- HIV infection is spread when body fluids of infected people are transferred to an uninfected person e.g. semen, blood, breast milk etc.
- Indulge in safe sex by using condoms.
- Limit the number of sexual partners.
- Blood transfusion must be from safe sources uninfected with HIV virus.
- Screening tests are available for HIV infection.
- Consult your doctor if in doubt.
World AIDS Days – “Getting to Zero”
HIV, human immunodeficiency virus, attacks the human immune system and damages people’s defense system against infections and diseases. AIDS, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, is the most advanced form of the HIV infection. It takes 2 to 15 years to develop, which is based on the immunity of the individual.
Every year, World AIDS is celebrated on 1st December. This year WHO is celebrating this day with the theme “Getting to Zero”, which emphasize on ending this epidemic by the year 2030.
Signs and Symptoms
Depending on the stage of the infection, the symptoms of HIV vary. For the first few months of onset of HIV, people tend to be very infectious. However, many people with HIV are unaware of this until later stage. People may experience no symptoms or illness like fever, rash, headaches or sore throat for the first few weeks after initial infection. Gradually, as the infection progresses and weakens the immune system, other symptoms such as lymph nodes, weight loss, diarrhea and cough can be seen. If ignored, it can lead to severe illnesses such as tuberculosis, meningitis and cancers.
HIV is spread through the exchange of a variety of blood fluids from infected individuals. In most cases, HIV spreads through unprotected sex with an infected person. Women can pass it to their babies during pregnancy, childbirth or breast feeding.
However, we have to remember that HIV cannot be transferred by ordinary contact such as hugging, shaking hands or sharing food and water.
- Having unprotected sex
- Having another sexually transmitted infection like herpes, syphilis, gonorrhea and bacterial vaginosis
- Sharing contaminated injecting equipment such as needles and syringes
- Receiving unsterilized cutting or piercing, unsafe injection, blood transfusion or any other medical procedure
By limiting their exposure to the risk factors related to HIV, individuals can reduce the chance of getting infected.
- Use male and female condom – Evidence shows that, male condoms have an 85% protective effect against sexually transmitted infections including HIV
- Testing and counselling for HIV and STIs –People who are exposed to the risk of HIV are strongly advised to test for HIV and other STIs. Also, couples or partners are advised to undertake HIV testing
- Antiretroviral (ART) use for prevention –The WHO recommends ART to people living with HIV as it significantly contributes to reducing HIV transmission. Studies have shown that ART can reduce the transmission of the virus, from people infected with HIV to their unaffected sexual partner, by 96%
- Use sterilized injection – People using injection for several health purposes should always use sterilized injecting equipment, which includes needles and syringes
- Elimination of mother to child transmission – HIV positive mother can transmit the virus to her child during pregnancy, labour, delivery or breastfeeding. This is called vertical or mother to child transmission (MTCT). Without any medical intervention, there is 15-45% of MTCT. Therefore, both the mother and the child should be provided with ARV drugs throughout the stages when infection could occur, which includes during pregnancy, labour and the post-natal period
- Limit the number of partners you have sex with as promiscuity increases the chances of contracting HIV.