HIV & AIDS INFORMATION
All HIV/AIDS information on this website comes from The Body, a website with lots of great information on HIV and AIDS. For more information, check out their site!
What is HIV?
- HIV is short for “human immunodeficiency virus.”
How Do You Get HIV?
- Through unprotected sex.
- By sharing needles or other equipment used to inject drugs.
- Through bodily fluids – blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk.
How Can I Protect Myself From Getting HIV?
- Using a latex condom, female condom, or dental dam are all great ways to protect yourself during sex. For more information on Safer Sex, see our ‘Safer Sex Information’ page.
- Don’t share needles.
- Use barrier devices such as gloves when handling bodily fluids.
Who Gets HIV?
- Anybody can get HIV.
- HIV is a virus; once it gets into your body, it can make you sick.
- You can get HIV if you are rich or poor; 14 years old or 70; black or white; gay or straight; married or single.
- It’s what you do, not who you are, that puts you at risk for HIV.
- You can also be born with HIV – mothers with HIV can pass the virus on to their children.
How Long Does It Take to Feel a Symptom of HIV?
- People can have HIV for 10 years or more and never show any symptoms.
- Other people can get symptoms within a short time after being infected.
- The only sure way you can tell if you have HIV is to get an HIV test.
When Should I Get Tested?
- Generally it takes the body about 3 months from the time of infection to produce enough antibodies to be detected by an HIV antibody test. (For some people, it can take up to 6 months.) The time period between infection and the appearance of detectable HIV antibodies is called the window period. Because HIV antibodies are not detectable yet, the HIV antibody test isn’t useful during the window period.
- So, if you are using an HIV antibody test, you should get tested 3-6 months after exposure or a new partner.
- Rapid HIV Tests that are used in many clinics and hospitals in Ghana are antibody tests, and should be used 3-6 months after exposure.
- The plasma HIV RNA test (also called a viral load test) can detect HIV in a person’s blood within 9 days of infection, before the body develops detectable HIV antibodies. The plasma HIV RNA test is recommended when recent infection is very likely — for example, soon after a person has had unprotected sex with a partner infected with HIV.
How Often Should I Get Tested?
- You should get tested every six months. This ensures that you are always updated on your status.
- After every new partner, to be sure that you have not been passed on the virus.
How Long Will I Live With HIV?
- If you keep your CD4 count up, keep your viral load down, take your HIV meds properly and live a healthy life, there’s no reason to think that your life will be any shorter with HIV than it would have been without it.
- The latest information on life expectancy for HIVers shows that HIV-positive people who are on treatment can expect to live well into their 60s and beyond – and the estimates keep getting closer to those of HIV-negative people as HIV meds become more and more effective.
What Should a Person Do After They Test Positive?
- If you’ve already tested positive for HIV, then there are tests a doctor can do to see whether your HIV is progressing, and whether it’s wise to start taking HIV medications.
- If you are newly diagnosed, you should ask your doctor about treatments and other things you can do for your health.
- For most people, if HIV treatment is not started when their doctor recommends it (i.e., when their CD4 count is low or their viral load is high), eventually their immune system will weaken to the point that they may develop life-threatening health problems.
- If you’re newly diagnosed, it can also be incredibly beneficial if you seek out support, get help from your local HIV organization and connect with other HIV-positive people. For more information see The Body’s page here for newly diagnosed individuals.
Where Did HIV Come From?
- The origins of HIV are still a little murky. Experts currently think that, about 100 years ago in Africa, an ancestor of HIV evolved into a form that jumped from monkeys to humans.
- The history of the global HIV pandemic is more recent, however: The world only began to pay attention to HIV in the early 1980s, when gay men in New York City and San Francisco began to die of a mysterious illness. The term “AIDS” — which is what doctors call it when HIV disease becomes advanced — wasn’t coined until 1982, and the virus now known as HIV wasn’t identified as the cause of AIDS until 1984.
Is There a Cure for HIV?
- No. There is currently no known cure for HIV or AIDS. Drugs and other treatments can make it seem as though individuals are free from the virus, but this is a myth – the virus is still present in their bodies. It is merely the effects of the virus that are mitigated.