Mary Jo Podgurski

Column Mary Jo Podgurski

Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski is the founder and director of the Washington Health System Teen Outreach. She responds to 68 questions from young people daily and has written 'Ask Mary Jo' since 2005.

What ways can you get AIDS?

January 30, 2013

Q.Can you get AIDS from any kind of sexual contact?

– 14-year-old female

Mary Jo’s response: Great question! In the ’90s I received a question about HIV/AIDS at least once a week, but since treatment was developed that makes long-term survival possible, it seems that many young people don’t even think about infection with HIV. I believe that’s a mistake.

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. HIV causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). HIV is found in certain body fluids. A person can become infected with HIV if those body fluids enter the body.

The Centers for Disease Control ( lists the following types of body fluids that can contain high levels of HIV:

• Blood

• Semen

• Pre-seminal fluid

• Breast milk

• Vaginal fluids

• Rectal mucous

Contrary to some myths, other body fluids and waste products, like feces, nasal fluid, saliva, sweat, tears, urine or vomit, do not contain enough HIV to infect a person unless blood is also mixed in them and there is significant and direct contact with them.

HIV is spread through direct sexual contact. Sexual contact means anal, oral or vaginal sex. It is also spread during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. HIV can be transmitted by sharing needles or drugs that are contaminated with HIV-infected blood. At the start of the AIDS epidemic, individuals were infected through blood transfusions; in the U.S., screening for blood donations makes these types of HIV transmission very rare.

Infection with HIV doesn’t mean a person is sick. It’s not possible to tell if someone is infected with HIV just by looking at the person. Testing is required. A person who is HIV-positive may not know that an infection has happened.

AIDS is the late stage of HIV infection. A person living with AIDS is living with a very damaged immune system, so fighting diseases and certain cancers is very difficult. Medications have been developed that allow people living with HIV to live a long time – even decades – before developing AIDS.

Not having sex (abstinence) is the safest way to prevent HIV transmission. Two people in a monogamous relationship (faithful to each other) typically have a very low risk of transmitting HIV. Any kind of sexual contact that exchanges body fluids is risky. Reducing risk by using condoms every time sexual contact - oral, vaginal or anal sex - occurs is very important. The CDC states: “When used consistently and correctly, condoms are highly effective in preventing HIV infection. If you are sexually active, latex condoms provide the best protection against HIV infection.”

Next week I will look at the myths associated with HIV infection and casual contact. I have many questions from sixth-graders that need responses.

Thank you for thinking and coming to me with your question. Stay smart, think before you act, and please keep in touch.

Youth Champions: It is my pleasure to share some of the names of the young people who helped make our fourth annual Washington’s Got Talent a success last Saturday. More than 200 teens were involved in the production. Although I can’t acknowledge them all, here are the name of the young people who were most active at WGT. In ABC order, this list includes not only the finalists but also the student stage manager, the student emcees, the lighting and sound crew, the stage crew, the SHO (Students Helping Others) committee, our peer educators ... just plain wonderful young people who gave me so much joy.

Rachel Bellhy, Olivia Bender, John Berdine Jr., Taylor Bouchon, Staci Boucher, Aliyah Brooks, Tamairra Bunge, Austin Cain, Amanda Campbell, Ashaleah Davis, Noah Deep, Robert Dittrich, Sasha Edwards, Ceidleigh Evans, Troy Frazier, Alexis Fuqua, Ashlee Gladys, Natalie Gloady, Sami Golaski, Weylin Gomez, Alyssa Guerrieri, Savannah Guidi, Deja Gzikowski, Diamond Healy, Carolyn Hock, Dajour Hull, Kalina Interval, Elia Jablonsky, Jazmin Kelley, Ashley King, Mary Leasure, Liza Lee, Timmy Lesso, Dominque Levy, Michael Lucas, Rachel Lucas, Mackenzie Martin, Cheyenne May, Sydney McBride, Elizabeth Menke, Cheyenne Moore, Jordan Mooney, Melanie Narin, Hannah Ogburn, David Pascoe, Daniel Pascoe, Luke Paskert, Christian Rohrer, William Reusch, Leah Rupinsky, Raelynn Sanders, Sarah Smith, Shardai Smith, Nathan Staso, Nicole Stevenson, Sarah Tomko, Justin Walker, Kristen Wilson and Geneva Yarbrough.

Our opening number included 35 students from the following dance studios:

Dance Extensions aka DEPAC, Dance with Me by Sisters 3, Evolving Artists Dance, In Motion Dance+Fitness, Moschetta’s Performing Arts Center, Sandra Kay Mesler Dance Studio, Studio B Dance Centers and Synergy School of Artistic Dance by Roz.



blog comments powered by Disqus