What is HIV?
HIV stands for Human immunodeficiency Virus. It is the virus that causes AIDS. It can only affect human beings by destroying the body’s immune system, when a person in infected with the virus, after some time, his or her body fluids – such as blood, semen and virginal secretions – will contain HIV and the antibodies (chemicals produced by the body’s immune system or “ soldiers. Of the body”) can no longer resist disease, the infected person becomes sick and is said to have AIDS.
What is AIDS?
AIDS stands for ‘’ Acquired immune deficiency Syndrome”. It is the name we give the condition that occurs when HIV has weakened the body’s immune system (the body’s soldiers’’) and a person begins to fall ill, people with AIDS may have different symptoms, Some may lose weight, have prolonged cough or tuberculosis (TB), prolonged diarrhea or skin infections, REMEMER These symptoms also occur in people who do not have AIDS!
How is HIV contracted?
Since HIV is found in body fluids, it can be transmitted when fluid from an Infected person enters the body of another person, this can happen through the following ways?
- Unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected person,
- Unscreened blood transfusion
- When using unsteriized skin piercing instruments (e.g.) Needles/syringes,
- razor blades, circumcision and other skin piercing instruments)
- From an infected mother to her baby during childbirth or after birth during breast- feeding.
How HIV is not contacted?
HIV is not contracted through causal contract such as sharing clothes, dishes, and toilet seats or through eating together. You cannot be infected with HIV from hugging, shaking hands, touching or being near a person with HIV or AIDS.
Can Mosquitoes transmit HIV the same way they transmit Malaria?
Though Mosquitoes TAKE blood from a person but they do NOT pass the blood they take to another person. The malaria parasite lives in and is transmitted through mosquito’s saliva but HIV is not. Societies have proven conclusively that neither mosquitoes not any other bloodsucking insect can transmit HIV.
Can HIV be transmitted through kissing?
There is no risk of HIV infection if it is a kiss on the check. In the case of a kiss involving saliva exchange, it is unlikely that HIV will be transmitted. Saliva contains very little quantity of the virus and it is believed that a large volume of saliva would be needed to infect someone. But the presence of sores (injuries) in the mouth is like to increase the risk of transmission during kissing.
What are the symptoms of AIDS?
Following an infection with HIV, eventually the person will develop AIDS. Though this may take a long time (years) depending on how strong the person’s immune systems (body’’ soldiers’’) are. At this point, the person will begin to manifest some symptoms described as major and minor, examples includes the following:
- Prolonged diarrhea
- White coating on the tongue (thrush)
- Enlargement of glands in the neck, groin and/ or armpits
- Persistent fever
- Persistent cough
- Skin infections
- Unexplained weight loss
Because these symptoms also characterize other diseases – a persistent cough may tuberculosis, diarrhea may mean intestinal illness – test for the presence of HIV antibodies are the surest ways to determine whether someone has HIV.
How can a person know if he or she has HIV infection or AIDS?
Remember that a person has AIDS, if he of she has begin to suffer from some of the illness associated with HIV infection. However, if the person has HIV infection; he or she is not yet sick; We say that the person is HIV -positive or living with HIV. A person can know that he or she is HIV positive when the person has taken a blood, The body process these antibodies when a virus or other germs infect it, it usually takes between weeks to six months after exposure to HIV for a test to detect these antibodies. Most test for HIV antibodies use a small amount of blood although newer tests use other body fluids such as saliva, inner check cells or urine.
If you feel that at some time, you have been at risk of HIV infection, it is a good idea to have a test. If people know that they are HIV positive, they can be careful not to infect other people. They can also take good care of their health and still enjoy a long life.
Who is at risk?
Given the modes of transmission EVERYONE is at risk, however, there are particular behaviors and practices that increase your risk of HIV infection,
- Having multiple partners whose HIV status is unknown
- Engaging in unprotected sex
- Sharing skin – piercing or drug injection equipment
To enable you appropriately modify your behavior, you need to assess your level of risk to HIV infection.
How do l assess my risk to HIV?
Put’’ X’’ or tick in the following boxes as appropriates,
- Have l had more than one sexual partner without using a condom?
- Have l had sexual partner who has or has other sexual partners?
- Have l had sex with anyone who has tested positive for HIV without using a condom?
- Have I had sex with anyone without using a condom whose past sexual behavour I don’t know?
- Have I had sex without using a condom?
- Have l had one or more sexual transmitted infections (STIs) (discharge, sores or itching on my genitals)?
