1 What You Need to Know About HIV/AIDS: Basic Facts What are “HIV” and “AIDS”? HIV stands for ‘Human Immunodeficiency Virus’. This means HIV is a virus (germ that causes disease when it enters your body) that weakens the human immune system. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. It attacks the immune system — the body’s defence against disease. HIV lives in blood, breast milk, semen and vaginal fluids. AIDS is the name given to a group of serious illnesses experienced by HIV positive people. These are illnesses that arise when PLWHA are no longer able to fight off diseases because of lowered immunity. page 1 AIDS stands for “Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome” - Acquired means a disease you get during life rather than one you are born with. - Immune Deficiency means a weakness in the body’s immune system. - Syndrome means a group of particular health problems that make up a disease. How is HIV Transmitted? HIV can be transmitted in 3 ways: 1. Sexual Contact -having unprotected sex is the most common way through which people contract HIV. 2. Blood Contact - through blood transfusion or sharing needles or other sharp objects contaminated with HIV-infected blood. 3. Parent-to-Child Transmission – mothers can pass HIV to their babies through pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. ncy an icie def Hum no= u H Imm s I = Viru V = A = Acq I = uire d I D = mmun e Def icie S = ncy Syn dro me How is HIV NOT Transmitted? Through social contact such as… · Hugging · Kissing · Shaking hands · · · · Breathing the same air, coughs, sneezes Sweat Contact through sport Tears, consoling someone who is crying. Through sharing things such as… · Toilet seats · Food utensils or drinking cups · Clothes · Public baths or swimming pools. Through insect bites such as… · Mosquito bites · Bed bugs. People can live with HIV for many years without feeling sick - but they are still able to pass on HIV to others during this time! Eventually viral load will increase and HIV will damage the body’s defence against infection called the ‘immune system’. A person with a weakened immune system due to HIV will begin to develop illnesses specific to people living with HIV called ‘opportunistic infections’(OIs). The more opportunistic infections a person with HIV experiences, the more damaged his/her immune system becomes. When a person living with HIV is unable to fight further infections he/she is said to have AIDS. How Can HIV Transmission be Prevented? 1. Having safer sex through the correct use of female and male condoms every time, abstinence, being faithful to your partner or non-penetrative sex. 2. Having open discussions on HIV and AIDS by reducing stigma and shame around being HIV positive. 3. Knowing your HIV status by making use of voluntary counselling and testing services, and if HIV positive, protecting your sexual partner/s from transmission. 4. Prevention of Parent-to-Child Transmission (PPTCT) by taking ARV medicines such as nevirapine, breastfeeding exclusively for six months or alternate feeding, and choosing caesarian delivery mode. page 2 Is There Any Hope for People Living With HIV and AIDS (PLWHA)? YES! Advances in science and increased knowledge make HIV and AIDS what is now called a chronic manageable condition like diabetes or high blood pressure. While there is no known cure for HIV and AIDS (yet), there are many things that PLWHA can do to live a long and healthy life. Anti-retroviral (ARV) medicines are special medicines that have been created to treat HIV and help PLWHA stay healthy. What is Positive Living? Positive living is a term used to describe steps taken by people living with HIV and AIDS that enhance their lives and increase their health. Positive living includes: · Knowing your HIV status · If HIV negative – staying negative · If HIV positive – preventing transmission · Good nutrition, treating OIs, accessing health care · A positive and healthy life outlook · Joining a support group · Planning the future and pursuing your goals How Do I Know if I am HIV Positive? The only way to know your HIV status for sure is to take an HIV test. You can learn your HIV status by making use of Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) services in your community. VCT services can be offered by: · Doctors · Local clinics and hospitals · Special clinics set up just for VCT · A mobile unit that offers services in your community. What is the Difference Between Being HIV Positive and Having AIDS? Persons first infected with HIV will have a high level of virus in their blood. The amount of HIV in an infected person’s blood is called ‘viral load’.