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The risks of getting HIV in Zambia are still really high. It's not someone else's problem. It's your life we're talking about! If you're under 20 – and sexually active – you have a 50/50 chance of getting HIV. That means every time you have unprotected sex with someone whose status you don't know then you could get HIV infected with HIV.
Your risk of getting the virus depends a lot on YOU! Starting to have sex early on puts you in greater danger of getting HIV than if you wait until you're physically and emotionally ready. You should also be in a long-term loving relationship – and even then, you always need to use a condom. The number of people you have sex with is another big factor 'cause you can never be 100% sure of whether your partner has HIV, or has slept with someone else with HIV. The danger is also that somebody who gets HIV can feel fine for a long time and not be aware they have the virus – sometimes for many years. So, if you have more than one sexual partner, your risk of HIV goes right up and you have more chance of infecting others. Remember: everyone your partner has slept with is sleeping with you!
Yip, biologically-speaking, chicas are twice more likely than guys to become infected with HIV through unprotected sex. One of the reasons is that when you're young, your body membranes are thinner, so the HI-virus can get through more easily. During sex, you may get small abrasions that are only visible under a microscope but are big enough to let the virus through. Another big reality here in Zambia is that HIV is generally spread through teenage girls having sex with older guys, who are more likely to be infected with HIV… And don't think these girls are just out having a good time or selling their bods – that generally ain't so. No way! Males are forcing girls to have sex against their will and sexual violence plays a big role in the spread of HIV among girls and young women. Transactional sex for survival – but also for better grades, airtime, or new jeans – also ups your chances of getting the virus. So, while there may be a risk (like forced sex) even for those who make all the right choices, the point is to get your risk as close to zero as possible by making the right moves.
Anti-HIV medication is not a cure; it only works to slow down the progression of the disease, so that a person with HIV can live longer without the onset of Aids and Aids-related diseases. It works by controlling the replication process of the sneaky HI-virus, which whacks your immune system by making fake copies of your DNA so that it seems like a normal part of your body, fooling it into thinking that the HIV particles are friendly and therefore do not need to be attacked like other viruses. People on ARVs need to take them every day for the rest of their lives. You can't miss any tablets because the virus can quickly get out of control, and become resistant to treatment.
There are many reasons for wanting to get yourself checked out for HIV. The obvious one is that you've had sex – and now the afterglow has worn off you're worried you may have got more than you bargained for. Or maybe you're starting a new relationship, or have found out that you're not your partner's one and only. Here's the 411 on taking an HIV test and why it's important.
It's a test that checks your blood for traces of HIV – the virus that causes AIDS. The nurse will take some of your blood to check if there are any HIV antibodies in your body. If there are, then that means the virus is there. A blood test is the only way to be sure of your HIV status. Before you get tested, make sure you talk to a counsellor – it's your right! Know what to expect and think about how you will deal with the results.
Most tests can pick up HIV infection within three months after you've been exposed, but it can take up to six months for the test to pick up antibodies in your blood. It's a good idea to get tested regularly if you're having unprotected sex, starting a new relationship, your condom broke or you've had more than one partner and haven't used protection all the time. You should then take a test a few months later to confirm the original result.
The window period is the time between when get infected with HIV and when your body starts making antibodies to fight off the virus. So, if you get tested during this period, the result could come up as HIV negative (this is called a false negative) when you actually have the virus – that's why you've gotta be smart about this whole testing thing. Antibodies usually become detectable four to six weeks after infection. That's why if you get tested within three months of having unprotected sex, you need to get tested again three months later to be extra sure.
The whole point of taking an HIV test is find out whether or not you have the virus. Having the virus means that you are HIV+ (HIV positive) and will have to make changes in your life. Not having the virus means you're HIV negative, which doesn't mean you get a free pass.
Of course, no one wants to hear bad news, but the upside to knowing is that you've taken the first step to dealing with your status. A counsellor can help you prepare for the test, and talk about the results once you get them – this is called post-test counselling. At first, you may feel really freaked out, angry, afraid and helpless. Talking to someone you really dig and trust can help you learn to accept the virus and learn to move on with your life. If you're worried that you're HIV+, a test is the only way to put your mind at rest. After the shock, many people feel motivated to live full and active lives. Even though there is no cure for HIV and AIDS, you can be HIV+ and happy.
That's not true! If you know your HIV status, there's a lot you can do. For example, if you're negative, you can STAY NEGATIVE by abstaining from sex or, if you're already sexually active, by sticking to one partner and ALWAYS using a condom. If you're HIV positive – and sexually active – you MUST still always use a condom to protect your partner from infection, and yourself from repeat infections that could hasten the onset of AIDS. You can take measures to boost your immune system, like healthy eating and exercise, and early treatment for secondary infections. Although there is no cure for HIV and AIDS, drugs to treat AIDS are available and can enable HIV+ individuals to live normal, active lives for many years. With proper treatment, HIV can be managed like any other chronic disease for a long time.
