STI / HIV: HIV
HIV causes aids
Aids is the abbreviation of 'Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome'. The diagnosis of aids is established when the immune system is affected so seriously that you can get a severe illness (e.g. a serious lung infection). HIV is sometimes also called the aids virus.
What is HIV?
- HIV is the abbreviation for the human immunodeficiency virus. This is the virus that eventually causes aids.
- The virus affects the immune system of the body. In the beginning, it is usually not noticed, but after some time the body has less immunity against other illnesses.
- Because the immunity weakens, it is easy to get infections and diseases, such as inflammation of the skin and lungs and forgetfulness (dementia). In this stage we call the illness aids (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).
What causes HIV?
- The HIV-virus is in the (menstrual) blood, sperm, pre-cum, vaginal fluid and in breast milk of an infected person.
- The virus can be transmitted in several ways:
1. By unsafe sex:
- In case of vaginal or anal sex (contact between penis and anus) without condom and in case of anal sex (contact between mouth and genitalia: blowjob or cunnilingus) without condom or dental dam.
- If contaminated blood, sperm or vaginal fluid comes into contact with the mucous membrane of the other (for instance through fingers or a dildo by masturbating each other).
2. If contaminated blood ends up in the bloodstream:
- For instance drug users using each others infected needles or health care workers accidently pricking themselves with an infected needle.
3. From mother to child:
- A mother with HIV can pass on the virus during the pregnancy or delivery through the blood to the baby, or later on pass it on through breast feeding.
Did you know:
- An HIV infection can’t be transmitted through saliva, sweat, tears, urine or stools, except if (visible) blood ends up directly in the bloodstream of the other person.
- You can’t get HIV from drinking from the cup of another person, neither by coughing, insect bites, a swimming pool or a toilet seat. In daily life (for instance with room mates or colleagues) there is no risk of transferring HIV.
What are the complaints?
An HIV infection can develop in two ways:
1) You are HIV positive but you don’t know it:
- If you are HIV positive, it doesn’t mean you immediately get complaints. You can live a healthy life for years but in the meantime you can infect others with the HIV virus.
- When the quantity of virus parts increases in your blood, your immunity is affected and you get complaints. This can happen after 2 years, but it may also take more than 10 years before you get some symptoms.
- How long will you be without complaints? This differs from person to person and is completely unpredictable.
- Tiredness, night sweating, loss of weight, swollen glands, diarrhoea may indicate an infection.
2) You had an HIV test and you know that you are HIV-positive:
- You are immediately referred to an aids reference centre (ARC).
- With regular blood tests, the development of your HIV infection is closely monitored.
- If necessary, so if your immunity system is too weak, a treatment is started.
How can the infection be diagnosed?
- A HIV infection is diagnosed by means of a blood test.
- After the infection it takes 3 months before the HIV infection can be detected with certainty in your blood.
- So if you want to know whether you are infected with HIV after you had unsafe sex, you can only take the HIV test after 3 months. It is not possible to exclude an HIV infection with certainty before this period.
- If the HIV test shows antibodies in your blood, you are HIV-positive. If the test is positive, there will always be a second test. If this test is also positive, you are certainly infected by the HIV virus.
- It is possible that in some centres they do an HIV test in an earlier stage.
- If this test is negative, it is important to do the test again after 3 months, because it is always possible that the HIV infection was not detected in the blood before.
- The possibilities to treat an HIV infection (and aids) have improved over the years.
- There are not yet any medicines that can kill the virus, but in most cases a long and intensive treatment with different medicines (HIV-inhibitors) helps to slow down the virus in the body.
- If the medicines are effective, you have almost no complaints during a long time. You will live longer and have a future again.
- The medicines, however, have lots of side effects. At the moment, there is not much known yet about the effects of the medicines in the long term.
Interaction HIV and STI!!
- When you are infected with the HIV virus, you are much more at risk of developing sexually transmitted infections.
- Because your immunity is affected, these other infections will also be more serious.
- On the other hand, if you allready have another STI, you are also more at risk of developing an HIV infection.
- Particularly syphilis increases the risk of an HIV infection.
- Because HIV is an infection with serious consequences, it is important to inform current and previous sex partners so that they too can take the necessary measures.
- They have to practise safe sex to avoid the infection of others and get an HIV test.
- If they are also HIV positive, they can get a treatment and have to warn their (previous) sex partners.
- You must also warn people who may have used your needles or syringes.
- If you keep working you must ALWAYS use a condom,as well for vaginal, oral as for anal sex.
- Also if your sex partner is HIV-positive you must always use a condom.
- It is recommended to stop working as a sex worker. If you need help to do this, you can always contact organizations for sexworkers.