AIDS is the acronym for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome while HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV is the etiological agent of AIDS and infection from HIV ranges from a lack of symptoms and mild illness to debilitating disorders and fatal disease. AIDS is the last stage of HIV. There are approximately 54,000 HIV positive people in Malaysia and the figures are constantly increasing.
How do you get infected?
HIV is spread through blood, semen and the vaginal discharge of an HIV-infected person. Being in contact with these fluids via sexual intercourse, blood transfusions, needle sharing and childbirth can result in HIV infection.
How do I avoid getting infected?
- Abstain from unsafe sex.
- Always use condoms every time you have vaginal / anal / oral sex. Condoms also protect against other STDs and pregnancy.
- Talk to your partner about safe sex and be aware of their sexual history.
- Use only water-based lubricants. Lubricants containing oil may cause condoms to break.
- Never share needles. If you have a drug problem, seek help immediately.
- Most importantly, ALWAYS practice safe sex no matter what.
How can I tell if I have been infected?
The only way to tell is by taking a blood test called the HIV Antibody Test. If you test positive, this means that you are infected with HIV and additional tests will be carried out to gauge your immune system. Some people stay healthy for a long time while others become seriously ill and develop AIDS much quicker.
Testing negative and not having any exposure to HIV for six months prior to taking the test means you do not have the infection. There are those who take longer than six months to test positive and this is known as the ‘window period’ in the HIV infection cycle.
How is HIV treated?
Currently there is no cure for the virus. New medication can slow down the damage to the immune system and doctors are able to treat the illnesses resulting from HIV infection. Many people manage HIV infection like a long-term sickness.
If I am HIV positive, what should I do?
- See a doctor for a complete medical and advice on treatment and health maintenance.Ensure you are also tested for TB and other STDs.
- Immediately inform all sexual partners and ask them to get tested.
- Practice safe sex.
- Avoid drug and alcohol use and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
- Do not donate blood, plasma, semen or any other tissue / organs.
- Seek support from family and friends and get professional counselling.
- Find a support group of people who are also living with HIV/AIDS.
Mother to Child Transmission
Mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) accounts for 25% of new cases, and studies show that the administration of anti-retroviral therapy for HIV-infected pregnant mothers could reduce transmission. The main aim of this treatment is to preserve the health of the mother, prevent transmission and maintain the health of the foetus.
Post-Exposure Prohylaxis (PEP)
Healthcare workers are always at a risk of exposure with the average risk of HIV transmission through percutaneous exposure at 0.3% and mucus membrane exposure at 0.09%. The risk depends on factors such as what type of body fluid is involved, type of exposure, volume of fluid, disease stage and viral load of the source.
Antiretroviral Agents Nucleoside Analogue Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors - Nucleoside Analogues ( NRTIs)
- Didanosine (ddI)
- Stavudine (d4T)
- Zalcitabine (ddC)
- Zidovudine (ZDV, AZT)
- Zidovudine + Lamivudine
Protease Inhibitors (PIs)
- Saquinavir soft gel cap
Non-nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NNRTIs)
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