Worldwide, 34 million people have HIV/AIDS. It’s an STD that destroys your immune system. Over time, HIV damages your immune system so badly that you’re unable to fight off other infections. It’s only in the last stages of HIV infection that you develop AIDS.
A person infected with HIV is described as being HIV positive (HIV+), seropositive, or person living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA).
HIV is an incurable disease. However, there are treatments available to prolong the time you remain healthy before you develop AIDS. Nowadays, someone who’s infected with HIV and on treatment can live up to 20 years before developing AIDS.
How can you protect yourself from getting HIV?
Since HIV is spread by sex, by sharing needles, and from mother to child, protecting yourself from HIV breaks down into three major categories.
To avoid sexual transmission of HIV 1. Always use condoms. Male or females condoms can reduce your risk of getting HIV. 2. Be faithful to one partner or have fewer partners. Having one sexual partner or fewer sexual partners can reduce your risk of being exposed to HIV infection or other STDS, which in turn can reduce your risk of HIV infection. 3. Male circumcision. If you’re a man, consider getting circumcised. Male circumcision in a hospital or clinic setting is shown to reduce the risk of getting HIV from a woman by 50 percent. In comparison, female circumcision or female genital cutting/mutilation hasn’t been shown to be preventative for HIV infection. 4. If you’ve got an unusual discharge, sores, or pain when you urinate get tested for STDs. These symptoms are signs that something is wrong. Chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, genital herpes, trichomoniasis, and bacterial vaginosis have all been shown to increase your risk of getting and spreading HIV. So if you have these symptoms, get them checked out. Also, let your partner know, so he or she can get tested or treated too. 5. Get tested with your partner for HIV. Whenever you’ve got a new partner, before having unprotected sex, get tested. You or your partner could be infected with HIV and not know it. To avoid blood transmission of HIV 1. Use sterilised needles. Every time you get a blood transfusion make sure new sterilised needles are used. The same principle applies if you use injection drugs – don’t share needles; use new ones each time you shoot up. The same goes for tattooing, body piercing, and acupuncture. 2. Make sure you’re receiving screened blood for blood transfusions. HIV, syphilis and hepatitis B can all be passed on by blood transfusions. So it’s important to make sure the blood you’re receiving is screened, particularly in countries where HIV is common. To prevent mother to child transmission of HIV 1.Take antiretroviral drugs during your pregnancy and childbirth. If you’re HIV positive and pregnant, you can take antiretroviral drugs during your pregnancy and childbirth to avoid passing HIV to your baby. 2.Caesarean section. Consider getting a Caesarean section, if you’re HIV positive and pregnant. It decreases the chance that you’ll pass HIV on to your baby. 3. If possible, avoid breastfeeding. When possible, the World Health Organization advocates HIV positive mothers to use breast milk replacement. However, if you’re living in a place where safe drinking water isn’t available, and you’re unable to boil water daily, you may opt not to use breast milk replacement. The risk of catching a life threatening disease from unsafe drinking water may outweigh the risk of getting HIV infection from breast milk. These are things to consider with your health care provider.Consider getting a Caesarean section, if you’re HIV positive and pregnant. It decreases the chance that you’ll pass HIV on to your baby. These are things to consider with your health care provider.
What are the signs of HIV?
The first signs of an HIV infection can appear like a common cold or flu, which is why most people aren’t aware that they’ve been infected.
If you notice signs like a fever, headache, rash, diarrhoea, and sore throat three to six weeks after you’ve had unsafe sex, it may be wise to get tested for HIV. But of course, the trouble is most people wouldn’t first consider these signs of an HIV infection. Without treatment, these flu-like symptoms clear up by themselves. However, if you’re infected with HIV, the infection doesn’t go away. Instead, over the next eight to ten years, the infection silently destroys your immune system. And you progress to the late stages of HIV infection also known as AIDS. Late stages of HIV infection/AIDS It often takes eight to ten years after being infected with HIV to develop serious illnesses. This is because by this time, HIV has destroyed your immune system to the point where your body can't fight off other infections. Late signs of HIV infection/AIDS: Severe weight loss
Loss of appetite
The only way to know for sure whether you’ve got an HIV infection is to get tested.