What is HIV?

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that interferes with the ability of the body to fight infections. HIV is spread through semen, vaginal fluids and breastmilk. It can be acquired through unprotected sex with a person living with HIV, through breastmilk of a HIV infected breast-feeding mother and sharing of needles which are contaminated with the virus.

What are the symptoms?

There are several symptoms of HIV and not everyone will have the same symptoms. Some people get infected with HIV without noticing since the symptoms are similar to other infections. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Rash
  • Night sweats
  • Weight loss
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Mouth ulcers

Symptoms are usually more visible during late HIV disease, otherwise known as acquired immune-deficiency syndrome (AIDS) and can include:

  • Rapid unexplained weight loss
  • Recurring fever and drenching night sweats
  • Prolonged swelling of lymph glands
  • Pneumonia
  • Diarrhea that lasts more than a week
  • Extreme and unexplained tiredness

Should I get tested?

The only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested.

How do I get treatment?

There is no cure for HIV, once people get infected with HIV, they live with it for life. However, there are anti-retroviral drugs that can slow the disease from progressing as well as prevent secondary infections and complications. People with HIV who get effective treatment can live long, healthy lives and protect their partners.

How do I prevent contracting HIV?

You can prevent yourself from HIV infection by practicing safe sex and using a condom every time you have sex with someone of unknown HIV status. PrEP can also prevent one from getting HIV when taken as prescribed. Timey diagnosis and treatment of STI’s and use of post exposure prophylaxis can also prevent HIV acquisition.