World aids day
1 December 2016
Today is World AIDS Day so we’d like to take this chance to help you to better understand the disease.
HIV and AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome): What’s the Difference?
HIV targets the immune system and weakens the individual’s defense systems against infections and some types of cancers. As the virus destroys and impairs the function of immune cells, infected individuals gradually become immunodeficient. The most advanced stage of HIV infection is AIDS, which can take 2 to 15 years to develop, depending on the individual.
An HIV test reveals infection status by detecting the presence or absence of antibodies to HIV in the blood. There is a window period, approximately 3-12 weeks, from the time of infection to the moment when a test can detect the antibodies.2
HIV can be transmitted via the exchange of a variety of bodily fluids from infected individuals, such as blood, breast milk, semen, and vaginal secretions. Individuals cannot become infected through ordinary day-to-day contact such as kissing, hugging, shaking hands, or sharing personal objects. Although the early period of infection represents the greatest risk of infectivity, HIV transmission can occur during all stages of the infection.
HIV can be suppressed by a combination Antiretroviral Treatment (ART) consisting of three or more antiretroviral drugs. ART does not cure HIV infection but controls viral replication within a person’s body and allows an individual’s immune system to strengthen and regain the capacity to fight off infections. With ART, people living with AIDS can live healthy and productive lives for many years.
In 2015, WHO released new guidelines that recommended anyone infected with HIV should begin antiretroviral treatment as soon after diagnosis as possible.1
Key ways to prevent HIV transmission
- Practice safe sex behaviours
- Get tested & treated for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV
- Avoid sharing contaminated needles, syringes or other equipment and drug solutions
- Make sure that any needed blood or blood products are tested for HIV
Five ways to support someone with HIV/AIDS
- Allow the person to talk about his/her emotions and feelings.
- Don’t avoid the person.
- Encourage involvement in decisions that affect care & daily schedules so the person feels a sense of control & independence.
- Don’t be afraid to discuss the disease. People with HIV often need to talk.
- Don’t be afraid to touch – holding a hand or giving a hug can raise the person’s spirits.
1. World Health Organization. (2016). HIV/AIDS. Visited 2 November 2016.
2. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Testing. Visited 7 November 2016.