Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome

Global HIV and AIDS statistics
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What are HIV and AIDS?

HIV (Human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that causes damage to the body’s immune system. AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is a late form of infection with HIV.

AIDS conditions (serious infections or cancers indicating a damaged immune system) occur on average, about 10 years after becoming infected with HIV. However, the time taken to develop AIDS may range from between 1 and 20 years or more. Treatment usually extends the period before developing AIDS.

How does someone get infected with HIV?

HIV is commonly transmitted by:

  • vaginal intercourse without a condom (man to woman and woman to man)
  • anal sex without a condom (both partners are at risk – man to woman or man to man)
  • sharing drug injecting equipment
  • an infected mother to her baby during pregnancy, at birth or by breastfeeding

HIV is rarely transmitted by:

  • vaginal or anal sex with proper use of a condom
  • oral sex without a condom (ejaculation increases the risk)
  • fresh blood – contaminated sharp injuries or splashes, eg. Needle stick injuries for health workers.

HIV was previously transmitted through:

  • transfusion of blood or blood – derived products from about 1980 through to early 1985.
HIV has not been reported as being transmitted by: kissing, cuddling, shaking hands, sharing cutlery, cups & glasses, toilet seats or mosquito bites.

How do you test for HIV?

By blood test. It may take up to three months for HIV to register on a blood test after someone has been infected so the blood test should be performed after this window period.

Anyone who requires any more detailed advice about HIV is welcome to talk to the counsellors, nurses or doctors at your local sexual health service.

How is it treated?

New anti-viral drugs have been developed that are helping people with AIDS live longer. Although these drugs help control the virus they also have side effects that can interfere with a person's life and well being.
Talk to your doctor about when it is best to start these drugs and which ones to use. It is also important for HIV positive people to have any other infections treated promptly.

Should my partner be checked or treated?

Yes. If you can, you should notify your previous and current partners and suggest they be tested for HIV.
How can I protect myself from HIV/AIDS?
The best protection from HIV/AIDS is to choose safer sex. This means avoiding intercourse or using a condom for vaginal or anal sex. If you use needles to inject drugs, never share them with another person and follow these tips for safer needle use.

If you have been sexually assaulted, you may wish to receive antiviral drugs aimed at preventing infection. Treatments must begin as soon as possible after the assault (within 72 hours).

HIV and AIDS Orphan
Many Children become orphans when their mothers die from AIDS
HIV TCells
HIV TCells [Click image above to enlarge]

How would I know if I have HIV or AIDS?

Most people with HIV look and feel perfectly healthy. More than half of the people may develop a glandular fever like illness (with fever, sweats, diarrhoea, rash, mouth ulcers) one to six weeks after becoming infected with HIV, which may last a few days to a few weeks. Many people have no symptoms at all. Most will have no symptoms for several years. Some time later HIV may cause unexplained diarrhoea, weight loss, recurrent rashes, fever or one of the AIDS conditions. AIDS conditions include pneumonia, brain infections, skin cancers, severe fungal infections and many other problems. The symptoms will depend on the organs(s) most affected.

What is the difference between Anonymous and Confidential HIV testing services

Anonymous HIV Testing Services (ATS)

  • Clients do not provide personal identifiers (name or address) to the health care provider.
  • Clients cannot be given written verification of their test results.
  • Health care providers cannot share HIV results with third parties.
  • The client counselor relationship ends with the disclosure of HIV test results.
  • HIV positive clients are given referrals to other programs that offer on-going enhanced counseling, partner referral, early medical and prevention case management services.
  • HIV negative clients are given referrals to individual counselling or groups that will help them further identify and lower their HIV risks.

Confidential HIV Testing Services (CTS)

  • Clients provide personal identifiers (name and address) to the provider.
  • Health care provider and client usually have an on-going confidential relationship.
  • Clients can be given written verification of HIV test results.
  • Clients can give written permission for health care provider to share their HIV test results with a third party.
  • Clients are contacted when they fail to return for scheduled counseling appointments.
  • Enhanced counseling is usually provided in a follow-up session after a client receives HIV test results. Session focuses on helping client deal with the impact of a positive and/or negative test result and identifies other needed services.
  • Clients are provided Partner Counseling and referral.
  • HIV positive clients are given referrals or appointments for HIV primary care services, partner referrals, and special counseling for pregnant women.
  • HIV negative clients are given referrals to individual counseling or groups that will help them further identify and lower their HIV risks.




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