- I did not go to the clinic for proper treatment of the STI,
- Have I had injections partners had blood transfusion?
- Have I had injections or received inclusions from traditional heaters, untrained health personnel or local injections?
- Have I shared any skin piecing instruments with others?
- Do I handle body fluids, including blood without using universal precautions (hand gloves for examples)?
Note: if you have ticked any of these questions, then you are at risk of being infected with HIV. The more ticks, the greater your risk, do not panic! But do go for counseling at the nearest HIV/AIDS Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) centre or health facility.
How can people at risk change their behaviors?
Changing behavior and attitude is a process that takes time and effort. You need to recognize the fact that several things help people to make changes they can sustain over a period of time.
Imagine that you have multiple sex partners, and you are reading to change your behaviour, you will have to move through the following stages of behaviour change.
- from unawareness to awareness: From a state of complete or virtual ignorance, you lean (through the mass media, by reading, or from a health worker) that Sexually Transmitted infections (STIs) exist and are potentially dangerous to your health and that of your partner (s) by causing great discomfort, life- long complications or even death as well as predispose you to acquiring HIV infection.
- from awareness to concern: Having become aware of their potential danger to your health and that of our loved ones, you wonder if you are at risk and probably even already harboring an STI. You are concerned that those changes you have noticed in your body and or your partner lately which you have hitherto taken for granted may actually be signs of STI.
- from concern to knowledge and acquisition of skills: Your concern about the possibility of harboring an infection drives you to seek more information about STIs probably from friends/peers or preferably health workers. In the process, you are made to understand the various types of STIs, how they manifest and how to prevent them, as well as where to seek effective treatment. At the end of his stage, you are able to identify the likely presence of an STI in your body.
- from skill acquisition to motivation: The presence of signs suggestive of STI in your body brings back to your memory everything you have heard about STI and their complications. You so not want any of these to happen to you and you believe there must be other people who are equally at risk of acquiring STI but who either do not acquire them or do not develop complications because they practice safer sex or treat their STI promptly. You want to be as smart as them by doing what they do, you will therefore enquire for the location of the nearest clinic where your STI can be effectively treated.
- from motivation to trial: You will take the bold step of visiting the clinic for the relief of your symptoms. There, your STI is competently diagnosed and drugs prescribed for effective treatment. You are also counseled to take the drugs as prescribed without sharing with anybody get your partner (s) treated to avoid reinfection, and use condoms to prevent new STI if you must engage in further casual sex. You are also counseled to come back at a specified time to ascertain that you have indeed been cured. As a result of your desire to cure your STI and the demonstrated confidence of the clinic staff, you comply fully with all the instructions you were given both in respect of yourself and your partner (s)
- from trial to success and maintenance: Now you are cured and by virtue of your consistent and proper use of condoms, you have also been infection free for some time now, it is such good news that you share with your friends with whom you have similar risk status for their own benefit too. You are probably also considering reducing your risk status by reducing the number of your sex partners and continuing with the use of condom when casual exposure is unavoidable.
Why are sexually transmitted’’ infections important in HIV prevention?
Sexually transmitted infections (STI) are transmitted in the same ways as HIV, STI create small (sometimes even invisible) sores on the genitals, These are openings that may allow HIV to be transmitted from one person to another, They are extremely dangerous, if you have an STI, or think you have, please go to a clinic and have it properly diagnosed and treated. Then notify your sexual partner to be treated also, you must take all the drugs as prescribed by the physician, and begin to use a condom with your partner throughout the period of treatment
How long does it take for someone who is infected with HIV to develop HIV antibodies?
The formation of antibodies seems to depend on the route and frequency of exposure, the amount of virus transmitted and the immune responses of the infected person, for example, antibodies tend to be produced, very early following infection through blood transfusion. It is important to remember that a negative antibody test does not always mean that a person is not infected with HIV. It could mean that the test was some before an infected person developed HIV antibodies, following an exposure, during the window period.
What is the ‘’window period?
The window period is time between infection and production of antibodies to an infection. During this period, the virus cannot be detected with the usual screening techniques, although the virus may be present and can be transmitted. The duration of the period is influence by the load of virus acquired at infection, the route of infection, frequency, the innate ability of the individual to resist infection (otherwise called the immune status), on average, the window periods lasts two weeks to six months. The window period is dangerous because it can give an infected individual a false sense of security if he or she is tested negative, it also places other contracts at risk of infection from this supposedly HIV negative indivisible to repeat negative HIV tests from a reputable source after three months. The results then form basis for further action.
