SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED INFECTIONS
There are a range of bugs and viruses that you can catch during sex. Learn about Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), how to prevent them, how to diagnose them and how they are treated.
What is it?
HIV stands for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, which is a virus that affects the immune system. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS but having HIV is not the same as having AIDS.
How do you get it?
You can only get HIV from someone who has the virus — by certain bodily fluids containing enough HIV entering the blood stream. HIV is only present in blood, cum (semen), pre-cum, anal mucous, vaginal fluids and breast milk. The most common way HIV is transmitted is through unprotected anal, vaginal or front-hole sex.
HIV can also spread through sharing injecting or tattooing equipment, as well as from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding.
What are the symptoms?
Some people don’t have symptoms when they get HIV, which means you can have HIV and not know about it. If you do get symptoms, they can appear around two to four weeks after exposure.
Common symptoms may include:
- Sore throat
- Swollen glands
- Rapid weight loss
- A continuous dry cough
- Decreased appetite
- Extreme or constant tiredness
- A cold without a runny nose
When someone experiences symptoms after getting HIV they have what is known as seroconversion illness, which is when their body is reacting to the infection.
Diagnosis and treatment
A doctor diagnoses HIV by taking a blood sample for laboratory testing. It can take up to eight weeks after infection to detect HIV by a blood test.
There are home testing kits and rapid tests you can use for detecting HIV. However, any reactive result from these kinds of testing kits must be confirmed by laboratory testing with a blood sample.
There is no cure for HIV. Treatment involves using antiretroviral medication taken daily. For people living with HIV who use treatment, life expectancy is roughly the same as someone without HIV.
When HIV is left untreated it can result in a compromised immune system, poor health, and premature death.
How do you prevent it?
There are more ways to prevent HIV than ever before. Options include:
- using PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis)
- using condoms
- accessing PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis) if you need it
- your partner(s) having an undetectable viral load
People living with HIV who use treatment to maintain an undetectable viral load for at least six months cannot sexually transmit HIV to their partners — even when condoms are not being used.
When it comes to choosing, your best HIV prevention options are ones that work for you and your partners. Your doctor can help provide advice on what’s best based on your circumstances.
Going for regular sexual health tests will identify HIV before it becomes a problem and helps prevent it from spreading.