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The Gift House is a registered 501c3 organization. We also rely on your donations to provide our programs and services. All donations are tax deductible (cash, items or services). On items, check, or service donations, The Gift House will provide a letter of acknowledgement to be used on your tax return. Thanks for your help!

Volunteer at the Gift House

Volunteer & Internship Opportunities

The best way to find out about upcoming volunteer and training opportunities is by joining the mailing list. To joint the mailing list, send an email to Rosanna Jackson.

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Gift House Services


Get tested! No blood draw is required: only a cheek swab.  If you prefer blood test we also can provide it.

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About Us

The Gift House, Inc. is a not-for-profit, tax exempt [501c3] organization. We provide HIV and STD testing, career development, health and educational counseling in the at-risk community of North Lawndale in Chicago, Illinois. Our services are delivered five days per week (from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.) at our neighborhood testing center. We provide HIV Antibody test (Blood, Oral-20 min. results), Syphilis test, Urine test for Gonorrhea and Chlamydia, Hepatitis C test, Counseling for STD’s, HIV and STD Anonymous Hotline, Substance Abuse Hotline, Distribution of male, female and oral sex condoms, Syringe exchange, Sharp Container Program, Blood Pressure Screening, Diabetes Screening, Drug treatment referrals, education, trainings, conferences and support groups. We also provide CLIA waived 5-panel drug tests and pregnancy test.

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Volunteer & Internship Opportunities

The best way to find out about upcoming volunteer and training opportunities is by joining the mailing list. To joint the mailing list, send an email to or

For Individuals

Get-Ready nights:
We hold Get-Ready nights sessions the second Wednesday of the month, 6-8 pm. We prepare sex kits, and talk about sexually transmitted infections. No previous experience is required.

Volunteering at the Agency:
There are volunteer opportunities to assist on special events at The Gift House. These events are held every month. Also, we welcome HIV test counselors if they are already fully certified. To register, please send your info and availability via e-mail to

Volunteering for the Gift House Magazine:
Come and help in the publishing of our monthly magazine “Angel”. If you are interested to publish any article related to health or community issues, interview residents, or help in the actual printing of our magazine, etc., send an e-mail to

For Groups

We welcome groups of up to five to volunteer for one-half or one full day. Opportunities include facility maintenance, landscaping, general paper work, writing articles, organizing fundraisers, community events, etc. For more information, please contact or


In addition, we have internship opportunities in which a person volunteers one or two full days per week.

Outreach Intern:
This intern does everything the outreach workers do: outreach, data entry, rehab/detox referral, HIV testing (if you are certified), and syringe exchange. Interns can be graduate or undergraduate students. For more information, please contact or

Case Management and Treatment Adherence:
This internship is designed primarily for graduate and undergraduate students of social work. Interns will work closely with clients to ensure that clients receive wrap around services and help coordinate their care. For more information, please e-mail

Publishing your articles:
This internship is for graduate and undergraduate students of any discipline of health and/or community. Interns will submit their articles related to health or community issues to be published in our monthly magazine “Angel”. For more information send an e-mail to or

Our Mission

“It is not enough to give charity. It is our duty to do our share to see to it that we build a society where charity will not be necessary, where no sick person will go unattended; no hungry person will go unfed; no one will be poorly housed; no able-bodied person will go without adequate employment, and where good schools will be provided for all”.

Programs / Services

The Advocate Bethany Hospital Community Health Fund is sponsoring the “Health Empowerment Class” which is a health promotion and education class. The client information is gathered with the pre-test surveys which is the tool used to plan the empowerment classes. The HIV component of this class provides education about transmission, social responsibility (knowing their status and having protected sex), reducing stigma of this disease, and once an HIV positive client is identified provide him or her with available services.

The diabetes component provides education about diabetes signs and symptoms, adoption of a healthy life style and diet, knowledge of vegetables they can eat (and learn how to read the nutrition labels on the products they purchase at the grocery store). At the end of the class, The Gift House provides a sampler of a healthy diet.

