by U.S. Surgeon General
This brochure has been sent to you by the government of the
United States. In preparing it, we have consulted with the top
health experts in the country.
I feel it is important that you have the best information now
available for fighting the AIDS virus, a health problem that the
president has called “Public Enemy No. 1.”
Stopping AIDS is up to you, your family and your loved ones.
Some of the issues involved in this brochure may not be things
you are used to discussing openly. I can easily understand that.
But now you must discuss them. We all must know about AIDS.
Read this brochure and talk about it with those you love. Get
involved. Many schools, churches, synagogues, and community
groups offer AIDS education activities.
I encourage you to practice responsible behavior based on
understanding and strong personal values. This is what you can
do to stop AIDS.
— C. Everett Koop, M.D., Sc.D., Surgeon General.
What AIDS Means to You
AIDS is one of the most serious health problems that has ever
faced the American public. It is important that we all, regard-
less of who we are,understand this disease.
AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. It is a
disease caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, HIV — the
The AIDS virus may live in the human body for years before
actual symptoms appear. It primarily affects you by making you
unable to fight other diseases. These other diseases can kill
Many people feel that only certain “high risk groups” of people
are infected by the AIDS virus. This is untrue. Who you are has
nothing to do with whether you are in danger of being infected
with the AIDS virus. What matters is what you do.
People are worried about getting AIDS. Some should be worried
and need to take some serious precautions. But many are not in
danger of contracting AIDS.
The purpose of this brochure is to tell you how you can, and
just as important, how you can’t become infected with the AIDS
Your children need to know about AIDS. Discuss it with them as
you would any health concern.
How Do You Get AIDS?
There are two main ways you can get AIDS. First, you can
become infected by having sex — oral, anal or vaginal — with
someone who is infected with the AIDS virus.
Second, you can be infected by sharing drug needles and
syringes with an infected person.
Babies of women who have been infected with the AIDS virus may
be born with the infection becuse it can be transmitted from the
mother to the baby before or during birth.
In addition, some persons with hemophilia and others have been
infected by receiving blood.
The Difference Between Giving and Receiving Blood
1. Giving blood. You are not now, nor have you ever been in
danger of getting AIDS from giving blood at a blood bank. The
needles that are used for blood donations are brand-new. Once
they are used, they are destroyed. There is no way you can come
into contact with the AIDS virus by donating blood.
2. Receiving blood. The risk of getting AIDS from a blood
transfusion has been greatly reduced. In the interest of making
the blood supply as safe as possible, donors are screened for
risk factors and donated blood is tested for the AIDS antibody.
Call your local blood bank if you have questions.
Can You Become Infected?
Yes, if you engage in risky behavior.
The male homosexual population was the first in this country to
feel the effects of the disease. But in spite of what you may
have heard, the number of heterosexual cases is growing.
People who have died of AIDS in the U.S. have been male and
female, rich and poor, white, Black, Hispanic, Asian and American
How Do You Get AIDS from Sex?
The AIDS virus can be spread by sexual intercourse whether you
are male or female, heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual.
This happens because a person infected with the AIDS virus may
have the virus in semen or vaginal fluids. The virus can enter
the body through the vagina, penis, rectum or mouth.
Anal intercourse, with or without a condom, is risky. The rec-
tum is easily injured during anal intercourse.
Remember, AIDS is sexually transmitted, and the AIDS virus is
not the only infection that is passed through intimate sexual
Other sexual transmitted diseases, such as gonorrhea, syphilis,
herpes and chlamydia, can also be contracted through oral, anal
and vaginal intercourse. If you are infected with one of these
diseases and engage in risky behavior you are at greater risk of
You Won’t Get AIDS From Insects — Or A Kiss
No matter what you may have heard, the AIDS virus is hard to
get and is easily avoided.
You won’t just “catch” AIDS like a cold or flu because the
virus is a different type. The AIDS virus is transmitted through
sexual intercourse, the sharing of drug needles, or to babies of
infected mothers before or during birth.
You won’t get the AIDS virus through everyday contact with the
people around you in school, in the workplace, at parties, child
care centers, or stores. You won’t get it by swimming in a pool,
even if someone in the pool is infected with the AIDS virus. Stu-
dents attending school with someone infected with the AIDS virus
are not in danger from casual contact.
You won’t get AIDS from a mosquito bite. The AIDS virus is not
transmitted through a mosquito’s salivary glands like other
diseases such as malaria or yellow fever. You won’t get it from
bed bugs, lice, flies or other insects, either.
You won’t get AIDS from saliva, sweat, tears, urine or a bowel
You won’t get AIDS from a kiss.
You won’t get AIDS from clothes, a telephone, or from a toilet
seat. It can’t be passed by using a glass or eating utensils
that someone else has used. You won’t get the virus by being on
a bus, train or crowded elevator with a person who is infected
with the virus, or who has AIDS.
What Behavior Puts You At Risk?
You are at risk of being infected with the AIDS virus if you
have sex with someone who is infected, or if you share drug nee-
dles and syringes with someone who is infected.
Since you can’t be sure who is infected, your chances of coming
into contact with the virus increase with the number of sex
partners you have. Any exchange of infected blood, semen or
vaginal fluids can spread the virus and place you at great risk.
