Get an A+ in HIV/AIDS knowledge: A quiz on HIV/AIDS knowledge

For those of us in school, the thought of taking another test might be as nauseating as that final shot of tequila someone forces down your throat at last call. For the rest who have put their school days behind them, maybe you thought tests were a thing of the past. For everyone though, it is important to be informed, especially when it comes to HIV and AIDS.
These few letters, all in caps, are widely known but simultaneously mysterious. Many people lack the most basic knowledge concerning HIV and AIDS or have been overwhelmed by stigma and myths that surround the virus and thus find themselves to be hugely misinformed.
So why not donate ten minutes of your time to perhaps challenge your brain? Best case scenario is that you pass through it with ease and in the worst case, you might learn something new.
Still with me? Turn your pages over and begin.
1. Let’s start things off slow. We’re all used to seeing the acronyms on billboards, newspapers, and television, but what do HIV and AIDS actually stand for?
  1. Human Illness Vaccination and Advanced Immobile Diseased State
  2. Hybridized Ionic Vibrations and Alternating Internal Disulphides
  3. Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome
  4. Hippos in V-Necks and Armadillos in Dirty Sandals
The answers are Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. En français, le VIH = Virus de l’immunodéficience humaine et le SIDA = Syndrome d’immunodéficience acquise.
2. Now that we have a new 7-syllable word added to our vocabularies, let’s try and move away from the technical stuff and get to the practical information that everyone should have. How is HIV transmitted from one person to another? (Choose all that apply)
  1. Kissing
  2. Unprotected Vaginal Intercourse
  3. Unprotected Anal Intercourse
  4. Hand-holding
  5. Sharing make-up and hair brushes
  6. Sharing needles
  7. Vampire bites
  8. Toilet seats
  9. Childbirth (from mother to child)
  10. Insect bites
  11. Oral sex
I could go on long enough to use up the entire alphabet a few times over. Instead it might be more useful to simplify by saying that HIV is transmitted, person to person, through the sharing of bodily fluids, like blood, semen, etc. That means D., E., and H. are false. However, this general explanation has its limitations because the concentration of the virus varies for each fluid. Saliva, for example, has a very low concentration and so kissing does not transmit HIV. Scratch A. off the list. Referring back to the name Human Immunodeficiency Virus that we just learned, notice the word ‘human.’ Animals do not carry or spread the virus so let’s do away with option J. What we’re left with is: unprotected vaginal, anal, and oral sex, sharing needles, and childbirth. There are other things that could be added on to this list like, receiving a blood transfusion; however, instances of transmission through transfusions are relatively low, especially now as donations are regularly tested.
3. Knowing what we now know about HIV transmission, who is at risk to contract HIV? (Choose all that apply)
  1. Eastern Europeans
  2. Sex workers
  3. Gay men
  4. FTM transsexuals
  5. Civil servants
  6. Injection drug users
  7. B-list celebrities
  8. Mothers
  9. Lesbians
  10. People over the age of 65
  11. Heterosexual men
Again, I could have indulged myself further with this list. The answer is all of the above and many, many more. Although certain ethnic, national, sexual, and social groups are statistically known to be at a higher risk of infection, no group is exempt from risk.
4. Though saying that all people are at risk of infection might sound like a scare-tactic, it is the undeniable truth. However, there are ways in which we, as individuals can protect ourselves and others. So, next question is – what are measures to prevent sexual transmission of HIV? (Choose all that apply)
  1. Condoms
  2. Birth Control Pills
  3. Spermicide
  4. Dental dams
  5. The missionary position
  6. Regular HIV and STI testing
  7. Praying
Though abstaining from penetrative sex altogether could be considered preventative, it is best to be realistic when educating people on HIV and AIDS. Abstinence might be one answer, but it certainly is not the only one. The answers to question 4 are A. Condoms and D. Dental dams. These are both physical barriers which, when used correctly, prevent the transmission of HIV from one person to another during sex. While birth control and spermicide are contraceptives which can help prevent pregnancy, they offer no protection from HIV or any other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) like Gonorrhoea, Syphilis, Chlamydia, and others. Additionally, regular testing for HIV and these other STIs prevents transmission because an awareness of one’s status enables one to prevent transmission to others, and because the open sores caused by some STIs can make individuals more vulnerable to HIV infection during intercourse. E. and G. have no impact on transmission.
