What is it?
The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the immune system of our bodies making it hard to fight off even minor illnesses, which other people would recover from within a few days. Our immune systems can never fully fight off HIV due to the speed of its multiplication and mutation.
The point when the number of immune system cells left in the body drops below a certain level, or the person gets certain serious illnesses, the person is diagnosed with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) rather than HIV, and this can be fatal.
Both men and women can have, and pass, on HIV and AIDS.
How can you catch HIV?
You can catch HIV from an infected person by:
Having unprotected sexual intercourse (sex without a condom)
Unprotected oral sex
Being given infected blood
HIV can also be passed from an infected mother to her unborn baby.
Symptoms, Tests and treatment
Within a few weeks of infection, flu like symptoms may occur but at least half of the people who get symptoms confuse them with other common illnesses. The only way you will find out if you have HIV or AIDS is by having a blood test that specifically looks for HIV antibodies.
There is no vaccine against HIV and no cure for AIDS, but there are drugs available that help to delay HIV developing into AIDS, although these drugs have nasty side effects.
A delay in being tested could have serious or fatal consequences, not only for you, but also for other people.
For more information about HIV/AIDS and local support go to the Dhiverse website