The following behaviors are risky when performed with an
infected person. You can’t tell by looking if a person is
Sharing drug needles and syringes.
Anal sex, with or without a condom.
Vaginal or oral sex with someone who shoots drugs or engages in
Sex with someone you don’t know well (a pickup or prostitute)
or with someone you know has several sex partners.
Unprotected sex (without a condom) with an infected person.
Not having sex.
Sex with one mutually faithful, uninfected partner.
Not shooting drugs.
What About Dating?
Dating and getting to know other people is a normal part of
life. Dating doesn’t mean the same thing as having sex. Sexual
intercourse as a part of dating can be risky. One of the risks
How can you tell if someone you’re dating or would like to date
has been exposed to the AIDS virus? The bad news is, you can’t.
But the good news is, as long as sexual activity and sharing drug
needles are avoided, it doesn’t matter.
You are going to have to be careful about the person you become
sexually involved with, making your own decision based on your
own best judgment. That can be difficult.
Has this person had any sexually transmitted diseases? How many
people have they been to bed with? Have they experimented with
drugs? All these are sensitive, but important, questions. But
you have a personal responsibility to ask.
Think of it this way. If you know someone well enough to have
sex, then you should be able to talk about AIDS. If someone is
unwilling to talk, you shouldn’t have sex.
Do Married People Get AIDS?
Married people who are uninfected, faithful and don’t shoot
drugs are not at risk. But if they engage in risky behavior,
they can become infected with the AIDS virus and infect their
partners. If you feel your spouse may be putting you at risk,
talk to him or her. It’s your life.
What Is All The Talk About Condoms?
Not so very long ago, condoms (rubbers or prophylactics) were
things we didn’t talk about very much.
Now, they’re discussed on the evening news and on the front
page of your newspaper, and displayed out in the open in your
local drug store, grocery and convenience store.
For those who are sexually active and not limiting their sexual
activity to one partner, condoms have been shown to help prevent
the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. That is why the use
of condoms is recommended to help reduce the spread of AIDS.
Condoms are the best preventive measure against AIDS besides
not having sex and practicing safe behavior.
But condoms are far from being foolproof. You have to use them
properly. And you have to use them every time you have sex, from
start to finish. If you use a condom, you should remember these
(1) Use condoms made of latex rubber. Latex serves as a bar-
rier to the virus. “Lambskin” or “natural membrane” condoms are
not as good because of the pores in the material. Look for the
word “latex” on the package.
(2) A condom with a spermicide may provide additional protec-
tion. Spermicides have been shown in laboratory tests to kill
the virus. Use the spermicide in the tip and outside the condom.
(3) Condom use is safer with a lubricant. Check the list of
ingredients on the back of the lubricant package to make sure the
lubricant is water-based. Do not use petroleum-based jelly, cold
cream, baby oil or cooking shortening. These can weaken the con-
dom and cause it to break.
What Does Someone With AIDS Look Like?
It is very important that everyone understands that a person
can be infected with the AIDS virus without showing any symptoms
It is possible to be infected for years, feel fine, look fine
and have no way of knowing you are infected unless you have a
test for the AIDS virus.
During this period, however, people infected with the AIDS
virus can pass the virus to sexual partners, to people with whom
drug needles are shared, and to children before or during birth.
That is one of the most disturbing things about AIDS.
Once symptoms do appear, they are similar to the symptoms of
some other diseases. As the disease progresses, they become more
serious. That is because the AIDS virus keeps your body’s
natural defenses from operating correctly.
If you are concerned whether you might be infected, consider
your own behavior and its effects on others. If you feel you
need to be tested for the AIDS virus, talk to a doctor or an AIDS
counselor for more information. (See below.)
Is There A Cure For AIDS?
There is presently no cure for AIDS.
Medicines such as AZT have prolonged the lives of some people
with AIDS. There is hope that additional treatments will be
There is also no vaccine to prevent uninfected people from get-
ting the infection. Researchers believe it may take years for an
effective, safe vaccine to be found.
The most effective way to prevent AIDS is avoiding exposure to
the virus, which you can control by your own behavior.
Should you Get An AIDS Test?
You have probably heard about the “AIDS Test.” the test doesn’t
actually tell you if you have AIDS. It shows if you have been
infected with the virus. It looks for changes in blood that
occur after you have been infected.
The Public Health Service recommends you be confidentially
counseled and tested if you have had any sexually transmitted
disease or shared needles; if you are a man who has had sex with
another man; or if you have had sex with a prostitute, male or
female. You should be tested if you have had sex with anyone who
has done any of these things.
If you are a woman who has been engaging in risky behavior and
you plan to have a baby or are not using birth control, you
should be tested.
Your doctor may advise you to be counseled and tested if you
are a hemophiliac, or have received a blood transfusion between
1978 and 1985.
If you test positive, and find you have been infected with the
AIDS virus, you must take steps to protect your partner.
People who have always practiced safe behavior do not need to
There’s been a great deal in the press about problems with the
test. It is very reliable if it is done by a good laboratory and
the results are checked by a physician or counselor.
