With the upcoming of World HIV/AIDS day on 1 December, HSP thought it would be a good idea to post some information on HIV/AIDS as this disease is a global pandemic which has had a large impact on society as there are still many misconceptions about it.
What does HIV/AIDS stand for?
Human Immunodeficiency Virus infection and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome
What is HIV/AIDS?
HIV/AIDS is a spectrum of conditions caused by infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). HIV targets and destroys the body’s immune system and weakens people’s defence systems against infections and certain types of cancer. As the infection progresses a person can develop more serious infections and tumours and may experience some weight loss. This advanced stage of the HIV infection is called AIDS. The average survival time after infection without treatment is 11 years.
How is AIDS spread?
- Through contact of a variety of body fluids from infected people, such as blood, breast milk, semen and vaginal secretions.
- From a mother to her child during pregnancy and delivery or breastfeeding
- Contaminated blood transfusions
- Having unprotected anal, vaginal or oral sex
- Sharing contaminated needles and syringes
Factors that increase your risk of AIDS
- Already having a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
- If you are an uncircumcised man the lack of circumcision increases the risk of heterosexual transmission of HIV
How HIV doesn’t spread
- You can’t catch HIV or AIDS by hugging, kissing, dancing or shaking hands with someone who has HIV.
- HIV isn’t spread through the air, water or insect bites.
- You can’t get HIV from contact with objects such as dishes, toilet seats, or doorknobs used by a person with HIV.
The symptoms of HIV/AIDS vary depending on the stage of infection.
Primary infection (HIV):
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Sore throat and mouth sores
- Muscle aches and joint pain
- Night sweats
Some symptoms when the disease has progressed to AIDS:
- Pneumocystis pneumonia
- Weight loss
- Recurring Fever
- Tuberculosis (TB),
- Cryptococcal meningitis
- Bacterial infections
In most cases, people develop antibodies to HIV within 28 days of infection. This is called the “window” period when HIV antibodies haven’t been produced. They may have had no signs of HIV infection and this is still when HIV can be transmitted to others.
HIV can be diagnosed through rapid diagnostic tests (home kits). However a rapid test cannot provide a full HIV diagnosis; a confirmatory laboratory blood test is required, conducted by a qualified health worker.
Virological testing must be provided to children less than 18 months as serological testing is not sufficient to identify HIV infection
Testing for HIV
HIV testing should be voluntary and a person DOES have the right to decline testing.
All HIV testing services must follow the WHO-recommended principles known as the “5 Cs”:
- Consent – informed
- Correct test results
- Connection (linkage to care, treatment and other services).
There is no cure for HIV/AIDS but it can be maintained with antiretroviral therapy (ART). People on ART take a combination of HIV medicines called an HIV treatment regimen every day. If treated the progression of the disease can be slowed down and may lead to a fairly normal healthy life expectancy.
- Using new male and female condoms every time during sex
- The use of a combination of antiviral medications during pregnancy and childbirth
- Bottle feeding babies and notbreastfeeding them
- Receive a course of antiretroviral within 48 to 72 hours after exposure to HIV-positive blood or genital secretions
- Do not share needles
- Tell your sexual partner if you have HIV
- Consider male circumcision
- Educating your employees about HIV/AIDS
firstname.lastname@example.org 082 581 8833
US Department of Health and Human Services
Reviewd by Sr Belinda Walters-Girout