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The YWCA of India has been conducting a ‘Keep Calm and Get Tested’ Campaign in an effort to raise awareness about HIV / AIDS. A video study here, shows the current knowledge from the public about what is HIV and why there is a need to get tested.

Here are a few facts to guide you on what is one of the world’s major health concerns particularly in nations were the stigma is the strongest.

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus – in simple terms – this is a virus that infects the body’s immune system thus decreasing the natural ability to ward off infections and other diseases.

AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome – in simple terms – this means that the person is in the most advanced stages of the HIV infection and it is defined as thus when they suffer from more than 20 opportunistic infections and related cancers.

HIV is TRANSMITTED by:

  • unprotected sexual intercourse (vaginal or anal) or oral sex with an infected person
  • Transfusions of contaminated blood or blog products or transplantation of contaminated tissue
  • The sharing of contaminated injecting equipment and solutions (needles/syringes) or tattooing equipment
  • Through the use of contaminated surgical equipment and other sharp instruments
  • The transmission between a mother and her baby during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding

The spread of HIV from person to person is called HIV transmission. The spread of HIV from an HIV-infected woman to her child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding is called mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

HIV is NOT TRANSMITTED by: 

  • Shaking hands or hugging a person infected with HIV

  • It is not transmitted through contact with objects such as dishes, toilet seats or doorknobs used by a person infected with HIV

  • It is also not spread through the air or through mosquito, tick and/or other insect bites

How to PREVENT HIV transmission: 

  • Practice safe sex – use condoms
  • Get tested and treated for sexually transmitted infections (including HIV)
  • Avoid injecting drugs (or use sterile needles / syringes)
  • Ensure that any blood or blood products you require are tested for HIV
  • If you have HIV, start treatment immediately to prevent transmission to your partner or child

SYMPTOMS for HIV / AIDS

After getting infected, flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache or rash have been known to show up. These may come and go for a month or two after getting infected. (these varies across patients).

At the earliest stages, HIV multiplies but very slowly. Severe cases can include chronic diarrhoea, rapid weight loss and signs of opportunistic infections (infections and infection related cancers that occur frequently because of the body’s weakened immune system), however this takes a few years before they show up.

Without treatment, HIV can advance to AIDS. The time it takes for HIV to advance to AIDS varies, but it can take 10 years or more.

HIV transmission is possible at any stage of HIV infection—even if an HIV-infected person has no symptoms of HIV.

What is the TREATMENT for HIV?

Combination ART which stands for Antiretroviral Therapy treatment prevents the HIV infection from multiplying in the body. In simple words – its a combination of medicines that stops the infection from growing and allows the body’s immune cells to prolong the HIV infected person’s life, reducing the chances for spreading the infection.

Recent advances in access to ART, HIV-positive people now live longer and healthier lives. In addition, it has been confirmed that ART prevents onward transmission of HIV. Progress has also been made in preventing and eliminating mother-to-child transmission and keeping mothers alive. In 2015, almost 8 out of 10 pregnant women living with HIV, or 1.1 million women, received antiretrovirals (ARVs).

While this is mostly good news, the bad news is that

there is no cure for HIV / AIDS.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Look into more information on HIV / AIDS from WHO or any other NGO near you that has access to this information. The YWCA of India has been following this campaign closely and has been trying to spread as much information about this as possible. So get tested regularly. Donate blood when you can, but make sure sterile equipment is used. Spread all the information you have as much as you can. Most importantly, don’t get mired in the stigma surrounding getting tested, your health and others is more important than your pride.

KEEP CALM and GET TESTED. Have you done it yet? 

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