Frequent Asked Questions (FAQ)
A partnership where one person is infected with HIV and the other is not can be described as a sero-discordant (or discordant) relationship. There is a risk of HIV transmission if the discordant couple has unprotected sex. However, this risk can be greatly reduced with the use of condoms during vaginal, anal and oral sex. Both partners in a discordant sexual relationship should take on the responsibility of protecting one another from HIV infection.
No. Like all sexually transmitted infections, HIV cannot be 'created', only passed on. If you are sure that your partner does not have HIV, then there is no risk of acquiring it, even if you do have unprotected sex (whether it be vaginal, anal or oral). However, pregnancy and other sexually transmitted diseases (if your partner has one) remain a risk, so you should still use a condom or other suitable form of birth control wherever possible.
These are the main ways in which someone can become infected with HIV:
- Unprotected penetrative sex with someone who is infected.
- Injection or transfusion of contaminated blood or blood products, donations of semen (artificial insemination), skin grafts or organ transplants taken from someone who is infected.
- From a mother who is infected to her baby; this can occur during pregnancy, at birth and through breastfeeding.
- Sharing unsterilised injection equipment that has previously been used by someone who is infected.
There are many ways you can protect yourself from HIV. The surest way is to abstain from sexual intercourse and from sharing needles and "works" if you use steroids, hormones, or other drugs.
Many people have been infected with HIV by sharing needles. If you are using needles for steroids, hormones, or other drugs
- Never share needles.
- Be sure to disinfect the needles you use.
- Don't share personal items that may have blood on them. This includes toothbrushes, razors, needles for piercing or tattooing, and blades for cutting or scarring.
People have lots of questions about the ways you can get HIV. HIV is transmitted in blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. The most common ways HIV is spread are by:
- having vaginal or anal intercourse without a condom with someone who has HIV/AIDS
- sharing needles or syringes with someone who has HIV/AIDS
- being deeply punctured with a needle or surgical instrument contaminated with HIV
- getting HIV-infected blood, semen, or vaginal secretions into open wounds or sores
- Babies born to women with HIV/AIDS can get HIV from their mothers during pregnancy birth or from breastfeeding.
Currently there is no cure for HIV and AIDS. But there are treatments for people living with HIV and AIDS.
If you have HIV and AIDS, you can take combinations of medicines called "cocktails." The drug cocktails are designed to strengthen the immune system to keep HIV from developing into AIDS or to relieve AIDS symptoms. These drugs are often very expensive, may have serious and very uncomfortable side effects, and may not be available to everyone.
You cannot know for sure if you have HIV until you get tested. About 1 out of 4 people with HIV don't know they are infected, so testing is very important.
AIDS symptoms appear in the most advanced stage of HIV disease. In addition to a badly damaged immune system, a person with AIDS may also have:
- thrush a thick, whitish coating of the tongue or mouth that is caused by a yeast infection and sometimes accompanied by a sore throat
- periods of extreme and unexplained tiredness that may be combined with headaches, lightheadedness, and/or dizziness
- loss of weight that is not due to increased physical exercise or dieting
- long periods of frequent diarrhea
- frequent fevers and/or night sweats
- periods of persistent, deep, dry coughing
- unexplained bleeding from growths on the skin, from the mouth, nose, anus, or vagina, or from any opening in the body
- frequent or unusual skin rashes
- severe numbness or pain in the hands or feet, the loss of muscle control and reflex, paralysis, or loss of muscular strength
Some people develop HIV symptoms shortly after being infected. But it usually takes more than 10 years.
There are several stages of HIV disease. The first HIV symptoms may include swollen glands in the throat, armpit, or groin. Other early HIV symptoms include slight fever, headaches, fatigue, and muscle aches. These symptoms may last for only a few weeks. Then there are usually no HIV symptoms for many years. That is why it can be hard to know if you have HIV.
HIV transmission can occur when fluids containing HIV from an infected person enter the body of an uninfected person. These fluids include:
- Vaginal fluid
- Breast milk.
No. You cannot get HIV from casually kissing someone (or vice versa) who has HIV. Skin is a greater barrier against HIV. It is not recommended to engage long, open mouth kissing (French Kissing) with someone who has HIV and one of you has an open sore in or around the mouth.
No, Insects can NOT transmit HIV. Research has shown that HIV does not replicate or survive well in insects. In addition, blood-eating insects digest their food and do not inject blood from the last person they bite into the next person.
HIV is found only in body fluids, so you cannot get HIV by shaking someone's hand or giving them a hug (or by using the same toilet or towel). While HIV is found in saliva, sharing cups or utensils has never been shown to transmit HIV.
AIDS is short for acquired immune deficiency syndrome. It is the most advanced stage of HIV disease.
HIV causes AIDS. HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It breaks down the immune system is our body's protection against disease. HIV causes people to become sick with infections that normally wouldn't affect them.