What symptoms should I look out for?
HIV is commonly asymptomatic i.e. people do not notice any symptoms
During the first few weeks following infection, people may notice that they develop flu-like symptoms such as:
• Feeling achy, tired or feverish
• Sore throat
This is the immune systems initial response to the virus. Often people will not experience any other symptoms and will feel otherwise well after this. It can take a decade (or more) for symptoms of HIV/AIDs to develop.
Later symptoms of HIV/AIDs include:
• Sore throat
• Oral thrush (a thick, white/yellow coating on your tongue)
• Getting infections frequently
• Weight loss
• Swollen or firm glands in your throat, armpit, or groin
How is it spread?
• The virus is carried in bodily fluids: semen, breast milk, vaginal fluids and blood. It is spread through sexual contact with an infected person including vaginal, anal and oral sex.
• The infection is carried in vaginal fluid and semen or pre-ejaculate (pre-cum) and can be spread even if ejaculation does not occur.
How do I prevent it?
• The only full proof way of preventing HUV is abstaining from sex - but we all know most people have sex and so its important to take other precautions such as:
• Using condoms
• A once daily pill called PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) can be used to prevent you being infected with HIV - talk to a health practitioner who can explain to you what PrEP is and if its suitable for you to take it
• PEP (post-expousre prophylaxis) - a series of medications that must be started within 72 hours of exposure to the virus. It helps to lower the chance of you getting HIV. PEP should only be used in emergencies and should not be considere an alternative to condoms.
How is it treated?
• There is no cure for HIV but there are many great treatment options that can help slow down the progression of the disease and keep people healthy for several decades.
• Antiretrovirals are a groups of medication that can reduce the amount of the virus in your blood (sometimes to the point that it cannot be detected by the test). It helps slow down the progression of the disease and keep you healthy.
• Adopting a health lifestyle i.e. eating well, sleeping well and getting regular exercise are all ways to keep yourself fit and well.