Counseling & Testing
HIV Counseling & Testing: Get tested! No blood draw is required: only a cheek swab. If you prefer blood test we also can provide it.

Syphilis Test: Blood draw is required.

Urine test for Gonorrhea & Chlamydia: Urine sample for these Sexually Transmitted Infections.

Hepatitis C : Viral Hepatitis education and testing done finger stick to get a blood sample.

Counseling for STI’s: Individual, Partners or Group Information and counseling about STI’s.

Hotlines / Support Groups
HIV and STI Anonymous Hotline.

Substance Abuse Hotline.

Support Groups: We offer a variety of support programs and groups at our testing center.

Solar Energy Program
The Gift House has implemented and possessed renewable power from solar panels installed on its office building. The Gift House is aware that Solar energy creates clean, renewable power from the sun and benefits the environment. One of the biggest benefits of solar energy is that it results in very few, if any, air pollutants. The widespread solar adoption would significantly reduce nitrous oxides, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter emissions, all of which can cause health problems. Among other health benefits, solar power results in fewer cases of chronic bronchitis, respiratory and cardiovascular problems, and lost workdays related to health issues.

The benefits of solar energy are clear. Not only can you save money on your electric bills – you can also reduce your carbon footprint and improve the health of those around you and the future generations. It is for the above reasons The Gift House has launched a Solar Program encompassing, Education, Installation and Use of solar panels.

Blood Pressure Screening

Blood Glucose Screening

Exchange Programs / Materials
Syringe Exchange: Bring your used needles and get clean and new needles.

Sharp Container Program: We provide a biohazard container for used needles.

Safer Sex Information and Materials: Distribution of male, female and oral sex condoms; in addition of booklets and literature

Gift House Arts-Cinema-Photo & Studio Production
The Gift House interested in tapping the creativity of individuals of all ages. We have, thus, implemented a program for Arts-Cinema-Photo & Studio production. This program will address social and health issues within communities of color. We will explore advancements and developments in the form of the production of documentaries, movies, photos, art, music and the like.

The Gift House Arts-Cinema-Photo & Studio Production will also specialize in the development, management and operation of studio space and support facilities for the film, television, and digital media production industry.

Imagine a vaccine to prevent HIV, Diabetes and Cancer. Now, imagine yourself in a clinical trial. Make it a reality..



AIDS is a chronic, life-threatening condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). By damaging your immune system, HIV interferes with your body's ability to fight off viruses, bacteria and fungi that cause disease. HIV makes you more susceptible to certain types of cancers and to infections your body would normally resist, such as pneumonia and meningitis. The virus and the infection itself are known as HIV. "Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)" is the name given to the later stages of an HIV infection.

An estimated 39.5 million people have HIV worldwide. And though the spread of the virus has slowed in some countries, it has escalated or remained unchanged in others. The best hope for stemming the spread of HIV lies in prevention, treatment and education. Symptoms

The symptoms of HIV and AIDS vary, depending on the phase of infection.

Early infection When first infected with HIV, you may have no signs or symptoms at all, although it's more common to develop a brief flu-like illness two to four weeks after becoming infected. Signs and symptoms may include: fever, headache, sore throat, swollen lymph glands and rash Even if you don't have symptoms, you're still able to transmit the virus to others. Once the virus enters your body, your own immune system also comes under attack. The virus multiplies in your lymph nodes and slowly begins to destroy your helper T cells (CD4 lymphocytes) — the white blood cells that coordinate your entire immune system.

Later infection You may remain symptom-free for eight or nine years or more. But as the virus continues to multiply and destroy immune cells, you may develop mild infections or chronic symptoms such as: Swollen lymph nodes (often one of the first signs of HIV infection), diarrhea, weight loss, fever, cough and shortness of breath. Latest phase of infection During the last phase of HIV — which occurs approximately 10 or more years after the initial infection — more serious symptoms may begin to appear, and the infection may then meet the official definition of AIDS. In 1993, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) redefined AIDS to mean the presence of HIV infection as shown by a positive HIV-antibody test plus at least one of the following:

  • The development of an opportunistic infection — an infection that occurs when your immune system is impaired — such as Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP)
  • A CD4 lymphocyte count of 200 or less — a normal count ranges from 800 to 1,200
  • By the time AIDS develops, your immune system has been severely damaged, making you susceptible to opportunistic infections. The signs and symptoms of some of these infections may include: soaking night sweats, shaking chills or fever higher than 100 F (38 C) for several weeks, dry cough and shortness of breath, chronic diarrhea, persistent white spots or unusual lesions on your tongue or in your mouth, headaches, blurred and distorted vision, weight loss.