5. What are the symptoms of HIV and AIDS? (Choose all that apply)
  1. There are no symptoms.
  2. Deterioration of the skin
  3. Vision loss
  4. Hair loss
  5. Flu-like symptoms
  6. Cramping
Like many others, this question is tricky to answer. Technically the answer could be that an individual who is infected with HIV may experience flu-like symptoms or none at all. Though the individual might feel healthy, HIV and AIDS affect the immune system. With a weakened immune system, infected individuals are vulnerable to certain opportunistic infections and even certain cancers. Common infections associated with AIDS are Tuberculosis and certain types of pneumonia. Symptoms are not an accurate gauge of whether an individual has been infected or not. The only way to know for sure is blood test. However, it takes several months before HIV can be detected in the blood. This is one reason why regular testing is important.
6. Is there a cure for HIV or AIDS?
  1. There is a cure for HIV but not for AIDS
  2. There is a cure for both if detected early enough
  3. There is a cure for both but it is extremely expensive
  4. There is no cure for either
Though there are treatments to delay the onset of AIDS, and the opportunistic diseases and infections which are associated with AIDS, there is no cure. What’s more, the treatments themselves can have a wide range of severe side effects that interfere with the lives of those who take them. These can include things like, nausea, weight redistribution (thin limbs, and weight gain in the mid-section and sometimes the development of a hump on one’s upper back), severe rashes, troubled sleep and vivid dreams, and diarrhoea. Medications continue to be developed but treatment is lifelong and expensive.
7. So without the existence of a cure, once an individual is infected, how long do they have to live?
  1. 3-6 years until death
  2. 10-12 years until death
  3. 5 years until bed-ridden
  4. None of the above or any other potential estimations
The answer here is D. That is to say, there is no real answer. With the development of Antiretroviral and other medications used to treat HIV and AIDS, an HIV positive status is not a death sentence. People’s experiences with the disease vary from individual to individual. Certain lifestyle choices can affect this experience as well. So while some people’s health may deteriorate rapidly, others might live long lives. However it is important to remember that, once infected, an individual can pass HIV on to others and must then take measures to prevent this transmission during sexual activity and even childbirth. 
Practical knowledge helps us protect ourselves from transmission by making us aware which activities pose a higher risk and which are deemed relatively ‘safe’. However, it is also important to be aware of the global and national picture of this disease. And so let’s take a look at some of the statistics surrounding this pandemic.
8. Roughly how many people are living with HIV/AIDS in the world?
  1. 1 million
  2. 1 billion
  3. 35 thousand
  4. 33.2 million
  5. 15 million
The votes have been tallied and the numbers are in. The prevalence of HIV/AIDS worldwide is an astronomical 33.2 million** people infected with new infections every day.
9. Of these 33.2 million, the vast majority live in which region of the world?
  1. The Caribbean
  2. East Africa
  3. Sub-Saharan Africa
  4. Western Europe
  5. North America
  6. Northern South America
69 % of people living with HIV/AIDS in the world live in Sub-Saharan Africa**.
10. As important as the world-view may be, it is also necessary to tie this crisis closer to home. How many people do you think there are, living with HIV/AIDS in Canada?
A.    10 thousand
B.     58 thousand
C.     500 people living on an AIDS-colony off the coast of the Yukon
D.    None
E.     35 thousand
F.      1 million
In North America there were and estimated 1.3 million people living with HIV/AIDS in 2007**. According to an estimation, in 2005 our sparsely populated nation accounts for 58 thousand of these individuals**. Additionally, these numbers get outdated fast as an estimated 2300 – 4500 new HIV infections occur each year in Canada alone**.
Alright, pencils down. How did you do? Maybe this test was a breeze and you passed with flying colours. Or maybe, you were surprised by a few of the answers. In any case, pass or fail, it is important to take the time to educate yourself on this global issue. Hopefully, if you are brave enough to take this test, you’ll be brave enough to take a blood test. Being aware of your status may be just as important as being aware of the disease itself.
** Statistics all provided by

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