Wrong! Ok, so it's not easy finding out your status and being scared to tell your family and friends makes it even harder. Since many peeps have the wrong idea about AIDS, feeling lonely is normal. Fortunately, there are people who understand and know how to help you. Being HIV+ is not the end of it all. There are many HIV+ people who live exciting lives and make the most out each and every day. You can take early measures to counter opportunistic infections like tuberculosis and pneumonia. And you can begin exploring your treatment options. Don't give up on life just yet, there are people who care and can give you help and support.
HIV is very smart – not only can it fool your body into thinking that it is friendly, so that your T-Helper cells (white blood cells that act like human soldiers) let down their guard, but it can also change its form. This means that every time a new drug is found to treat the disease, the virus changes (or mutates) so the drug is no longer effective in killing the virus or slowing it down. There probably won't be a cure for some time. Things like the new vaginal gel, or microbicide, may help reduce the risk of infection but you always need to take precautions – because once you get the virus, it's there to stay! Dudes, time to be real and accept the fact that prevention is the only cure. The Hi-virus may be freakishly clever, but you can outsmart it by using a condom if you're sexually active and abstaining from sex until you're ready. You know how it goes: The safest sex, baby, is no sex. Abstinence is the safest form of sex. But, if you're sexually active, there are ways to reduce your risk of getting HIV or passing the virus onto someone else if you already have the virus.
Know the facts about HIV and AIDS. Wait until you're older to have sex and then only when you're in a long-term, loving relationship. Have only one sexual partner and remain faithful to your partner. Always use a condom if you're sexually active (even during oral sex) – this prevents sexual bodily fluids from coming in to contact with each other. Get tested for HIV and go with your partner if you have one – isn't that the ultimate sign of commitment?
Listen up, guys: circumcision can reduce the risk of getting HIV by 60% BUT (and this is a big BUT) you still need to use a condom. You can go for medical circumcision – traditional circumcision does not offer the same protection. And if you have already been traditionally circumcised, you can still get medical circumcision – with your consent, of course. If you're medically circumcised, you're also less likely to get herpes and other STIs. The cool thing is that the more men who are medically circumcised, the fewer will get infected with HIV – and the fewer men with HIV means the lower your chances as a chica to get the virus if you're sexually active. But don't put on your party clothes just yet – you still need to use a condom and stick to one partner if we're gonna take control of this virus. Circumcision is NOT a cure.
You want to abstain but your hormones are making you feel hot and heavy… Just remember that sex doesn't equal love, so ask yourself if you wanna take the plunge for the right reasons. You and your boo can still have a relationship without going all the way. Things like hugging, kissing or stroking each other's sensitive parts can also be expressions of affection. Remember that the exchange of bodily fluids can put you at risk of getting the virus; while only touching the outside of your sweetheart is a lot safer. You've got your whole life for sexy fun.
Yes! Even if you're positive – and on treatment – the same healthy lifestyle message applies: Find safe ways to enjoy your sexuality (masturbate, touch your partner without penetration or allowing your body fluids to mix). Always use a condom during penetrative and oral sex – you can still spread the virus even if you're on ARVs! Even if you and your partner are BOTH positive, you still need to practise safe sex. This is because you can re-infect your partner with sub-strains of HIV and worsen one another's health. You could even re-infect your sweetheart with a drug-resistant strain of HIV – not a good way to show the love, right? Eat as healthily as you can and keep fit by exercising regularly to keep your immune system in tip-top shape. See a doctor or a nurse regularly to check your CD4 count is under control. You can live with HIV for a long time without getting sick. This is called Living Positively.
Eat a balanced diet – protein (meat, fish, eggs, nuts), carbohydrates (pap, potatoes, rice, bread), vegetables and fruit. Care for your feelings – when you feel scared or depressed, talk to someone. Don't keep it inside and turn it into stress. Stress will make you sick. Support your immune system – avoid alcohol, smoking, stress and people who are sick with flu, colds and other infectious diseases, including STIs. Get medical care – go for regular check-ups and stay in tune with your health. Treat any illness immediately! And if you're taking ARVs, remember not to miss a dose as you could become resistant. Practice safe sex – don't weaken your body by getting more infections, including other strains of HIV, from your sex partners. You'll get sick more quickly. Use condoms. Love your life – make the most of it (whether you are HIV+ or not). Find out what makes you happy, joyful and peaceful inside.
Knowing yourself means understanding who you are and what you want. People who know who they are don't succumb to peer pressure because they are fully in touch with their identity and know what's best for them. If you want to be part of the AIDS-free generation; being in tune with your identity is vital.