    You may also begin to experience signs and symptoms of later stage HIV infection itself, such as: persistent, unexplained fatigue, soaking night sweats, shaking chills or fever higher than 100 F (38 C) for several weeks, swelling of lymph nodes for more than three months, chronic diarrhea, persistent headaches.

    If you're infected with HIV, you're also more likely to develop certain cancers, especially Kaposi's sarcoma, cervical cancer and lymphoma, although improved treatments have reduced the risk of these illnesses.

    Symptoms of HIV in children Children who are HIV-positive may experience: difficulty gaining weight, difficulty growing normally, problems walking, delayed mental development, severe forms of common childhood illnesses such as ear infections (otitis media), pneumonia and tonsillitis. Back to Top

    When to see a doctor If you think you may have been infected with HIV or are at risk of contracting the virus, seek medical counseling as soon as possible. Questions to consider include:

    Why should you get tested? The idea of being tested for HIV infection may be frightening. But testing itself doesn't make you HIV-positive or HIV-negative, and it's important not only for your own health but also to prevent transmission of the virus to others. If you engage in a high-risk behavior such as unprotected sex or sharing needles during intravenous drug use, get tested for HIV at least annually.

    What if you're pregnant? If you're pregnant, you may want to get tested even if you think you're not at risk. If you are HIV-positive, treatment with anti-retroviral drugs during your pregnancy can greatly reduce the chances you'll pass the infection to your baby

    Where can you get tested? You can be tested by your doctor or at a hospital, the public health department, a planned parenthood clinic, other public clinics, community based organizations with testing centers. Many clinics don't charge for HIV tests. Be sure to choose a place in which you feel comfortable and that offers counseling before and after testing. Don't let concern about what people may think stop you from being tested. To make an appointment for an HIV test at THE GIFT HOUSE call 1-773-522-2420. You can also contact your local, state health department or check the CDC list of testing sites near you .

    Will your results be private? All states and U.S. territories report positive HIV and AIDS test results to state public health officials to help track the spread of the disease. Most states use name reporting, but the results are released only to the health department and not to anyone else — including the federal government, employers, insurance companies and family members — without your permission. In addition, legal provisions ensure the highest degree of confidentiality with regard to name-based HIV data. If you are concerned about having your name reported, many states offer anonymous testing centers. If you do test positive and seek treatment, however, you will likely have to provide your name to your doctor. Back to Top

    How HIV is transmitted You can become infected with HIV in several ways, including:

    Sexual transmission. You may become infected if you have vaginal, anal or oral sex with an infected partner whose blood, semen or vaginal secretions enter your body. You can also become infected from shared sexual devices if they're not washed or covered with a condom. The virus is present in the semen or vaginal secretions of someone who's infected and enters your body through small tears that can develop in the vagina or rectum during sexual activity. If you already have another sexually transmitted disease, you're at much greater risk of contracting HIV. Contrary to what researchers once believed, women who use the spermicide nonoxynol 9 also may be at increased risk. This spermicide irritates the lining of the vagina and may cause tears that allow the virus into the body.

    Transmission through infected blood. In some cases, the virus may be transmitted through blood and blood products that you receive in blood transfusions. Since 1985, American hospitals and blood banks have screened the blood supply for HIV antibodies. This blood testing, along with improvements in donor screening and recruitment practices, has substantially reduced the risk of acquiring HIV through a transfusion.

