What You should know about HIV/AIDS

What You should know about HIV/AIDS

Do you know that Nigeria has the second largest HIV endemics in the world? As at 2018 about 1.9 million of Nigeria population were living with HIV. Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a  viral disease that that affects the immune system, the virus takes over the cells to grow and spread. HIV disease is not the same as Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), AIDS is the later stage of HIV infection when the immune system is damaged. The immune cells (white blood cells) are so few that they can no longer fight off severe infections and some types of cancer. People with AIDS are often critically ill and need medical treatment to prevent death.

Transmission of HIV

Spread of HIV is occurs when damaged tissues or mucous membranes ( found in the vagina, penis, mouth or rectum) have contact with certain body fluids from a person who has HIV. These fluids includes blood, semen, pre-seminal fluids, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. One of the major ways that HIV is spread is mainly by having unprotected sex or sharing injection drug equipment, such as needles, with someone who has HIV. HIV can also spread from a woman with HIV to her child during pregnancy, childbirth (also called labor and delivery), or breastfeeding. This is called mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Unprotected heterosexual sex accounts for 80% of new HIV infections in Nigeria, with the majority of remaining HIV infections occurring in key affected populations such as sex workers.

Symptoms of HIV

Most people don know right away when they’ve been infected with HIV. But they may have symptoms within 2 to 6 weeks after they’ve gotten the virus. This is when your body’s immune system puts up a fight. Early symptoms of HIV include

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Aching muscles
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • A red rash that doesn’t itch, usually on your torso
  • Fever

The only way you can know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested. Although the virus can cause symptoms, they’re not a reliable way to tell if you’re infected. In fact, some people won’t have any symptoms at all.  Early testing is important for two reasons. First, at this stage, levels of HIV in your blood and bodily fluids are very high. This makes it especially contagious. Second, starting treatment as soon as possible might help boost your immune system and ease your symptoms.

In the body, cells called CD4 T cells coordinate your immune system’s response, untreated HIV will kill CD4 cells and destroy your immune system. Your doctor can check how many of these cells you have with blood tests. Without treatment, the number of CD4 cells will drop, and you’ll be more likely to get other infections.

Ways to reduce risk of contracting the infection

1. Get tested and know your partner’s HIV status. Talk to your partner about HIV testing and get tested before you have sex.

2. Choose less risky sexual behaviors. HIV is mainly spread by having anal or vaginal sex without a condom or without taking medicines to prevent or treat HIV.

3. Use condoms. Use a condom correctly every time you have sex. Read this fact sheet from CDC on how to use condoms correctly.
4. Limit your number of sexual partners. The more partners you have, the more likely you are to have a partner with poorly controlled HIV or to have a partner with a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Both of these factors can increase the risk of HIV transmission.

5. Get tested and treated for STDs. Insist that your partners get tested and treated, too. Having STDs can increase your risk of becoming infected with HIV or spreading it to others.

6. Talk to your health care provider about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). PrEP is an HIV prevention option for people who don’t have HIV but who are at high risk of becoming infected with HIV. PrEP involves taking a specific HIV medicine every day. For more information, read the AIDSinfo fact sheet on Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP).

Remember that HIV does not show in someone’s face, get tested today! Today,new and effective drugs make it possible for people with HIV to live longer and healthier lives.

If you have HIV, you can have a near-normal lifespan if you get regular medical care and treatment for HIV, take your medicine as your doctor tells you to, and have your viral load under control.

How early you begin treatment has a direct effect on your life expectancy. So, for example, a 35-year-old woman diagnosed with HIV early in the infection could expect to live to be 80 or even older if she takes her medicines daily, maintains levels of HIV (viral load) too low to be detected in the blood, and gets regular medical care.

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