Can AIDS be cured?
There is no cure for AIDS, the defense system continues to weaken as HIV infection advances in the body, however, there are cures for some of the infections that people may suffer from when they have AIDS. These drugs are not a cure for HIV and AIDS, but they can delay the onset of symptoms or death. As for an HIV vaccine, there are good prospects that a vaccine will become available in the near future, until then our best option is to adapt preventive measure to protect oneself and partner from getting infected
How can HIV infection be prevented?
Although there is no vaccine yet that prevent HIV infection scientists are working to develop one. However, there are behaviours we can adopt to prevent infection:
- Practice safe sex: Stick to one faithful uninfected partner; abstain from sex or use condom.
- Ensure you transfuse or receive only screened blood
- Avoid the use of undersized skin-piercing instruments
- Infected mothers should seek advice before pregnancy
- Drug therapy, breast feeding and delivery options may have to be considered
Is it necessary for a couple to use condoms if they are both infected with HIV?
YES, if one or both partners of a married or unmarried couple is/are infected, they should use condoms every time they have sex because:
- They may be infected with different types of the virus and cross infection may result if a not used.
- More viruses can be transmitted which may accelerate the onset of AIDS.
Does an STI increase the risk of HIV infection?
YES, the person who has an STI- such as herpes or syphilis – that results in sores or ulcers is at greater risk of transmitting or contracting HIV, those at risk of acquiring STIs are also at risk of contracting HIV because both are transmitted through the same sexual behavious.
What advice can be given to people Living With HIV and AIDS (PLWHA)?
Person living with HIV and AIDS require information, counseling, care and support. In general they should be advised to:
- Protect themselves against any form of sexually transmitted (STI).
- Avoid passing the information to others through unprotected sexual intercourse.
- Share information about their HIV status with their spouses and those they trust.
- Eat nourishing food and take plenty of rest.
- Seek counseling about pregnancy for the health of both mother and child.
What can you do in your community to help fight HIV/AIDS?
To be a catalyst for change; You must be well informed about HIV/AIDS.
- Avoid behaviours that put you at risk
- Talk to your partner and family members about HIV/AIDS
- Talk to your neighbour and co-workers about HIV/AIDS
- Talk to friends and community members about HIV/AIDS
- Care and support those infected and affected
- Contribute your time and skills to STOP AIDS.
How can the community help People Living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHA)?
- Avoid discrimination and stigmatization of PLHWA.
- Respect the rights of PLWHA. Provide care and support to PLWHA
- Ensure that PLWHA fully participate in decisions and activities that affect their lives.
What should PLWHA eat?
- Proteins: to Build and repair the body (e.g. eggs, meat, fish, beans, milk, Soya beans, etc)
- Carbohydrates: to give energy to the body (e.g. rice, yam, cassava, potatoes, corn, bread, etc)
- Fat and oils: to give extra energy to the body (palm oil, butter, etc)
- Vitamins and minerals: To protect the body (e.g. vegetables- cabbage, spinach, tomatoes, and fruits-bananas, paw-paw, garden egg, etc)
What else can PLWHA do?
- Join a support group
- A support group is an association of PLWHA
- They are here to help and encourage each other
- They fight for the rights of PLWHA
- They know where to get drugs to help PLWHA to stay healthy
Rights of People Living with HIV and AIDS
AIDS is NOT a moral issue it is a developmental challenge. People living with HIV and AIDS have the same fundamental human rights as any person, internationally accepted human rights include:
- The right to live
- The right to shelter
- The right to health care
- The right to freedom of movement
- The right to freedom of speech and expression
- The right to freedom of thought and religion
- The right to education
- The right to protection against discrimination
- The right to dignity
People living with HIV and AIDS should not be discriminated against in the exercise of any of these rights, nor should there be any stigma because a person is infected with HIV or is suffering from AIDS. They deserve to be treated the same way as any other person, Public health educators should be vocal advocates for the rights of people living with HIV and AIDS.
Ekiti State AIDS Control Agency (EKSACA) is providing this so that you will be better informed about HIV/AIDS, it explains what the disease is, how it is and is not spread and how it can be prevented. One of the best ways to arm yourself against HIV and AIDS is to learn and talk about it, we encourage you to read this and the information with someone else, the more informed people are, the more likely they are to protect themselves and others from infection.