It is important to know your HIV status

EDITOR — You should seriously consider getting tested for HIV if you have engaged in behaviour that puts you at risk for contracting the virus. High-risk behaviour includes having unprotected penetrative sex and using intravenous drugs with unsterilised needles.

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus.

It’s similar to other viruses, such as those that cause colds and the flu, with one important difference — the human body cannot get rid of HIV. That means if you get HIV, you get it for life.

Many people don’t realise they have HIV because they feel fine.

However, HIV attacks the cells which normally defend the body against illness (called T-cells or CD4 cells), eventually leading to a weakened immune system. If someone is infected with HIV and doesn’t get medical treatment, HIV can destroy so many CD4 cells that the body can’t fight infections and diseases anymore.

When that happens, HIV infection can lead to AIDS.

That is why it is important to get tested and to seek medical treatment as soon as possible if you test HIV positive.

There is no cure, but with proper medical care, the virus can be controlled. HIV is spread through blood and genital fluids, including pre-seminal fluid and semen (also known as pre-cum and cum).

Anyone can become infected with HIV by engaging in unprotected sex (anal, vaginal or oral) or other types of sexual behaviour with an HIV-positive person, or by sharing needles, syringes or other injection equipment with someone who is infected with HIV.

HIV cannot be spread through air or water, insect bites, saliva, tears, sweat, casual contact like shaking hands or sharing dishes, or closed-mouth or social kissing. Not having sex is the best way to protect yourself from HIV infection.

But if you are having sex, it is important to know the risks of different types of sexual activity.

Not all sexual activities have the same risk. Some pose a greater risk for transmitting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

In addition, the risk of getting or passing on HIV depends your HIV status, your partner’s HIV status, you or your partner’s viral load (that is, the amount of virus in the body) (if either one of you has HIV), and condom use.

In general, high-risk behaviour includes the following:
- Unprotected sex with multiple partners or partners you do not know
- Unprotected sex with a person who has HIV
- Sharing needles for injection drug use.

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Thanks for the message, how long can one be on Antiretroviral treatment? I am currently on BP tablets that I take everyday and don't know my HIV status. I would love to get tested yes but I am scared, How long will I live on if found positive? Thank you.

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