    Transmission through needle sharing. HIV is easily transmitted through needles and syringes contaminated with infected blood. Sharing intravenous drug paraphernalia puts you at high risk of HIV and other infectious diseases such as hepatitis. Your risk is greater if you inject drugs frequently and also engage in high-risk sexual behavior. Avoiding the use of injected drugs is the most reliable way to prevent infection. If that isn't an option, you can reduce your risk by participating in a needle exchange program that allows you to trade used needles and syringes for sterile ones.

    Transmission through accidental needle sticks. Transmission of the virus between HIV-positive people and health care workers through needle sticks is low. Experts put the risk at far less than 1 percent.

    Transmission from mother to child. Each year, nearly 600,000 infants are infected with HIV, either during pregnancy or delivery or through breast-feeding. But if women receive treatment for HIV infection during pregnancy, the risk to their babies is significantly reduced. In the United States, most pregnant women are pre-screened for HIV, and anti-retroviral drugs are readily available. Not so in developing nations, where women seldom know their HIV status, and treatment is often limited or nonexistent. When medications aren't available, Caesarean section is sometimes recommended instead of vaginal delivery. Other options, such as vaginal disinfection, haven't proved effective.

    Other methods of transmission. In rare cases, the virus may be transmitted through organ or tissue transplants or un-sterilized dental or surgical equipment.

    Ways HIV is not transmitted To become infected with HIV, infected blood, semen or vaginal secretions must enter your body. You can't become infected through ordinary contact — hugging, kissing, dancing or shaking hands — with someone who has HIV or AIDS. Back to Top

    Treatments and Drugs When HIV was first identified in the early 1980s, there were few drugs to treat the virus and the opportunistic infections associated with it. Since then, a number of medications have been developed to treat both HIV/AIDS and opportunistic infections. For many people, including children, these treatments have extended and improved their quality of life. Scientists at the National Institutes of Health estimate that since 1989, anti-retroviral medications have provided HIV-positive Americans with years of extended life. But none of these drugs can cure HIV/AIDS, many have side effects that can be severe, and most are expensive. What's more, after 20 years on AIDS drugs, some people develop resistance to the drugs and no longer respond to treatment. Newer drugs are being researched and created to help this group of people.

    Treatment guidelines A panel of leading AIDS specialists has developed recommendations for the use of anti-retroviral medications in people with HIV. These recommendations are based on the best information available at the time they were developed. AIDSinfo, a program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, regularly refines and updates the recommendations as knowledge about HIV infection evolves.

    According to current guidelines, treatment should focus on achieving the maximum suppression of symptoms for as long as possible. This aggressive approach is known as highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART). The aim of HAART is to reduce the amount of virus in your blood to very low or even nondetectable levels, although this doesn't mean the virus is gone. This is usually accomplished with a combination of three or more drugs.

    But the treatment guidelines also emphasize the importance of quality of life. Thus the goal of AIDS treatment is to find the strongest possible regimen that is also simple and has the fewest side effects. If you have HIV/AIDS, it's important that you take an active role in treatment decisions. You and your doctor should discuss the risks and benefits of all therapies so that you can make an informed decision about what will likely be a complex and long-term treatment.

    Anti-retroviral drugs Anti-retroviral drugs inhibit the growth and replication of HIV at various stages of its life cycle. Seven classes of these drugs are available:

    Nucleoside analogue reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs). NRTIs were the first anti-retroviral drugs to be developed. They inhibit the replication of an HIV enzyme called reverse transcriptase. They include zidovudine (Retrovir), lamivudine (Epivir), didanosine (Videx), stavudine (Zerit) and abacavir (Ziagen). A newer drug, emtricitabine (Emtriva), which must be used in combination with at least two other AIDS medications, treats both HIV and hepatitis B.

    The major side effect of zidovudine is bone marrow suppression, which causes a decrease in the number of red and white blood cells. Approximately 5 percent of people treated with abacavir experience hypersensitivity reactions such as a rash, fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Symptoms usually appear within the first six weeks of treatment and generally disappear when the drug is discontinued. If you've had a hypersensitivity reaction to abacavir, avoid taking the drug again. Side effects of emtricitabine include skin discoloration.

