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Understanding HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)

Updated: Apr 2, 2023

People living with HIV are still human beings.


HIV does not only affect the LGBT+ community.


If you are having sex, you should test for HIV at least once per year.


In this article we will discover:

  • What is HIV?

  • How is HIV transmitted?

  • How is HIV treated?

  • Why is HIV testing important?


What is HIV?

Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV, is a virus that attacks the immune system, specifically the CD4 cells or T cells. If left untreated, HIV can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). AIDS is a condition where the body's immune system is severely damaged and the individual becomes easily susceptible to various infections. HIV attacks and weakens the body's immune system, making it harder to fight off infections and diseases.



How is HIV spread or transmitted?

HIV is primarily spread through contact with infected bodily fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and breast milk. The most common modes of transmission include:

  1. Unprotected sexual intercourse: HIV can be transmitted through vaginal, anal, or oral sex with an infected partner. Unprotected sex without the use of a condom significantly increases the risk of transmission.

  2. Sharing needles or other injection equipment: HIV can be transmitted through the sharing of needles, syringes, or other injection equipment used for injecting drugs, steroids, or hormones.

  3. Mother-to-child transmission: HIV can be transmitted from an infected mother to her child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding.

  4. Blood transfusion: Although rare, HIV can be transmitted through blood transfusions or organ transplants from an infected donor. However, most blood banks and organ donor programs now screen for HIV to prevent this mode of transmission.

It's important to note that HIV cannot be transmitted through casual contact such as hugging, kissing, sharing utensils or drinking glasses, or through mosquito bites.


How is HIV treated?

There are currently no cures for HIV but there are methods of treatment. The treatment for HIV is recognized as ART (antiretroviral therapy). ART involves taking a combination of medications that work to suppress the virus and reduce its ability to replicate in the body. ART is highly effective and has significantly improved the life expectancy and quality of life for people living with HIV.


In addition to medical treatment, it's important to adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, a healthy diet, stress management, and avoiding smoking and substance abuse. People living with HIV should also take steps to prevent the spread of the virus, such as using condoms during sexual activity and avoiding the sharing of needles or other injection equipment.


When a person living with HIV is on effective antiretroviral therapy (ART) and has achieved an undetectable viral load (meaning that the level of HIV in their blood is so low that it cannot be detected by standard tests), they cannot transmit the virus to their sexual partners. This is called U=U; undetectable equals untransmittable.



The U=U campaign has been supported by scientific research and has helped reduce the stigma and fear associated with HIV. It reinforces the importance of early HIV testing and treatment, as well as adherence to ART medication to achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load.


Why is HIV testing important?

HIV testing is important for several reasons:

  1. Early detection: HIV can be present in the body for years before symptoms appear. Early detection through HIV testing allows individuals to access treatment and care before the virus causes significant damage to the immune system.

  2. Prevention: Knowing your HIV status is essential for preventing the spread of the virus to others. Individuals who are aware of their HIV-positive status can take steps to prevent transmission, such as using condoms during sexual activity and avoiding the sharing of needles or other injection equipment.

  3. Treatment access: HIV testing is the first step in accessing treatment and care. People living with HIV who are aware of their status can work with their healthcare providers to develop an individualized treatment plan that includes antiretroviral therapy (ART). ART can suppress the virus and improve the immune system, helping individuals live longer and healthier lives.

  4. Reduced stigma: HIV testing is an important tool in reducing the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV. By normalizing HIV testing and promoting awareness of the importance of early detection and treatment, we can reduce the fear and misinformation surrounding HIV and improve the quality of life for people living with HIV.


Overall, HIV testing is a critical component of HIV prevention, care, and treatment, and should be a routine part of healthcare for everyone.




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