If you have engaged in risky behavior, speak frankly to a doc-
tor who understands the AIDS problem, or to an AIDS counselor.
For more information, call your local public health agency.
They’re listed in the government section of your phone book. Or,
call your local AIDS hotline. If you can’t find the number, call
The Problem Of Drugs And AIDS
Today, in some cities, the sharing of drug needles and syringes
by those who shoot drugs is the fastest growing way that the
virus is being spread.
No one should shoot drugs. It can result in addiction, poor
health, family disruption, emotional disturbances and death.
Many drug users are addicted and need to enter a drug treatment
program as quickly as possible.
In the meantime, these people must avoid AIDS by not sharing
any of the equipment used to prepare and inject illegal drugs.
Sharing drug needles, even once, is an extremely easy way to be
infected with the AIDS virus. Blood from an infected person can
be trapped in the needle or syringe, and then injected directly
into the bloodstream of the next person who uses the needle.
Other kinds of drugs, including alcohol, can also cause prob-
lems. Under their influence, your judgment becomes impaired. You
could be exposed to the AIDS virus while doing things you
wouldn’t otherwise do.
Teen-agers are at an age when trying different things is espe-
cially inviting. They must understand how serious the drug prob-
lem is and how to avoid it.
Drugs are also one of the main ways in which prostitutes become
infected. They may share needles themselves or have sex with
people who do. They then can pass the AIDS virus to others.
For information about drug abuse treatment programs, contact
your physician, local public health agency or community AIDS or
drug assistance group.
AIDS And Babies
An infected woman can give the AIDS virus to her baby before it
is born, or during birth. If a woman is infected, her child has
about one chance in two of being born with the virus.
If you are considering having a baby, and think you might have
been at risk of being infected with the AIDS virus, even if it
was years ago, you should receive counseling and be tested before
you get pregnant.
You must have a long talk with the person with whom you’re
planning to have a child. Even if you have known this person for
a long time, there’s no way to be sure he or she hasn’t been
infected in the past, possibly without realizing it. That person
needs to think hard and decide if an AIDS test might be a good
idea. So should you.
Talking With Kids About AIDS
Children hear about AIDS, just as we all do. But they don’t
understand it, so they become frightened. They are worried they
or their friends might get sick and die.
Children need to be told they can’t get AIDS from everyday con-
tact in the classroom, cafeteria or bathrooms. They don’t have
to worry about getting AIDS even if one of their school-mates is
Basic health education should be started as early as possible,
in keeping with parental and community standards. Local schools
have the responsibility to see that their students know the facts
about AIDS. It is very important that middle school students —
those entering their teens — learn to protect themselves from
the AIDS virus.
Children must also be taught values and responsibility, as well
as skills to help them resist peer pressure that might lead to
risky behavior. These skills can be reinforced by religious and
community groups. However, final responsibility rests with the
parents. As a parent, you should read and discuss this brochure
with your children.
Helping A Person With AIDS
If you are one of the growing number of people who know someone
who is infected, you need to have a special understanding of the
No one will require more support and more love than your friend
with AIDS. Feel free to offer what you can, without fear of
Don’t worry about getting AIDS from everyday contact with a
person with AIDS. You need to take precautions such as wearing
rubber gloves only when blood is present.
If you don’t know anyone with AIDS, but you’d still like to
offer a helping hand, become a volunteer. You can be sure your
help will be appreciated by a person with AIDS.
This might mean dropping by the supermarket to pick up gro-
ceries, sitting with the person a while, or just being there to
talk. You may even want to enroll in a support group for care-
givers. These are available around the country. If you are
interested, contact any local AIDS-related organization.
Above all, keep an upbeat attitude. It will help you and
everyone face the disease more comfortably.
Do You Know Enough to Talk About AIDS? Try This Quiz
It’s important for each of us to share what we know about AIDS
with family members and others we love. Knowledge and under-
standing are the best weapons we have against the disease. Check
the boxes. Answers below.
1. If you are not in a “high risk group,” you still need to be
concerned about AIDS. True or False
2. The AIDS virus is not spread through: A. insect bites. B.
casual contact. C. sharing drug needles. D. sexual intercourse.
3. Condoms are an effective, but not foolproof, way to prevent
the spread of the AIDS virus. True or False
4. You can’t tell by looking that someone has the AIDS virus.
True or False
5. If you think you’ve been exposed to the AIDS virus, you
should get an AIDS test. True or False
6. People who provide help for someone with AIDS are not per-
sonally at risk for getting the disease. True or False
1. True. It is risky behavior that puts you at risk for AIDS,
regardless of any “group” you belong to.
2. A & B. The AIDS virus is not spread by insects, kissing,
tears or casual contact.
3. True. However, the most effective preventive measure
against AIDS is not having sex or shooting drugs.
4. True. You cannot tell by looking if someone is infected.
The virus by itself is completely invisible. Symptoms may first
appear years after you have been infected.
5. True. You should be counseled about getting an AIDS test
if you have been engaging in risky behavior or think you have
been exposed to the virus. There is no reason to be tested if
you don’t engage in this behavior.
6. True. You won’t get AIDS by helping someone who has the