    Protease inhibitors (PIs). PIs interrupt HIV replication at a later stage in its life cycle by interfering with an enzyme known as HIV protease. This causes HIV particles in your body to become structurally disorganized and noninfectious. Among these drugs are saquinavir (Invirase), ritonavir (Norvir), indinavir (Crixivan), nelfinavir (Viracept), amprenavir (Agenerase), lopinavir/ritonavir (Kaletra), atazanavir (Reyataz) and tipranavir (Aptivus). Darunavir (Prezista) is intended for people who haven't responded to treatment with other drugs. Darunavir is used with ritonavir and other anti-HIV medications.

    Protease inhibitors are usually prescribed with other medications, to help avoid drug resistance. The most common side effects of protease inhibitors include nausea, diarrhea and other digestive tract problems. PIs can also cause a significant number of side effects when they interact with certain other medications. That's because all PIs, to one degree or another, affect an enzyme system in your liver that is responsible for metabolizing a large number of drugs. Newer side effects have also appeared with the continuing and widespread use of protease inhibitors.

    These include elevated triglyceride levels and problems with sugar metabolism that may sometimes progress to diabetes. There may also be abnormalities in the way fat is metabolized and deposited in your body. Some people lose much of their total body fat. Others gain excess fat on the back between their shoulders (buffalo hump) or in the stomach (protease paunch). No one knows exactly why these abnormalities occur.

    In fact, it's not even certain whether these problems are a direct result of treatment with protease inhibitors or due to some other cause that has yet to be identified. Similar metabolic abnormalities have occurred in people on anti-retroviral therapy that doesn't include PIs. Although these body changes can be distressing, the possibility they may occur should not stop you from getting treatment for HIV/AIDS.

    Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs). These drugs bind directly to the enzyme reverse transcriptase. Four NNRTIs are approved for clinical use: nevirapine (Viramune), delavirdine (Rescriptor), efavirenz (Sustiva) and etravirine (Intelence). A major side effect of all NNRTIs is a rash. In addition, people taking efavirenz may have side effects such as abnormal and worsening of underlying mood disorders.

    Nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NtRTIs). NtRTIs work much like nucleoside analogs: They interfere with the replication of reverse transcriptase and prevent the virus from inserting its genetic material into cells. But NtRTIs act more quickly than NRTIs do. The only approved drug in this class, tenofovir (Viread), inhibits both HIV and hepatitis B and appears to be effective in people who are resistant to NRTIs. The most common side effects of tenofovir, when used in combination with other anti-retrovirals, are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and gas. As with all reverse transcriptase inhibitors, the possibility of severe, and even fatal, liver damage exists.

    Fusion inhibitors. One of the most alarming developments in the AIDS epidemic is the emergence of drug-resistant strains of HIV. Worldwide, a majority of people receiving treatment for HIV are resistant to at least one drug, and many don't respond to a typical three-drug combination. But a drug called enfuvirtide (Fuzeon), the first in a new class of drugs called fusion inhibitors, appears to suppress resistant strains of HIV. Fusion inhibitors stop the virus from replicating by preventing its membrane from fusing with the membrane surrounding healthy cells. Fuzeon is used in combination with other HIV drugs for people who have advanced infection and who have developed resistance to other drugs. Doctors administer Fuzeon by injection.

    Integrase inhibitors. These drugs are aimed at treating those who become resistant to other treatments. The only drug in this class, raltegravir (Isentress), is intended to be used in combination with other anti-retroviral drugs rather than alone. This is the first class of drugs that blocks replication of the HIV integrase enzyme, which keeps HIV DNA from inserting itself into human DNA. Common side effects include diarrhea, nausea, headache and fever.

    Chemokine co-receptor inhibitors. Chemokine co-receptor inhibitors (CCR5 antagonists) make up a new class of drugs used to treat a particulapr type of HIV infection called CCR5-tropic HIV-1. The only drug in this class — maraviroc (Selzentry) — is for treatment of CCR5-tropic HIV-1 in adults. Maraviroc is the first drug that targets a human protein rather than components of the HIV virus itself.

