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Health is often defined as a state of physical, mental and social well-being. This also applies to the idea of sexual health. Therefore the promotion of sexual health involves improvement of relations between men and women, understanding of sexuality and the sexual process, and the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases.

STDs used to be called venereal diseases; the most common serious STDs are gonorrhea, syphilis, Chlamydia, chancroid, herpes, genital warts and AIDS. STDs are serious and painful and they can cause a lot of damage to the body-resulting in illness, infertility, disability and death. Most STDs in pregnant women can infect babies in the womb or during delivery, causing severe handicaps and death.

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a medical diagnosis for a combination of illnesses which results from a specific weakness of the immune system. AIDS is caused by infection with a type of virus called Human Immune Deficiency Virus (HIV). HIV is not one virus, but a family of many similar viruses. There are three stages of HIV infection: a healthy person infected with HIV, illnesses associated with HIV infection may begin to appear and finally the illnesses in AIDS. There are only four ways by which HIV can enter the body: by having sexual intercourse with an infected person, by transfusion of infected blood, by an infected mother to her unborn child and by infected blood in or on needles, syringes or other instruments.

The safer sex practices will reduce the risk of unwanted pregnancy and all STDs, including HIV. We are referring to the use of the condom. Condoms act as a barrier skin to prevent HIV in semen or vaginal secretions from coming into contact with mucous membranes.

For many people, AIDS is particularly frightening and difficult to cope with because HIV infection is invisible. When HIV enters the body, the person starts to make antibodies to fight the infection. It seems that most people take about three months to make antibodies to HIV after infection, but some people take much longer, even years. The ELISA and Western Blot bloods tests detect antibodies to HIV; they do not detect the virus itself.

The improvement of sexual health, in addition to helping prevent the transmission of HIV, also leads to the improvement of health as a whole. Talking with people about safer sex and providing reliable condoms can help people to enjoy sex with less risk of STDs, AIDS, or unplanned pregnancy.

Taken from Talking AIDS.

From the reading, say:

1. What the word Health means to you?

2. What are the STDs?

3. How many STDs are known nowadays? Mention three of them.

4. What causes AIDS?

5. How many stages of the HIV infection exist?

6. Can you mention the four ways by which HIV can enter the body?

7. Is HIV infection invisible? Why?

8. What is the method we can use to prevent STDs and unplanned pregnancy?

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