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HIV/AIDS

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What is HIV/AIDS?

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a retrovirus, which invades certain white blood cells in the body and drains them of their energy in order to survive and reproduce. This process leads to AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome), when the body’s immune system breaks down and becomes invaded by other “opportunistic infections“, the most common of which are meningitis, phneumonia and tuberculosis. Because of the body’s collapsing immune system, these infections become life-threatening.

How do I get HIV?

HIV is not a virus that is passed on easily. You CANNOT, for instance, get HIV from any of following:

However, HIV is one of the world’s biggest killers, and especially prevelant in African countries. You CAN get HIV from:

What symptoms could I have?

Infection can sometimes be followed by mild flu-like symptoms or persistent swollen glands, but many people do not show any symptoms at all.

When should I get tested?

Generally, it is advised that you should get tested if you have ever had unprotected sex. But you are particularly at risk if you have had unprotected sex with an infected person or a person from a high-risk area, or have shared needles. Research also shows that women are four times more likely to become infected through sexual intercourse than men.

It is important to get tested sooner rather than later, as treatment and containment of the virus is much more effective if diagnosed early. Most physicians, local health department facilities and hospitals offer testing.

What treatment is available?

To this day, there is no cure for HIV or AIDS, and doctors say it will be at least another decade until a safe and effective vaccine is made available.

But, drugs used to contain the virus are becoming ever more effective and the life expectancy of infected people is on the rise. Some drugs treat the opportunistic infections already in the body, and some aim to prevent HIV from invading and destroying the body’s immune system.

How can I protect myself from HIV/AIDS?

“Queen“ front-man Freddie Mercury died from AIDS in 1991. Basketball player Magic Johnson announced his infection with HIV that same year. Liberace also died of AIDS.

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