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HIV is just three letters – it’s not a sentence

Sometimes people with HIV are described as having AIDS, this is not correct. You can live a long and healthy life with HIV without ever developing AIDS. But only if you know your status.

HIV

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. ‘Immunodeficiency’ refers to the weakening of the immune system by the virus. HIV has been passed on between humans for many decades but was only identified in the early 80s.

AIDS

AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. It is a collection of illnesses (‘syndrome’) caused by a virus people pick up (‘acquire’) that makes their immune system weak (‘immune deficiency’). You can’t get an AIDS diagnosis unless you’re already HIV positive.

HIV is not passed on easily from one person to another. The virus does not spread through the air like cold and flu viruses.

HIV lives in the blood and in some body fluids. To get HIV, one of these fluids from someone with HIV has to get into your blood. The body fluids that contain enough HIV to infect someone are:

  • semen
  • vaginal fluids, including menstrual blood
  • breast milk
  • blood
  • lining inside the anus

The main ways the virus enters the bloodstream are:

  • by injecting into the bloodstream (with a contaminated needle or injecting equipment)
  • through the thin lining on or inside the anus and genitals
  • through the thin lining of the mouth and eyes
  • via cuts and sores in the skin

Other body fluids, like saliva, sweat or urine, DO NOT contain enough of the virus to infect another person. HIV is not passed on through:

  • kissing
  • spitting
  • being bitten
  • contact with unbroken, healthy skin
  • being sneezed on
  • sharing baths, towels or cutlery
  • using the same toilets or swimming pools
  • mouth-to-mouth resuscitation
  • contact with animals or insects such as mosquitoes

NOTE: HIV can’t survive for very long once it's outside the human body.

If you had unprotected sex and the other person didn’t know their HIV status, you now don’t know yours. But, taking ownership and fixing this situation is completely possible and the power to make that decision is in your hands.

But power is knowledge and you are always better off knowing your status, especially as HIV is treatable.

Getting Tested

The only way to find out if you have HIV is to have an HIV test. If you think you have put yourself at risk of HIV, you should seek medical advice and have a test as soon as recommended. The earlier HIV is diagnosed, the earlier you can start treatment and avoid becoming ill.

Untreated HIV

If left untreated, infection with HIV progresses through a series of stages: from flu-like seroconversion illness, through infections associated with the symptomatic stage, leading to late-stage HIV or AIDS.

U = U

Undetectable = Untransmittable. Studies have shown that a person who's on effective treatment who has an undetectable viral load can't pass on HIV.

HIV Prevention

Anyone who has sex without a condom or shares needles is at risk of HIV infection. The best way to prevent HIV is to:

  • use a condom for sex
  • to never share needles or other injecting equipment (including syringes, spoons and swabs), and
  • Consider taking PrEP or PEP

Knowing your HIV status and that of your partner is also important.

PrEP and PEP

Taking PrEP, a daily medication to help prevent HIV infection, may be a good fit for you if your status is negative and you think that you are at risk for HIV. To find out more about whether PrEP is right for you, visit the nearest clinics and hospitals that provide PrEP & PEP at www.mypreplocator.com

Click Here to learn more about PrEP

HIV Treatment

If you are tested positive for HIV, treatments are now very effective, enabling people with HIV to live long and healthy lives. Medication, known as antiretrovirals or HAART, work by:

  • stopping the virus replicating in the body,
  • allowing the immune system to repair itself, and
  • preventing further damage

These medicines come in the form of tablets, which need to be taken every day. HIV-1 medication is available for no cost at any government clinics and hospitals in Malaysia.

Whether you’ve tested reactive or non-reactive, below are the links for you to receive the care, treatment, and even the counselling you need.