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HIV 101

HIV is similar to a rerun of your favourite TV series. You think you know what it’s all about, but when you keep watching, you notice that there’s a whole bunch of stuff you missed the first time around. What you should do is treat HIV like that hot guy you saw in traffic this morning, and take another look.

A) AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. HIV is not AIDS; it is a virus that can cause it. Most people with HIV will not contract AIDS if they access treatment.

B) Bottoms are more at risk than tops of contracting HIV if they have unprotected sex. Tops are still at significant risk because many men have contracted HIV despite being exclusive tops.

C) Communicable diseases like hepatitis can be easier to contract than HIV, and just as dangerous.

D) Dead wrong. HIV is not a death sentence. People with HIV who receive ARV treatment can enjoy healthy and lengthy lives.

E) Ejaculation and HIV. It is still possible to get infected during unprotected sex, even if the top pulls out before climaxing.

F) Frequent testing for HIV and STIs is recommended if you have sex with more than one person regularly. Every six months is best.

G) Gay men or MSM (men who have sex with men) are generally more at risk of contracting HIV via unprotected sex than women are because unprotected receptive anal sex is about sixteen times more likely to transmit HIV than unprotected vaginal sex.

H) How long? It can take up to three months for the body to produce antibodies to HIV. This is known as the ‘window’ period and certain HIV tests may read as negative during this period, even though the person is actually positive.

I) Injecting yourself with the same needle as someone who is infected with HIV can put you at risk of infection.

J) Jacked. Masturbation is a good way to prevent yourself making impulsive decisions that can put you at risk of contracting HIV.

K) Kissing someone who is HIV-positive does not put you at risk as the virus cannot be transmitted via saliva.

L) Less is more. Striving for quality sex with one lover rather than quantity sex with many reduces your risk of infection.

M) MSM. There are men who have sex with men (MSM) who do not identify as gay. These men are also susceptible to HIV infection if they have unprotected sex.

N) Normal. Many HIV-positive people enjoy long and happy lives.

O) Outing yourself. Disclosing your HIV status to your partner is the right thing to do so that they can take whatever measures they need to in order to protect themselves. Counselling can help you find the best way to do this.

P) Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) is a course of ARVs (antiretroviral tablets used to treat HIV) given to someone who is HIV-negative after a high-risk encounter. PEP reduces the risk of becoming infected.

P2) Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is ARV medication that keeps HIV-negative people from becoming infected. PrEP has been shown to be safe and effective. A single pill taken once daily can prevent HIV (by up to 92%). PrEP is recommended for HIV-negative people with:

  • History of inconsistent or no condom use
  • Multiple sex partners
  • A recent sexually transmitted infection like chlamydia, gonorrhoea or syphilis
    An HIV-positive sex partner with an unsuppressed or high viral load

Q) Questions you may have regarding HIV can be answered by clicking HERE.

R) Rimming is not a risky behaviour for HIV transmission but does pose a risk for hepatitis A and B infection, gonorrhoea, chlamydial infection, HPV, HSV, syphilis and a variety of other bacterial infections.

S) Semen can transmit the HIV virus during unprotected sex. Antiretroviral therapy has been found to lower the viral load of semen, thereby lowering the chances of infection.

T) Transmission of HIV from someone who is HIV-positive to someone who is not during unprotected sex does not always occur, but there is a very serious risk.

U) It’s unlikely to get infected with HIV from oral sex, but it is possible if you have abrasions or open sores in your mouth or throat.

V) Viral load tests measure the amount of HIV in a small sample of blood. This is one of the tests that your clinic will carry out regularly to monitor your health and help inform your decisions about treatment if you are HIV-positive.

W) Washing or showering after unprotected sex does not minimise the risk of infection.

X) X-rated. We can learn a lot from professional porn stars who have to test regularly for HIV and other STIs before they can work.

Y) You can receive free HIV treatment at any government hospital or clinic. Click here to find your closest clinic.

Z) Zero viral load means that your medication is working and that the virus is under control. This is usually referred to as an undetectable viral load in that the virus is still present but in such small quantities that it cannot be measured.  Undetectable viral load means you cannot pass it on.  Undetectable = Untransmittable.

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