    Maraviroc is used in combination with other anti-retroviral drugs for the treatment of adults with CCR5-tropic HIV-1 who have elevated levels of HIV (high viral load) in their blood despite treatment with other HIV medications. Maraviroc reduces viral load by preventing HIV from entering uninfected white blood cells. It does this by blocking CCR5, a major route of entry into the cells. CCR5 is a protein found on the surface of some immune cells, and maraviroc blocks the CCR5 co-receptor from accepting HIV. During two large clinical trials, approximately twice as many people with CCR5-tropic HIV-1 infection who received maraviroc had undetectable viral loads after 24 weeks as did those who received more standard therapy in the control groups. Side effects of maraviroc may include liver and cardiovascular problems, as well as cough, fever, upper respiratory tract infections, rash and abdominal pain.

    Treatment response Your response to any treatment is measured by viral load. Viral load should be tested at the start of treatment and then every three to four months while you're undergoing therapy. In some cases, you may be tested even more often.

    New treatments Many new drugs for HIV- or AIDS-related infections are in development or being tested in clinical trials.

    Tests and Diagnosis HIV is diagnosed by testing your blood or oral mucus for the presence of antibodies to the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages voluntary HIV testing as a routine part of medical care for all adolescents and adults ages 13 to 64. Although the CDC says that everyone should be tested at least once, yearly testing is recommended only for people at high risk of infection.

    Unfortunately, HIV tests aren't accurate immediately after infection because it takes time for you to develop these antibodies — usually about 12 weeks. In rare cases, it can take up to six months for an HIV test to become positive.

    ELISA and Western blot tests For years, the only available test for HIV was the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test that looked for antibodies to the virus in a sample of your blood. If this test was positive — meaning you had antibodies to HIV — the same test was repeated. If the repeat test was also positive for HIV antibodies, you'd then have another confirming blood test called the Western blot test, which checks for the presence of HIV proteins. The Western blot test was important because you may have non-HIV antibodies that cause a false-positive result on the ELISA test. Combining the two types of tests helped ensure that the results were accurate, and you'd receive a diagnosis of HIV only if all three tests were positive. The downside is that it can take up to two weeks to get the results of the ELISA and Western blot tests, a period of time that can take an emotional toll and that discouraged many people from returning to get their test results.

    Rapid tests Now, several rapid tests can give highly accurate information within as little as 20 minutes.

    These tests look for antibodies to the virus using a sample of your blood or fluids collected on a treated pad that's rubbed on your upper and lower gums. The oral test is almost as sensitive as the blood test and eliminates the need for drawing blood. A positive reaction on a rapid test requires a confirming blood test. And because the tests are relatively new and were originally approved for use only in certified laboratories, they may not be available everywhere.

    Home Tests Currently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved only one HIV test for home use. The Home Access HIV-1 test, marketed by Home Access Health, is as accurate as a clinical test, and all positive results are automatically retested.

    Unlike a home pregnancy test, you don't evaluate the test yourself. Instead, you mail in a drop of your blood, then call a toll-free number to receive your results in three to seven business days. This approach ensures your privacy and anonymity — you're identified only by a code number that comes with your kit. The greatest disadvantage is that you're not offered the counseling that you typically receive in a clinic or doctor's office, although you're given referrals for medical and social services. No matter what type of test you choose, if you test positive for an HIV infection, tell your sexual partner or partners right away so that they can be screened and take steps to protect themselves.

    If you receive a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS, your doctor will use a test to help predict the probable progression of your disease. This test measures the amount of virus in your blood (viral load). Studies have shown that people with higher viral loads generally fare more poorly than do those with a lower viral load. Viral load tests are also used to decide when to start and when to change your treatment.

    Prevention There's no vaccine to prevent HIV infection and no cure for AIDS. But it's possible to protect yourself and others from infection. That means educating yourself about HIV and avoiding any behavior that allows HIV-infected fluids — blood, semen, vaginal secretions and breast milk — into your body. Back to Top

    If you're HIV-negative: The following measures can help keep you from being infected with HIV:

    Educate yourself and others. Make sure you understand what HIV is and how the virus is transmitted. Just as important, teach your children about HIV.