Pay attention to who you are: It may sound silly, but growing up is a process of becoming more self-sufficient: learning how to take care of yourself and nurturing the strength to make choices that will get you where you want to go. You're it, so you need to take care of your precious self. Start to pay attention to yourself: What do you like? What do you believe in? What makes you happy? What do you want? Go crazy with those lists. Getting to know the real you may sound as easy as pie but it's one of the hardest things in the world to do. And as you practise knowing yourself, you can figure out what is and isn't working for you – like a bad relationship or having sex with you boo without wrapping it. You need to lay down the foundations of who you are – one brick at a time – which is pretty cool when you think about it 'cause it means you have the power to decide who you are. And if there's something you don't like, you can give yourself an internal makeover to unleash you inner 'ayobaness'.
It can be difficult feeling good about yourself if you grow up in a family of many kids or in a crowded and run-down living space, where you have no privacy to explore yourself and your moods. Your self-worth may also take a knock if you feel 'different' from the group. 'Different' includes being an LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, intersexed) person; or a person of a different colour and/or culture from the majority of the group. If you have a learning disability, it could lead to your feeling not as smart or cool as the other kids. The same applies if you have a physical disability. Build your political bricks by finding other people who are similar to you in ways that make you feel comfortable and hang out with them. Make your own unique group. One of the most important parts of your brickwork is feeling like you belong somewhere, 'cause you do – even if it doesn't always feel like it. Just by reading this, you're already a part of the LOVE LIFE generation; you're making your move like a whole lot of other smart, savvy somebodies.
Friends are important: they are your second family, the people you choose to hang out with. You feel understood by them; you can share secrets; there is intense loyalty between you and trust is never to be compromised between friends. Unfortunately, they can also be a major obstacle in building your self-esteem. Peer pressure is very real. It is a 'fit in or fly off' mentality. That's why it is extremely important to choose friends well. If you hang out with a group of people who are experimenting with drugs and alcohol, no doubt you'll get into that stuff, too. It might feel far worse to be left out of the group, and easier to be pressurised into an unwanted lifestyle. But, is this who you really are? If you feel your friends are pressurising you to lose your virginity; stealing your partners; talking behind your back, dump them. They will compromise your self-esteem and make you feel bad about who you are. No choice leaves you with no voice. Build the social bricks of your self-esteem by choosing friends wisely – friends who give you a sense of acceptance and belonging; who make you feel important; and don't pressurise you into doing things that make you feel uncomfortable. These friends will also treat you well; give you hugs and recognise your worth. Taken from "Sex Book: A Guide for Young People" by Dr Eve.
Pimples can be caused by emotional stress and, of course, those jivin' hormones! Hormones make the glands produce too much oil (sebum); they get blocked with all that oil and that's when you get those nasty zits. So, you're probably gonna get 'em! But hey, with the proper diet and exercise, you should be able to limit the explosion.
Ok, so you think you're a weirdo 'cause you like beatin' the chicken or rubbin' the rose bud! Well, guess what? We all do it (well, most of us)! Masturbation (stimulating the genitals) is a perfectly natural way for you to love yourself and explore and satisfy your own sexual needs. And those 'stoopid' myths about weird things that could happen to you if you masturbate are just not true! Masturbation (for guys and girls) is healthy and normal – and the safest sex you can have, besides no sex, of course!
Many guys are really obsessed about the size of their penises. A boy's penis grows in length and gets to be thicker during puberty (ages 12-15). Then, their two favourite balls drop down and hang lower in the scrotum. When boys get to around 15, their penises generally ain't getting any bigger. But remember, your penis gets bigger when you get a hard on, or erection… Just remember to wrap it with a condom if you're going to use it!
In your sleep, you'll have a hard on (your penis will 'stand to attention') and you will come (ejaculate or shoot the cream). This usually comes with a very sexy dream – hence the name 'wet dream'. Guys, you can pretty much bank on this happening to you at some point during puberty – you could have them up to three times a week or maybe just once in your life. Either way, don't freak out! It's perfectly normal and it won't happen as often when you get older. It's also a good idea to wash when you wake up so you don't develop an infection around your private bits.
Sistas, girls' bodies change at different times and at different rates. Don't worry if your period hasn't come yet – it will happen sooner or later (ages 11-17), there's no two ways about it.
Parents can be squeamish about talking about things like doing the deed; they come from a different generation when their folks probably didn't talk about sex, and they might not want to admit that their little baby is growing up. If you have questions, uncertainties or are just plain curious you need to ask them. Be prepared for your folks getting a tad bit embarrassed and lots of 'ums' and 'aahs' – talking about sex ain't easy. They might jump to the conclusion that you're doing it, so it's important to put their mind at rest right up front. Remember that it's definitely never too late to initiate conversation about sex and sexuality, but the earlier the better Condoms are the only form of contraception that can protect you against HIV and pregnancy if used correctly and consistently. So if you're gettin' intimate remember to wrap it every time to show your partner that you care – and that you care about your own health and future.
