irritation.  Flavored non-lubricated condoms can be used for oral sex.
  • ŸReservoir or plain tip:  Reservoir tips have a nipple at the end to catch semen and sperm, plain tips don’t.  If using a plain or “rolled end” tip, leave ½ inch of space at the end when you put on the condom.
  • ŸRibbed or non-ribbed:  Some latex condoms have ridges, knobs, or ticklers which some people feel give added sensation and pleasure.
  • ŸSmall, medium, large or XL:  Condoms like clothes, shoes and hats, come in different sizes. Use the size that most comfortably fits you or your partner’s penis. A condom that is too small may break, or a condom that is too large may slip off in the vagina or anus.
  • ŸColors:  Latex condoms come in assorted colors like red, green, blue, black, yellow, orange, stripes, polka dots, multi-colored and glow-in-the-dark.  Be aware that colored condoms contain coloring, which may cause irritation to the vagina or anus.

Where can I get latex condoms?

Latex condoms are inexpensive, costing about $1 each, and can be purchased at many drug, grocery and convenience stores, service stations and public restrooms.  Many family-planning clinics, HIV/STD clinics, and community-based organizations such as the Community Wellness Project, provide free condoms to clients.  Anyone of any age can purchase condoms without parental consent.

How do I take care of condoms?

Condoms should be handled with proper care.  Condoms should be kept in a cool, dry place without direct exposure to sunlight or heat.  Don’t keep condoms in your wallet or purse (unless you have a condom case) as they can be damaged by keys, pens and pencils, hairpins, and nail clips. Don’t keep condoms in your glove compartment, as the heat and sunlight may weaken them.  Only use condoms that are in good condition.

Never use condoms that are dry, brittle, discolored or damaged in any way.  If the package appears to have tears, holes or is dry, throw it away immediately.  Condoms, like food, are perishable and have an expiration date.  If the expiration date has passed, throw the condom away and use a new one.

After sexual activity, condoms should be wrapped in a tissue and thrown away in a trashcan.  Never flush a condom down the toilet as it may cause plumbing problems.

Can I reuse condoms?

No, condoms are not reusable.  A new condom should be used for each act of vaginal, anal or oral sex.

What is a female condom?

The female condom is a thin polyurethane barrier of protection that is inserted into the vagina to block sperm.  There are two flexible rings, one to hold the female condom securely in the vagina, and the other ring rests outside the vagina covering the small lips of the vulva.  The female condom is used alone; do not use a female and a male latex condom at the same time.  Oil-based or water-based lubricants can be safely used with the female condom. Remember, only water-based lubricants can he used with the male latex condom.

If you are not going to use a male latex condom, you can use the polyurethane female condom to help protect you and your partner; however, the female condom is not considered as effective against HIV and other STDs as the male latex condom.  Be sure to read the label and follow the directions exactly.  Remember, the male latex condom is the safest condom.

Where can I get the female condom?

Female condoms are expensive, costing about $5 each, and can be purchased at many drug, grocery and convenience stores. Many family-planning clinics, HIV/STD clinics and community-based organizations, such as the Community Wellness Project, may provide free condoms to clients.  Anyone of any age can purchase female condoms without parental consent.

How do I take care of the female condom?

As described above, you use the same proper care and precautions you would to take care of a male latex condom.

What if my partner refuses to use a condom?

Talk with your partner about condoms and safer sex.  Have an open and honest discussion about why you want to use condoms.  If your partner still refuses to use condoms, you may consider postponing having a sexual relationship with this person until you both agree to use them.

How do I negotiate safer sex and condom usage with my partner?

Negotiation is being able to make a decision that everyone agrees with while finding ways to stay in agreement. Being able to overcome objections to safer sex and condom usage by using factual information will help you stand firm in your decision to use condoms.

Some common objections to safer sex and condom usage include:

  • People who use condoms don’t trust each other.  It’s not a matter of trust; it’s a matter of respecting and caring for yourself and the person you’re with.  Your sexual wellness is your responsibility; however, both of you have a responsibility for having and using condoms, whether you trust each other or not.
  • Condoms are for people with diseases.  Do I look sick to you?  Unfortunately, you can’t tell by looking at someone if they have HIV or other STDs.  A person can look, feel and act healthy and still be infected.
  • Condoms don’t feel as good as the real thing.  They kill the mood for sex.  If both partners make the effort, condoms can be an enjoyable part of sexual activities.  Condoms kill the mood only if you let them.  For many couples, knowing they are both protected actually heightens and enhances sexual pleasure and makes for an enjoyable encounter.
  • Why do I need to use a condom? You’re on the pill, right?  Condoms are birth control, not STD control.  Birth control pills and condom usage give extra protection against both pregnancy and STDs.
  • If you insist that I use a condom, I’m leaving.  If your partner won’t use a condom, you have to decide if you are willing to take the risk of pregnancy or STD infection.  Only you can look out for your sexual wellness.  Respect and love yourself enough to not compromise your health.  Don’t take chances.

How is HIV spread?

  • By having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with an infected person.
  • By sharing needles or syringes with an infected person.
  • During pregnancy, birth, or breast feeding from an infected mother to her baby
  • Body fluids of an infected person that spread HIV:
    • Semen
    • Vaginal fluid
    • Blood
    • Breast milk

HIV Infection Information

People infected with HIV:

  • May look and feel healthy for a long time.
  • Can infect others even if they don’t look or feel sick.
  • May have symptoms that are like many other illnesses.
  • May get illnesses that healthy people usually don’t get once AIDS is developed.