HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus.
This is a Retrovirus, which invades your body’s genetic material of cells. Normally, your body’s immune system is able to fight off viral infections. But, HIV is unique as it, over time, slowly destroys the body’s immune system. The virus makes copies of itself, which infect the key cells in your immune system (called CD4 cells) and either disable or destroy them. The immune system is a system of organs and cells throughout the body that keeps you well and helps protect your body against illness or infections.
Here’s an informative short about the virus and what it gets up to in the body The science of HIV and AIDS
The HIV virus is in blood and bodily fluids, including semen, rectal and vaginal. It is transmitted to other people if those fluids get into their bodies. If you have vaginal or anal sex without using a condom, you have a very high risk of getting HIV. You also have a high risk if you use drugs and share needles with someone who is HIV positive.
You need to take a blood test to determine if HIV is in your blood. A positive HIV test means you have come into contact with HIV and have been infected with the virus.
You should have an HIV test if you:
Remember that you can pass on HIV to another person even though your HIV test was negative. This is because the HIV test measures HIV antibodies that your body produces, not the virus itself. It usually takes one to two months for HIV antibodies to appear in your blood, but you could already have very high levels of HIV in your body. You should have a repeat test after about three months, to make sure that you are HIV negative.
Testing positive for HIV does not mean you have AIDS – some people have the HIV infection for years without developing AIDS.
AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome.
AIDS is a collection of specific illnesses and conditions that generally occur when you have had HIV for some time and your immune system has become so weakened that it can’t it protect you against infections. The body is very vulnerable at this stage to common infections, often called opportunistic infections, which can be life-threatening.
Treatment for HIV is called antiretroviral treatment (ART). If you have been diagnosed with HIV, it is recommended that you start ART immediately. Whilst ART isn’t a cure for HIV, it does inhibit the virus and enables you to live a long and healthy life with the added benefit that it reduces the risk of you passing it on to others.
ART works by keeping the level of HIV (what is commonly referred to as the viral load) in our body low. This allows our immune system to stay strong and healthy, nipping chances of HIV developing into AIDS.
With ART you can keep living a healthy and active life.
Put simply, U=U means Undetectable=Uninfectious (or Untransmissable). The U=U campaign has been adopted by hundreds of HIV organisations worldwide to spread the awareness that HIV cannot be transmitted when viral load is undetectable on ART.
With the rapid developments in ARTs, we’ve known for a long time that low viral loads reduce HIV transmission but U=U stating that ART completely stops transmission is a new (and now scientifically backed) concept.
With the use of new age ARTs and safe sex practice U=U is a very real, very exciting development in the world of HIV treatments.
PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. It is a HIV prevention strategy that consists of taking daily medication for HIV negative individuals who may be at significant risk of getting HIV.
The PrEP pill (brand name Truvada) consists of two medicines – tenofovir and emtricitabine. When this drug is taken routinely it can reduce the risk of HIV infection by as much as 92%.
PrEP does not protect the user from other STIs or pregnancy. PrEP is also not a cure for HIV; it is a prevention drug. When used with condoms, the PrEP regimen works to ensure that there is no risk of HIV transmission.
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We offer the following support services to you as a woman living with HIV or AIDS:
We advocate to eliminate the stigma and isolation of living with HIV or AIDS through: