WHAT IS AIDS?
AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.
It is the final stage of the disease caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) .
HOW IS HIV TRANSMITTED?
- Unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected person
- Sharing infected syringes and needles (e.g. between injecting drug users)
- Mother-to- child transmission during pregnancy, at birth or through breast feeding
- Transfusion with contaminated blood and blood products
- Over 80% of infections worldwide are sexually acquired
- It was once believed that HIV only affects certain high risk groups
- The truth is that any person who has high risk behaviour is at risk of contracting HIV
WHAT IS THE INCUBATION PERIOD OF AIDS?
- This refers to the period between exposure (infection) of the individual till the time when he/she shows the first signs of AIDS
- On average, it is between 8 to 10 years
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AIDS AND HIV INFECTION?
- HIV infection refers to all the different stages of infection by the virus
- AIDS refers to the final stage of HIV infection, when the individual develops illnesses that an uninfected person is able to fight off (e.g. TB, Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, Kaposi's sarcoma)
- An individual with HIV infection but not having AIDS would feel and look completely healthy (asymptomatic carrier)
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF HIV AND AIDS?
- Most people with the HIV virus are asymptomatic
- There are however different stages of the infection:
A) Acute (Primary) HIV Infection
- This occurs soon after contracting HIV, and is a flu-like illness with swollen lymph nodes, fever, malaise and rash lasting about 2 to 3 weeks
B) The Asymptomatic Stage
- There are no signs or symptoms
- This stage persists for many years
C) Persistent Generalised Lymphadenopathy
- Persistent unexplained lymph node enlargement in the neck, underarms and groin for more than 3 months
D) AIDS & Related Conditions
- This is the advanced stage of the disease and the person succumbs to infections by unusual organisms that the uninfected person can resist
- The organs involved include lung, eyes, gastrointestinal tract, nervous system and skin
- Systemic symptoms like fevers, unexplained weight loss and diarrhoea are also common
- Rare cancers (e.g. Lymphoma and Kaposi sarcoma) may be found
All persons infected with HIV are able to spread the disease to others through unsafe high risk activities
IS THE VIRUS TRANSMITTED THROUGH CASUAL CONTACT?
- No. The virus is not transmitted through casual contact at home or elsewhere
- It is safe to:
- Share toilets, eating and cooking utensils
- Use swimming pools, launderette
- Stay in the same household
- Work in the same office
- Go to the same school
- Insect stings and bites do not transmit the virus
IS THERE A TEST FOR THE HIV VIRUS?
- The antibodies against HIV appear only after a period of time following exposure
- Almost all cases will develop antibodies within 3 months after exposure, with a few rare cases developing antibodies only after 6 months
- A negative test result means that no antibodies were detected at the time of the test
- This does not mean that the person has immunity
- A repeat test may be required if the test was done too soon after exposure
- A positive test means that the person is infected with HIV
- A positive test result does not mean that the person has AIDS, which is the end-stage of the infection. AIDS is diagnosed when certain types of life-threatening infections and cancers develop in an HIV-infected person
CAN I GET INFECTED FROM DONATING BLOOD?
- No, there is no risk in blood donation, all equipment used are sterile, used only once and discarded
IS THERE A CURE FOR HIV INFECTION AND AIDS?
- There is presently no cure for this disease
- The medications NRTIs ( AZT, ddl, ddC, 3TC, d4T) , protease inhibitors and NNRTIs significantly slow the progression of the disease, and often return the patient to good health
- They however do not result in a cure
- There are many other drugs under trial which may be useful in the future
WHAT PRECAUTIONS SHOULD I TAKE TO PREVENT INFECTION?
- Keep to a monogamous relationship with one uninfected partner
- Always practise safer sex with casual partners, and prostitutes (sex workers)
- Do not inject drugs or share needles and syringes
- Receive only safe blood products
- Ensure that ear piercing, tattooing and acupuncture instruments are sterilised
WHAT IS SAFER SEX?
- This is sex without the exchange of body fluids, e.g. vaginal secretions or semen, during sex
- Use condoms correctly and every time you have sex
- Do not consume alcohol before or during sex, this may impair your judgement
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I THINK I MAY BE INFECTED?
- Get advice from a HIV counsellor regarding a HIV test
- Practice safer sex