Learning about health: HIV & AIDS

HIV is a virus that you may have heard of. It can be passed on from one person to another. You cannot just catch HIV from being near to someone who is infected. The virus needs to be passed on:

  • via sexual intercourse
  • from a mother to her baby via the placenta
  • medical treatments, such as blood transfusions, are the other way that HIV can be spread.

If you have the HIV virus, you will initially feel ill, but only for a very short period of time. About five to ten years after first becoming infected with HIV, you develop Aids. As your immune system is weakened your body becomes more vulnerable to infections. Aids is the name given to the range of condition that the HIV virus causes you to suffer. Opportunistic infection such as tuberculosis (Tb) and cancer are what actually cause death in people with HIV/Aids.
Globally, just under 40 million people are thought to be infected, with Sub-Saharan African having the highest number of cases.
There is no effective vaccine available for HIV, so it is important to take measures to help stop the spread of HIV. Using condoms during sexual intercourse can help to stop the spread of HIV.
But there is very effective medicine available called anti-retroviral therapy. This is very effective – it increases the time taken for Aids to develop, and reduces the chance of death. If taken early, then this medicine can give people near to a normal life expectancy. However this treatment is costly, and needs to be taken continuously for their rest of their life in order to be as effective as possible.
Unfortunately people who have Aids can face stigma and discrimination and violence. This can stop people getting tested and receiving the treatment that they need.
There is no effective vaccine available for HIV, so it is important to take preventative measures to help stop the spread of HIV. Prevention is always better than cure. Using condoms, and using them correctly, during sexual intercourse is one of the best ways to help stop the spread of HIV. Using a water-based lubricant like K-Y Jelly during sexual intercourse with a condom also helps. However be careful to make sure that you do not use an oil-based lubricant, including Vaseline and massage and baby oils, as these can cause condoms to break. Having smaller number different sexual partners will reduce your risk of getting HIV. So too can tot injecting drugs, but if you do you should never share your needles with anyone else and always make sure you use new, sterile needles. There are some new preventative medicines, which if are available can also be used.



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