What is HIV and AIDS?
HIV is the human immunodeficiency virus. This virus can lead to acquired immune deficiency syndrome or AIDS. HIV destroys blood cells called CD4+ T cells. These cells help your body fight diseases. This means that HIV stops your body from fighting diseases.
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How is HIV and AIDS transmitted?
HIV spreads when body fluids like blood or semen from an HIV positive person come into contact with broken skin from another person. The most common ways to get HIV is:
- unprotected (without a condom) sex with someone with HIV
- sharing needles, syringes and other equipment used to inject drugs
- from an infected mother.
You cannot get HIV from:
- casual contact like hugging, shaking hands or sharing dishes
- closed mouth or 'social' kissing
- clear saliva, tears or sweat
- insects like mosquitoes
- air or water.
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What are the symptoms of HIV and AIDS?
People living with HIV may look and feel healthy for many years. The only way to find if you have HIV is to go for an HIV test.
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What is the most common life-threatening opportunistic infection affecting people living with HIV and AIDS?
Tuberculosis (TB) kills nearly a quarter of a million people living with HIV each year. It is the number one cause of death among HIV-infected people in Africa, and a leading cause of death in this population worldwide.
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What is HIV Counselling and Testing?
HIV counseling and testing (HCT) refers to the process by which an individual, couple, or family receives HIV testing and counseling on HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support.
There are many approaches to HCT, but generally, the intervention includes four activities:
- pretest counseling on the testing process
- risk-behavior assessment
- each participant’s informed consent
- and post-test counseling based on the test result(s).
Through HCT, counselors and health care workers provide clients and patients with information, tools, and access to interventions, which enable them to protect themselves from acquiring or transmitting the virus. HCT also brings greater awareness to a community about HIV and AIDS. It allows people to talk, ask questions, and learn. HCT can inspire greater community involvement in meeting the needs of people living with or affected by HIV and AIDS.
Benefits of HIV Counseling and Testing
Some of the key benefits of learning one’s status include:
- Awareness of and knowledge about HIV
- Individual or couple-based HIV prevention counseling to identify and reduce risky behaviors
- Education on HIV prevention strategies
- Access to and education on correctly and consistently using condoms
- Linkages to HIV care and treatment
- Linkages to other relevant services, such as sexually transmitted infection treatment, family planning, and prevention of mother-to-child transmission programs
- Planning for the future
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How often should I test?
It is important to get tested regularly. All individuals who engage in risk behaviours should be tested every 3 months.
The risk categories include:
- You have had unsafe sex with multiple partners
- You do not know the HIV status of your partner
- You are not sure if your partner is faithful
- You have been the victim of sexual abuse
- You have contracted a sexually-transmitted infection (STI) within the last 10 years
- You or your partner have used intravenous drugs and shared needles within the last 10 years.
If you do not fall into a risk category, you should be tested annually.
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How can I prevent to be infected with HIV and AIDS?
Abstain from sex or be in a long-term monogamous relationship. Use a condom correctly every time you have sex. Limit your number of sexual partners. Stick to one partner and you will less likely be infected with HIV or another Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD). Get tested and treated for STDs and insist that your partner do too.
Avoid injecting drugs.
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Where can I get treatment for HIV and AIDS?
At any public health institution near you. Your clinic can help you cope with your diagnosis, reduce risk behaviour and find other services such as nutrition information. Your healthcare provider will be able to tell you when it becomes necessary to take medication.
What are antiretroviral drugs?
Antiretroviral drugs are used in the treatment and prevention of HIV infection. They fight HIV by stopping or interfering with the reproduction of the virus in the body.
There are five important things that can help ART work well:
- Be 100% honest about any personal issues like sex, alcohol and drug use
- If you are honest, there is more chance that ART will work for you
- The health worker is there to help you and not to judge you
- Answer all questions truthfully. Your health worker will then know all the facts and problems you may have about sticking to your treatment.
2. Treatment plan
Your health worker will work with you to develop a treatment plan.
This will remind you:
- Which pills to take
- How many to taks
- When to take them
- Whether to take them with food or on an empty stomach
3. Treatment helper
Tell someone you trust that you are starting ART. Ask this person to be your treatment helper. This person will do three imortant things for you:
- Remind you to take your medicines every day
- Help you if you have side-effects
- Come with you to see a health worker if you don't want to go alone
Choose a family member you trust or a friend that lives close to you. Ask that person to find out more
about ART and to be your treatment helper.
4. Treatment record
You can use a treatment record to write down what pills you took and when you took them. It will help you to take your ARV medicines at the same time each and every day. This is important because the medicines will keep the virus under control if you take them exactly as the health worker has told you to.
If you forget to take your pills, the virus will get stronger and you can develop resistance to the ARV
medicines. If you develop resistance, the ARVs you are taking will not work properly anymore. Read the article called "The right way to take ARVS" to learn more about resistance.
- Get a treatment record from your clinic if they have one. You can also use the example above to write your own
- Give a copy of your treatment record to your treatment helper. He or she can remind you to take your medicines
- Your treatment record will be very important when you first start taking ARVs. It will help you get into a routine
The relationship between you and the health worker is very important. It is your right to get proper care. If there is trust between you and the health worker, it can make a big difference. Building trust may be hard if you don't see the same health worker each time.
Here are some simple things you can do to build trust with the health workers you will see:
- try to smile and be friendly
- Learn the name of the health worker you see at each visit
- Be positive and show interest in your treatment
- Write down any questions you have to ask the health worker at you visit. Write down the answers
- Get the emergency number of the clinic in case you need it.
Try to see the health worker as an important part of your treatment. Try to get the most out of your visit with him or her. You can also build trust with your treatment helper and the members of your support group. They can also offer you advice and support when you need it. Try not to miss your clinic or hospital visits and try to go to the same clinic or hospital. Get to know the health workers there.
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Where can I find speeches and statements on HIV/AIDS by government leaders?
You can go directly to the Speeches and Statements index page.
Find more information on SANAC website.
Source: Department of Health
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