If you have questions that you want answered, ask one of our doctors. They will answer your questions about HIV/AIDS, its prevention, treatment, and transmission, as well as about other health issues such as TB, nutrition, and ante-natal/pregnancy care. All your questions will be treated confidentially and anonymously. If you have a question that you don’t see here, click here to email us.
What is HIV?
HIV means Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is an infectious virus that attacks the body’s immune system, which is the body’s defense against diseases. A person infected with HIV may not have symptoms at first but without effective treatment, the virus can eventually make your immune system very weak. Once your immune system is unable to fight off illnesses, you can become very sick from common diseases.
Are HIV and AIDS the same?
No. HIV is the name of the virus that causes AIDS. When someone is described as HIV positive, they have the HIV virus in their body. AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. This describes an advanced stage of HIV infection. Someone is described as having AIDS when the HIV virus has made the immune system so weak that it can no longer fight off diseases that it would normally be able to cope with.
How many people have HIV?
There are approximately 33.2 million people living with HIV worldwide and about a third of these don’t know they are infected. The epidemic is still growing with around 2.5 million new diagnoses every year. In South Africa, there were approximately 6.6 million adults and children living with HIV/AIDS in 2005.
Is there a cure for HIV?
No, but treatment can keep the virus under control, allowing the immune system to stay strong and keep you healthy. People on HIV treatment can live a healthy, active life, although they may experience side effects from the treatment. If HIV is diagnosed late, treatment may be less effective in preventing AIDS.
Can I live with HIV?
If people with HIV are diagnosed early and respond to treatment they can be healthy, work, and have relationships like anyone else. It is possible to live a long time with HIV if you take the right medicines, visit your doctor regularly, and eat healthy foods.
Learning of a positive HIV status and getting used to treatment can be very difficult. People living with HIV will often need support from healthcare providers, friends and family, employers and support organizations.
Why do people find it hard to tell other people they have HIV?
People living with HIV may find it hard to tell others about their condition because they worry that people will reject them. They may worry that they will experience prejudice from friends, family and colleagues.
HIV prejudice is often the result of ignorance about how HIV is passed on and unfounded fear of becoming infected. Encouraging those around us to talk about HIV and find out the facts can help overcome this.
How can I get HIV?
HIV can be passed on through infected blood, semen, vaginal fluids or breast milk. The most common ways HIV is passed on are:
- Sex without a condom with someone living with HIV
- Sharing infected needles, syringes or other injecting drug equipment
- From an HIV-positive mother (to her child) during pregnancy, childbirth or breast-feeding
Can I get HIV from kissing?
No. HIV cannot be passed on through: Kissing or touching, Spitting, coughing or sneezing, Toilet seats, swimming pools, or shared facilities or utensils
How can I protect myself from HIV?
The only certain way to not get HIV from sexual intercourse is to abstain. If you are sexually active, always use a condom when having vaginal or anal sex. You also may want to use a condom during oral sex although the risk of transmission of HIV is much lower. Never share razors, needles, syringes or any other injecting equipment.
If both my partner and I are HIV-positive, do we still need to use condoms?
Yes. There are different types, or strains, of HIV that can respond differently to treatment. If you have one type of HIV that responds to your medications but you acquire your partner’s HIV strain, your medicine might not work anymore and you could get sick. It is important to always use condoms.
What is the best test to find out my status?
There are several different tests for HIV. The best test for you to use if you want to learn your status are the tests used by the HCT counselors or the local hospitals. These are rapid immunochromatography tests or ELISA tests and they are used to screen for the infection. The tests are not perfect but are meant to give a positive result to anyone that has the virus in their body. These tests sometime are positive when you don’t have the virus, however. This is why there are other tests at the hospital called Western Blots that confirm your diagnosis if the screening test is positive.
Who are the HCT counselors and how do I arrange to get tested?
HCT stands for HIV Counseling and Testing. This means that you are making the decision on a voluntary basis to get HIV counseling and get tested to know your status. The HCT counselors are professionally trained and are a very valuable resource for questions, concerns, and advice. They will teach you about HIV, how to prevent getting it, and how to cope with your status results. If you test positive, the HCT counselors will continue to help you. They can give you transport to visit the hospital, see a doctor, and get you treatment if you need it.
HCT counselors are located at a lot of the events held in Nkomazi. They can also be contacted through village clinics, hospitals, or community-based organizations. If you would like the HCT counselors to hold a testing session, contact them with the location and time of the event. All testing is voluntary and anonymous. Testing events held in conjunction with TRIAD are all guaranteed anonymous because testers use RemoteID™.
What is RemoteID™?
RemoteID™ is a simple, non-invasive method of capturing your fingerprint as the sole identifier we use to connect your identity to your testing records. You do not give your name; RemoteID™ simply uses your fingerprint to match any past testing records with your current session. This enables your HCT tester and counselor to give you the most accurate information about your risk status. While there is no shame in being HIV+, we recognize your fundamental right to privacy during sensitive testing events.
What is the best medicine for me if I have HIV?
There are many different medicines that help keep the virus under control in your body. Your doctor often needs to try a few medicines to find out which combination is the best one for you. This is why it is important to see your doctor regularly after you learn of your positive status.
What is tuberculosis (TB)?
Tuberculosis is a type of bacteria that can cause an infection in your lungs, your skin, and other places in your body. Often, your body can keep the bacteria from making you very sick but if HIV makes your immune system weak, the TB can give you pneumonia, cause a skin infection, or affect other organs in your body.
How can I get TB?
If someone has TB, they may be coughing a lot or spiting up blood. If you breathe in the cough droplets, the TB can start growing in your lungs. It is important to limit your contact with people that have TB and have not been given medicine and are coughing. Keep your mouth covered or remove yourself from the room