ifIknew is a health initiative for young adults that uses a multi media approach, including social media and in person programs, to address the contemporary issues that impact the well-being, self-image, careers, and relationships of people in their 20's and 30's.

If I Knew is a prevention education project that raises awareness about risky behaviors that can profoundly impact lives.

Filtering by Category: HIV/AIDS

Is HIV/AIDS still a problem?

There seems to be little in the news these days about HIV/AIDS unless it’s a story about a possible cure or vaccine. So is it still out there? Is it still a problem? Yes on all accounts. While there seems to be hope of a cure or vaccine, it’s still a long way off. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that in 2009, 1.2 million people in the United States were living with HIV/AIDS. They also noted that there were almost 50,000 new HIV infections in 2009. While people are living longer with HIV, the newest infections are likely to be drug resistant. An HIV infected person is less contagious when they are on their medications. However if they go off them, even for a short period of time, they are contagious. If you were to get HIV from that person, all the medication they took in the past wouldn’t work on you.

Because the news media doesn’t report much about HIV/AIDS anymore, and it is becoming more of a chronic disease and less of a death sentence (in the U.S.), there is less funding available for treatment and prevention.

The best way to get rid of HIV for future generations is to not get it in the first place.

Get the facts about HIV/AIDS.




Q&A: I feel pretty awkward about buying condoms. What should I do?

Buying condoms makes most of us a little self-conscious.  It is not a grab and go sort of thing.  Even when they are on the shelf at the store like a carton of milk or a candy bar, it can still feel AWKWARD; like the whole store is watching you! But, in reality, people are way more busy in their own world then to be monitoring what we are doing.  Take a deep breath, man-up (or woman-up if you are being the responsible one) and be proud knowing that you are doing the right thing to protect yourself and your partner.  And if it is still just too awkward, you can always buy them online.  Get your partner in on this part as well as it is definitely worth the effort! When you do buy condoms, there are some things to consider. Get latex for its anti-HIV effectiveness.  Check if your partner has any latex allergies (unlikely).  Also make sure you buy the proper size.

Then, when you get home, read the instructions and remember them so they will work to keep you protected. Practice alone or even better, together.

What Happened Last Night?

You’re confused, nauseous, dizzy, and embarrassed so you quickly get dressed and slip out of the house. Back at your own place, you sleep a while longer and then ask your friends why they ditched you. To your surprise, they never saw you. The twenty unopened texts confirm their claims. Pretty sure you had sex, you lie in bed for the rest of the day trying to figure out what to do. Finally, on Sunday, your friend’s sister convinces you to go the hospital and tell them that you’ve been raped. Sadly, it’s too late. The Rohypnol used to drug you is already out of your system and your attacker didn’t leave evidence because he (thankfully) used a condom. Going out tonight? Protect yourself.

  • If someone wants to buy you a drink, go with them to the bar and watch it being poured.
  • If you only had one drink and you feel drunk, call 911 or get help immediately.
  • Don’t leave your drink unattended. If you do, dump it!
  • Open your own bottles.
  • Don’t take a drink from someone else.
  • Avoid community drinks.
  • Stay away from punch bowls.
  • If it tastes or smells funny or different, then it probably is!

Have your designated driver keep an eye out for those who are drinking and what everyone is drinking as well.

Resources: National Directory of Rape Crises Centers Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE

Q&A: If you have HIV or AIDS and take medication for it, are you still contagious?

Yes. Someone who is positive and taking antiretroviral medication is less contagious than someone who isn’t.  The goal of medication is to make the HIV virus undetectable.  Even if it is undetectable, the person is still carrying the virus.  Is it worth the risk?  The best way to avoid spreading the virus is to use a condom. Check out more information about this at AIDS.gov.

