Do you know your status?
HIV is a virus that targets and alters the immune system, increasing the risk and impact of other infections and diseases. Without treatment, the infection might progress to an advanced disease stage called AIDS.
HIV is a lifelong infection. Modern advances in treatment mean that people living with HIV in countries with good access to healthcare very rarely develop AIDS once they are receiving treatment. The life expectancy of a person who has HIV is now approaching that of a person that tests negative for the virus. This is as long as they adhere to a combination of medications called antiretroviral treatment (ART) on an ongoing basis.
According to the World Health organisation, of the 37.9 million people living with HIV at the end of 2018, 79% received testing, 62% received treatment, and 53% had achieved suppression of the virus with reduced risk of infecting others. HIV continues to be a major global public health issue, having claimed more than 32 million lives so far. However, with increasing access to effective HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care, including for opportunistic infections, HIV infection has become a manageable chronic health condition, enabling people living with HIV to lead long and healthy lives.
Transmission of HIV:
People transmit HIV in bodily fluids, including:
For the most part, infections by other bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites cause the more severe symptoms of HIV. These conditions tend to progress further in people who live with HIV than in individuals with healthy immune systems. Early symptoms include headache, fever, tiredness, swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, thrush, rash, muscle and joint pain, ulcers in the mouth, ulcers on the genitals, night sweats and diarrhea.
A simple finger prick test can be done at a pharmacy, clinic or doctor. We do free HIV testing at Campus Health Service.
You can use strategies such as abstinence (not having sex), limiting your number of sexual partners, never sharing needles, and using condoms the right way every time you have sex. You may also use the newer HIV prevention medicines such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). If you have HIV, the most important thing to do is take HIV medicine (called antiretroviral therapy, or ART) as prescribed.
No cure is currently available for HIV or AIDS. However, treatment can stop the progression of the condition and allow most people living with HIV the opportunity to live a long and relatively healthy life. Starting ART early in the progression of the virus is crucial. This improves quality of life, extends life expectancy, and reduces the risk of transmission, according to the WHO's guidelines.
If you need to talk to a sister or doctor about HIV, please contact CHS at 021 808 3494.