Despite what a lot of people think, HIV and AIDS aren’t actually the same thing. If HIV is left untreated it can develop into AIDS. HIV often has no symptoms which is why it’s important to catch it early through regular STI testing every 6-12 months. And use condoms to prevent risk.
Are there any symptoms?
Some people may get flu-like symptoms (fever, sore throat, swollen glands, rash) early in the infection.
HIV may not have any symptoms for years
What is HIV/AIDS?
HIV and AIDS are not the same thing. HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system, which is where our body fights infection. If left untreated, HIV will damage the immune system to the point where Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) develops. AIDS is the life-threatening condition of late-stage HIV where a person’s immune system is too weak to fight off even minor infection.
How do you become infected with HIV?
HIV is passed on through the semen, blood, vaginal fluid, anal fluid or breast milk of a person with HIV who has a detectable viral load. This means condomless vaginal sex or anal sex or sharing needles may be risky. HIV may also be passed on from mother to baby during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding.
There are a lot of rumours that go around about HIV, so let’s set some of those straight: You can’t tell if someone has HIV just by looking at them, you can’t get HIV by kissing or cuddling, mosquitoes don’t pass on HIV and you can’t get it by shaking hands, sharing cutlery or cups, or by eating food made by someone with HIV.
You can only get HIV through blood, semen, vaginal fluid, anal fluid or breastmilk. You can’t get HIV from saliva, sweat, or tears
If you use needles for injecting, make sure they’re sterile. That means a big NO to sharing needles and syringes. Getting sterile needles and syringes is easy. They’re available at pharmacies or you can get them from your local Needle and Syringe Program (NSP) which is friendly, free and confidential. For more information on accessing sterile needles and syringes visit NUAA’s website
PrEP and PEP can also prevent HIV in those at highest risk of acquiring it. Find out more here
Regular STI testing – every 6-12 months – is also important and part of a healthy and confident sex life
Early diagnosis and treatment of HIV can keep you healthy long term. It also means that you no longer pass HIV on to others through sex, exposure to blood, pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding
What’s the test and treatment for HIV?
A test for HIV is a simple blood test. However, it can take up to three months from the time a person is exposed to HIV until the test result is 100 % accurate.
If your results come back positive, this means you have HIV infection. When it comes to treatment, the earlier you get treated the better.
Treatment protects your immune system, prevents AIDS, and leads to a normal life expectancy. Treatment is not a cure but it can keep you healthy and help prevent passing it on to others. Your previous partners might be at risk so it’s important to let them know.