2 for the Price of 1? Creating a Combo Anti-Heroin/HIV Vaccine

The Baltimore-Washington area is yearly cited as one of the largest concentrations in the country of people who are HIV+. It is also one of the top areas of concentration of those engaged in IV drug use.  A breakthrough of a combined anti-heroin and HIV vaccine seems too good to be true. But the National Institute on Drug Abuse is investing millions of dollars in research based on the hope that a vaccine just might work. If this double vaccine does work, it would go a long way to reducing the spread of the virus. This would be good news for everyone, as the disease ends up affecting non-drug users as well as users. The possibility of offering effective medical interventions might make the kind of impact we have been looking for all these years, in limiting the epidemic. This new double vaccine, in addition to home testing for HIV, new medicines that reduce the viral load of those who have the virus (thus reducing the chances of infecting others), as well as new medicines helping those who are HIV- avoid contracting the virus when sexually active with HIV+ partners, is bolstering the hopes of many who are affected, if not infected, by the disease. More on home testing for HIV. More on new medicines.

Q & A: I want to get my tongue pierced! Are there any negative side effects that I should be aware of?

The tongue is almost constantly in motion, and it is located in the mouth, which is a hotbed of bacteria. These two environmental factors sometimes jeopardize healthy healing. Fortunately, there are ways to greatly reduce the risk of infection. Check out the piercing studio before getting pierced. Studios which are members of the Association of Professional Piercers are held to very high standards of cleanliness, whereas many body art studios are often unregulated.  Check that they have an autoclave and ultrasonic cleanser for sterilizing instruments and that the piercer is skilled and experienced at this craft. Also, avoid going to a shop that uses piercing guns, which are much more difficult to clean and inflict greater tissue damage!

After you get pierced, you will probably be advised to avoid playing with the piercing, to wash your hands before touching it, to rinse your mouth a couple of times a day with diluted mouthwash or sea salt water for one minute, and most importantly, avoid oral sex (think HIV prevention) and open mouth kissing until the area has fully recovered.

Q&A: Can you get HIV by kissing someone with a cut in his or her mouth?

It’s possible, but extremely rare. HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is spread primarily through unprotected sex or sharing needles with a person who already has HIV.

Generally speaking, kissing is a safe behavior. You cannot get HIV from closed-mouth kissing and there are no known cases of someone getting infected through saliva alone. Although the saliva of an infected person can contain trace amounts of HIV, it will not transmit the virus.  As one of our speakers says, “It would take a person drinking a bathtub of saliva to run the risk.”

However, with deep “French” kissing, there is a remote risk of HIV infection if there are open sores or blood in the mouth and if one of the people has HIV. The blood from the infected person needs a way to get into the other person’s bloodstream, such as a cut or open sore. So that means you should abstain from “French”  kissing  with someone who has any open sores, cuts or blood in his or her mouth, unless you know for sure that the person does not have HIV.  (Do you really want to kiss someone with blood in their mouth, anyway?)

Remember, you cannot tell by looking at people whether or not they have HIV. It is people just like you and me, who look like you and me, who carry the virus.

For more information about HIV transmission and how to protect yourself, click here.


The Pocket Guide to Spring Break

That’s right, boys and girls; it’s that time of year again. It’s the week you waited for all semester. You have pulled many all nighters and crammed for exams. You have submitted your 7 page papers three minutes before the midnight deadline and passed (hopefully) your midterms. Now it’s time for some relaxation, that’s right, everybody; SPRING BREAK IS HERE! Spring break to most of us is a time for relaxation, time to go home see your family, time for a little traveling, and of course time for a little partying. With most parties, there are the majority who just want to relax, drink and have a good time. However, every party has its pooper, and there are those that take it to another level and end up sick, hospitalized, drugged and/or injured. From my experience the last few years - here’s your pocket list of DO’s And Don’ts for spring break.

  • As always, if you drink (obviously if you are over 21), DO NOT DRIVE!  Funerals we’ve been to are real downers.
  • Do not take drinks from someone else! If you’re at spring break and drinking, you probably are not new to this and you know the realities of someone slipping something  into your drink.
  • If you are having any sexual contact, USE A CONDOM! Remember STD’s can be transferred through oral sex as well.
  • Many of the spring break spots are located on beaches.  Do not drink and swim.  IF you are drinking on the beach, make sure you are also drinking water, since both alcohol and the sun dehydrate you.
  • Be alert. While you may be responsible, that does not mean that others are acting responsibly. Look out for drunk drivers and potentially belligerent and violent drunks.
  • Have a buddy with you at all times.
  • Stay off balconies. Falling from balconies is known to be one of the leading causes of injuries and deaths at spring breaks.

Have fun. Be “Spring Break” Happy.