    Know the HIV status of any sexual partner. Don't engage in unprotected sex unless you're absolutely certain your partner isn't infected with HIV.

    Use a new latex or polyurethane condom every time you have sex. If you don't know the HIV status of your partner, use a new latex condom every time you have anal or vaginal sex. Women can use a female condom. If you're allergic to latex, use a plastic (polyurethane) condom. Avoid lambskin condoms — they don't protect you from HIV. Use only water-based lubricants, not petroleum jelly, cold cream or oils. Oil-based lubricants can weaken condoms and cause them to break. During oral sex use a condom, dental dam — a piece of medical-grade latex — or plastic wrap. Remember that although condoms can reduce your risk of contracting HIV, they don't eliminate the risk entirely. Condoms can break or develop small tears, and they may not always be used properly.

    Consider male circumcision. A large study in 2006 by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) showed that medically performed circumcision significantly reduced a man's risk of acquiring HIV through heterosexual intercourse. The study, conducted in Kenya, showed a 53 percent reduction of HIV infection in circumcised HIV-negative men compared with uncircumcised men in the study. The outcome was heralded by the NIH as good news not only because it reduced the number of HIV-infected men, but also because it could lead to fewer infections among women in areas of the world where HIV is spread primarily through heterosexual intercourse.

    Use a clean needle. If you use a needle to inject drugs, make sure it's sterile, and don't share it. Take advantage of needle exchange programs in your community and consider seeking help for your drug use.

    Be cautious about blood products in certain countries. Although the blood supply in the United States is now well screened, this isn't always the case in other countries. If an emergency requires that you receive blood or blood products in another country, get tested for HIV as soon as you return home.

    Get regular screening tests. If you are a woman, have a yearly Pap test. And if you're a man or woman who has had sex with one or more new partners, be tested annually. Men and women who engage in anal sex should also have regular tests for anal cancer.

    Don't become complacent. Because potent anti-retroviral medications have reduced the number of AIDS deaths in the United States, you may think that HIV infection is no longer a problem. But HIV/AIDS is still a terminal illness for which there is no vaccine and no cure. Right now, the only way to stay healthy is to protect yourself and others from infection.

    If you're HIV-positive: If you've received a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS, the following guidelines can help protect others:

    Follow safe-sex practices. The only foolproof way to protect others from infection is to avoid practices that expose them to blood, semen or vaginal secretions. Barring that, carefully follow guidelines for safe sex, including using a new latex condom every time you have vaginal or anal sex and using a dental dam, condom or piece of plastic wrap during oral sex. If you use sexual devices, don't share them. It's also important to avoid having unprotected sex with other HIV-positive people because of the risk of acquiring or passing on a drug-resistant strain of the virus.

    Tell your sexual partners you have HIV. It's important to tell anyone with whom you've had sex that you're HIV-positive. Your partners need to be tested and to receive medical care if they have the virus. They also need to know their HIV status so that they don't infect others.

    If your partner is pregnant, tell her you have HIV. Be sure to tell any pregnant woman with whom you've had sex that you're HIV-positive. She needs to receive treatment to protect her own health and that of her baby.

    Tell others who need to know. Although only you can decide whether to tell friends and family about your illness, you do need to inform your health care providers of your HIV status. This is not just to protect them, but also to ensure that you get the best possible medical care.

    Don't share needles or syringes. If you use intravenous drugs, never share your needles and syringes.

    Don't donate blood or organs. The virus will spread to other people.

    Don't share razor blades or toothbrushes. These items may carry traces of HIV-infected blood.

    If you're pregnant, get medical care right away. If you're HIV-positive, you may pass the infection to your baby. But if you receive treatment during pregnancy, you can cut your baby's risk by as much as two-thirds.

    Contact Us

    The Gift House Inc.
    1309 South Kedzie Ave. , Suite 1
    Chicago, Illinois 60623
    (773) 522-2420

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