There is NO legal age for buying condoms. The salesperson on the other side of the counter might raise an eyebrow but they can't refuse to sell you condoms or ask you for parental permission. Choosing to buy condoms is a good move if you're having sex; don't allow anyone to make you feel bad about making that decision.
False! This is one case where less is more. Using more than one condom can create a lot of friction, which can cause the condom to break.
Yawn – this excuse is getting sooo tired! Anyone who tells that you condoms are a no-no because using one doesn't feel good is not worth your time. There is nothing uncomfortable or painful about wearing a condom if they're put on correctly. Wrapping it might feel a little different to not wearing protection, but condoms don't take away the feeling of pleasure.
You can use polyurethane condoms, which are just as effective as the latex ones. Do your homework; ask your pharmacist or health care provider for different types of condoms, but leave the excuses at home.
No matter how big or small your tool is, a standard condom will fit. Think about it, you can fit your whole fist into a condom, which goes to show how much a condom can stretch.
Nope, the male condom can only be used once! One round, one condom, it's that simple. After using the condom, you need to get rid of it. Even if you don't use the condom but have already taken it out of the packet, throw it away.
This type of talk might feel like a minefield but you may be surprised at how relieved your partner is that you've brought up the subject. If you're finding it tricky, you could say: 'Let's use a condom – better safe than sorry' or 'Your condoms or mine?'. And if your boo is bringing you down with excuses, tell him 'Practice makes perfect' if he says condoms are difficult to put on; or 'Let's make them part of the fun' if he says they spoil the flow. Stand your ground and be in control! Cool tip: Discuss protection early on – that way you can agree on safer sex from the get go or change your mind if your boo isn't on the same page when it comes to protection. Plan ahead rather than waiting 'til you're all hot and heavy.
Yes there is – it's called the female condom, or femidom! It's more expensive and less readily available than the male condom, but can be really useful if your man can't or won't use a condom, giving you more freedom and control. The female condom is like a male condom, but it's much bigger and worn inside the vagina. If you're thinking of getting some lovin', it's time to get serious about contraception. Guys and girls are equally responsible when it comes to protection… most contraception is for the ladies, but equality is the name of the game so you both have to Make YOUR Move to avoid pregnancy and catching an STI.
Being prepared doesn't mean you're lose; it just makes sense. If you're planning to take the plunge, there's plenty of good reasons to make it safer, like keeping your risk of pregnancy low and avoiding STIs. Remember that there are many different types of contraception out there but only condoms provide 'all-in-one' protection against having babies and STIs, including HIV.
The combined pill is a form of oral contraception that stops a woman releasing an egg from her ovaries every month, which could develop into a baby if it is fertilised by a man's sperm. It has two hormones called oestrogen and progestogen. The progestogen-only pill is another form of oral contraception that makes it hard for the egg to be fertilised. An IUD, or intrauterine device, is put into the uterus (womb) by your doc to prevent pregnancy. It lasts up to five years, but can make periods heavier and more painful. An IUS (intrauterine system) is also put into the womb by your doctor but contains progestogen. It usually makes periods lighter and shorter. The contraceptive injection works in the same way as the progestogen-only pill, but the bonus is you don't have to remember to take a pill every day. And then there are condoms – the only method of contraception that boys can use… So there's no excuse, chommas, for saying that contraception is all women's work. The right contraceptive for you depends on your individual circumstances, which may change at different times of your life. Chat to your doctor, nurse or health care provider to choose the right fit for you – but remember: condoms are the only form of contraception that can protect you against BOTH pregnancy and HIV.
Barrier methods – like male and female condoms – stop the guy's sperm from entering the girl's vagina. Hormonal methods, like the Pill or injection, stops the girl's ovaries from making an egg each month. That means it cannot be fertilised and made into a baby. The Pill is good for preventing pregnancy – although it's not 100% safe; must be taken at roughly the same time every day and can have some side-effects. It also does NOT protect you against STIs and HIV, so go for double protection and use condoms, too!
If you think your contraceptive method hasn't worked, or you had unprotected sex, females can take the emergency contraceptive pill – these must be started within 72 hours (three days) after sex. They work best if taken within 24 hours of having unprotected sex. You can get emergency contraception from your doc, clinic or pharmacist. This should NOT be used a substitute for your regular contraception or condom – it's called 'emergency' for a reason, bright spark. And it won't protect you against HIV either!
THE CONTENT ON THIS PAGE HAS BEEN ADAPTED FROM THE LOVELIFECAMPIAGN PROJECT IN SOUTH AFRICA.