To decrease the opportunity for infection of HIV in the homeless, you should feel empowered to take control of your own health. You are solely responsible for your own health. You should know where the local health facilities are and where you can get prophylactics. You should feel confident in how to use them and that you will tell your partner that you want to us them during sexual contact. You should also know where to get needles for intravenous drug use, and you should never share needles with anyone. The goal of this educational intervention is to decrease rates of HIV infection in the homeless population.
Human immunodeficiency virus is spread through sexual contact or sharing needles. It is spread when infected bodily fluids such as blood, vaginal secretions or semen come in contact with the bodily fluids or an unaffected person. The virus attacks the immune cells which prevent the body from protecting itself against other infections. A few weeks after an infection with HIV, you could experience symptoms that are similar to the flu, such as a sore throat, fever, and fatigue. Often people do not even notice any symptoms until the infection has become advanced AIDS. At that point, they will experience fever and possibly night sweats, weight loss, extreme fatigue, and recurrent infections. There is no cure for AIDS, but with medications such as anti-retroviral regimens can slow the progress of the disease and prevent other infections .
Anyone participating in unsafe sexual acts or sharing needles is at risk of getting HIV. However, the homeless population has a variety of different factors that make them more susceptible to becoming infected with HIV. There is an increased risk for substance abuse, mental illness, and risky sexual behaviors, education regarding the risk of HIV is imperative (Tommasello, Gillis, Lawler, & Bujak, 2006).
It is important to learn how to overcome the risk factors that come along with being homeless as well as the risk factors that all people have when participating in some activities. Practically all sexual contact can make you at risk for HIV. Anal sex, vaginal sex, and oral sex all pass bodily fluid from one person to another. Both homosexual and heterosexual sex can pass the virus. Because sexual conduct is so dangerous, it is important to use safe sex techniques. Condoms and dental dams are the only way to prevent the spread of the virus through contaminated bodily fluids. While other prophylactics can be used to prevent pregnancy, there are no other options available to avoid the spread of the HIV virus .
Another dangerous activity that some homeless people participate in is intravenous drug use. When people share needles, infected blood can be transferred from one person to another. Needles should never be shared even if the other person appears to be healthy. It is impossible to know if someone has HIV without a test .
There are resources in the area that is available to help you if you believe you were exposed to HIV. They can do HIV testing to see if you have the virus and can help you get medications to slow the progression of the disease if you are positive. A positive result is not a death sentence. There are also resources to hand out condoms and clean needles .
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (2015, December 23). Aids.gov. Retrieved from Aids.gov: Aids.gov
- Tommasello, A., Gillis, L., Lawler, J., & Bujak, G. (2006). Characteristics of homeless HIV-positive outreach responders in urban US and their success in primary care treatment. AIDS Care, 911-917.