HIV Explained

This question sometimes occupies our minds, actually most of the time. You don’t have to have an active sex life for questioning this. There are many people who think that they got (or will be) infected somehow and they will live in hell for the rest of their lives. So, if you are one of those people you are in the right address. Now please listen to me carefully. First of all, misinformation makes this problem bigger. I am pretty sure that you browsed all websites on the Internet and saw heaps of stories related to this topic. Still, let’s clarify our minds.

What is HIV?

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus and if it is not treated, it will live with you for life. I know this is the reason for you to feel frightened too much but keep calm.  HIV attacks your immune system, especially your T-cells which take an important role in your fight against diseases and reduces the number of T-cells day by day. In the end, it destroys your immune system and you have AIDS.

What is AIDS?

AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome which is the terminal stage of HIV but not everyone who has HIV reaches this stage. When your T-cells fall under a certain limits, you are diagnosed with AIDS. Once you diagnosed with AIDS, your life expectancy will be around 3 years.

We heard about life stories of people who got infected with HIV eg. our dearly beloved Freddie Mercury or most of us have seen series/movies about life of people who have AIDS, for example Angels in America (2003) or The Normal Heart (2014). However, these happened 30 years ago. Thanks to modern medicine, someone diagnosed with HIV can live as long as a person who does not have HIV. The only way to achieve it first getting tested before it is too late and then staying on treatment.

History of HIV: 

Scientists believe that we got this virus via chimpanzees in Central Africa. They had different version of it and people hunted them for their meat, contacted their infected blood then that virus mutated into HIV. The first official report on AIDS was published in 1981 in the U.S.after death of 5 gay men. There was a total of 270 reported case among gay men and 121 of those people died by the end of that year. And just a quick reminder, we are not in the era to say that AIDS is a gay disease. According to World Health Organisation (WHO) there were approximately 36.9 million people worldwide living with HIV at the end of 2014, 2.6 million of these were under 15 and 34 million people have died from AIDS related causes so far. An estimated 2 million individuals worldwide became newly infected with HIV in 2014.

You Can Not Get Infected with HIV by:

  • Mosquitoes or other insects.
  • Air or water.
  • Any fluid that is not mixed with the blood of an HIV-positive person.
  • Shaking hands, hugging, sharing toilets, sharing dishes/drinking glasses.

You Can Get Infected with HIV by:

  • Having anal or vaginal sex with someone who has HIV without using a condom. In this case, receptive anal sex is riskier than insertive one. Vaginal sex is the second highest-risk sexual behaviour.
  • Sharing needles or syringes with someone who has HIV. HIV can live in a used needle up to 42 days depending on the factors.
  • From mother to child during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding.

In Extremely Rare Cases, You Can Not Get Infected with HIV by:

  • There is a tiny little possibility of getting HIV in oral sex. It is theoretically possible if an HIV-positive man ejaculates in his partners mouth during oral sex.
  • Being bitten by a person with HIV (There is no risk if the skin is not broken).
  • Contacts between broken skins, wounds.
  • Deep open-mouth kissing if the one with HIV has bleeding gums.
  • Eating food that has been pre-chewed by a person with HIV as long as infected blood mixes with food.

 

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Stages of HIV:

The symptoms of HIV depends on what stage you are in and it varies from person to person. Please remember that not everybody will experience these symptoms and the only way to make sure if you have HIV is to get tested and do it regularly in every 3 months. HIV is examined in 3 different stages:

  1. Early Stage of HIV
  2. Clinical Latency Stage
  3. AIDS

1. Early Stage of HIV:

Don’t assume that you have HIV just after seeing these symptoms cause each of them can be caused by other illnesses. If you think that you get infected, get an HIV test but bear in mind, there are many HIV test available so let your doctor know that you think that you are in Early Stage of HIV so that proper test can be applied. Symptoms of Early Stage of HIV may be experienced within 2-4 weeks after infection.

  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Muscle aches
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Mouth ulcers

2. Clinical Latency Stage (a.k.a. Chronic HIV Infection):

HIV is active but reproduces at very low levels in this stage. No symptoms may be seen in people with Chronic HIV Infection but they can transmit HIV to other people.

3. AIDS

HIV will destroy your body eventually if you have the virus and you are not on ART which is a medicine used to treat HIV, stands for antiretroviral therapy. Symptoms of Aids are:

  • Extreme and unexplained tiredness.
  • Rapid weight loss.
  • Sores of the mouth, anus or genitals.
  • Memory loss, depression and other neurologic disorders.
  • Prolonged swelling of the lymph glands.
  • Red, brown, pink or purplish blotches or on under the skin.

Lower Your Risk of Getting Through Sexual Contact By:

  • Using condoms consistently and correctly.
  • Getting tested and treated for other STDs.
  • Encouraging HIV-positive partner(s) to get and stay on HIV treatment.
  • Choosing less risky sexual behaviour.

I am not gonna say that “Hey mate, it is impossible to get infected with HIV, I have a friend having sex without using a condom with someone who is HIV-positive but he did not get infected” or “The risk is the same in both anal and oral sex, don’t do it!” Do it, but do it in the way it should be. Get well informed, use condom, get tested regularly, know that it is not the end if you get infected but also know that you will not get infected if you act responsibly. You know what you need to know about HIV now, you got tested several times and they are all negative but, still, you are pretty sure that you got infected with HIV and you have all the symptoms of it. Then all I can say is that you need to see a psychiatrist immediately because it seems like not HIV but OCD. Stop acting like a lunatic, don’t make this world a hell for yourself and for the ones who are around you. There is always a solution for everything. “You are on Earth. There is no cure for that.” ( S. Beckett) So, enjoy your life, visit one of our stores and spice your sexual life up with the safest way. We have many toys and at least one of them will certainly meet your needs.

 

About the Author:  Goki is a consultant at Oh Zone, Sydney.

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