It is estimated that over 38 million people worldwide have HIV or AIDS. Half of the new cases are young people aged 15-24. In some parts of the world, HIV infection and AIDS rate is growing rapidly and AIDS represents a major cause of mortality.
In some countries, HIV infection is still not so common.
What is HIV – AIDS virus ?
HIV is an abbreviation for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It attacks the immune system in people, so the body becomes unable to fight even against common infections.
AIDS (Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome) is a term used when the immune system of a person is so impaired by HIV that the number of blood elements which fight infections, meaning helpers of T lymphocytes (CD4 cells) declines from 800-1050 to less than 200 per milliliter of blood in the bloodstream.
The patient is then vulnerable to a number of infections and eventually dies as a result of diseases against which the immune system is not able to fight.
HIV infection leads to AIDS (Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome). If a person is HIV positive, it means that the blood test shows that the virus is present in the body. As long as the virus does not attack the immune system (sometimes even after many years), that person does not have AIDS.
How can you get HIV?
AIDS is obtained if one of these infected body fluids comes in contact with blood:
- seminal fluid,
- vaginal fluid,
- breast milk
Most common ways of transmission:
- any kind of sex, including oral and anal,
- common use of any kind of needles, including drug, piercing and tattoo needles
- blood transfusion
- during pregnancy or breastfeeding, HIV virus can be transmitted to the baby
HIV can be transmitted during sexual contact (anal or vaginal), if you you do not take any precautions. Infected semen, vaginal secretions including menstrual blood can penetrate through small scratches (abrasions) in your partner’s body.
You can not get HIV in these cases:
- HIV is not transmitted through everyday social contact. AIDS can be transmitted through:
- handshake, touching or ordinary kissing of HIV positive people
- through mosquito or insect bite
- If you share same home with HIV positive person
- If you work or go to school with someone who is HIV positive
- If you donate blood
- through toilets, door knobs or coffee cups
HIV can not live long outside the body. Only a minute after the virus has left the body, the risk to get HIV is very low. The virus is easily destroyed with soap and water, disinfectant or drying.
How can you know if you have HIV?
Blood testing will show whether there are any HIV antibodies present, or if a person is HIV positive – there are no clinical signs that will indicate this health condition.
After being infected with the virus, it takes usually 2-3 months for the antibodies to be produced, which can be discovered by the test. In the majority of cases HIV antibodies can be discovered after 6 to 12 weeks after a person gets HIV infection, and after 6 months HIV antibodies can be discovered in 95 % of people infected.
It is possible that a person is infected (to have the virus in the body) before the blood test can show it.
How to prevent HIV infection?
Practicing safe sex by using condoms correctly is an excellent HIV prevention. It minimizes the risk of HIV infection through sexual intercourse. Not every sexual intercourse has equal risk of HIV infection.
Thus, anal sex is considered as high-risk, vaginal sex carries a risk of HIV transmission through semen or genital fluid, while oral sex is risky because HIV can pass from vaginal fluid or semen in the oral cavity that may have some wounds or oral fissures.
Therefore, always be careful about the safety measures during any sexual contact.
Never use shared needles or injection equipment. To reduce the risk of infection through infected blood, it is necessary to use needles and syringes for single use or if that is not possible proper sterilization is more than obligatory. This applies to any equipment that for any reason violates skin (piercing, tattooing, acupuncture needles, intravenous drug use, etc.).
You should also take care if someone is bleeding or during manipulation of medical waste (needles).
HIV is a disease that must be reported, meaning when you detect a positive blood test, which proves that a person has HIV, you should report it in the special services. Further prevention steps include giving advices on safe sex to sexual partners.
Cancer and AIDS
People with HIV have a higher risk of developing cancer. It is thought that the reason for this increased risk is reduced immunity.