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All about HIV

HIV Scenario

Leila has been having unprotected sex all through her first term at university and is worried she might have been exposed to HIV. She talked to a friend in her dorm who said that her pastor would help. Leila visited the pastor and he prayed for her to make sure that she was free from HIV.

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What should Leila do?

What is HIV?

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It’s a virus that attacks the body’s immune system, making it harder and harder to fight infections.

What is AIDS?

HIV and AIDS are different. Without treatment, HIV can seriously damage the body’s immune system and make it too weak to be able to fight off infections. This is called AIDS, which stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS is a set of illnesses caused by HIV. Now that more people are taking treatment for HIV, less people die from AIDS.

How do you get HIV?

You can’t ‘catch’ HIV, like you can catch a cold. HIV is only passed on through 4 bodily fluids:

  • Blood
  • Semen
  • Vaginal fluids
  • Breastmilk

Most people get HIV by having unprotected sex (sex without a condom).

The only way to know if you have HIV is by getting a test. You can’t tell just by looking at someone if they have HIV. Many people with HIV don't have any symptoms, especially if they are taking treatment.

How can you prevent HIV?

There are lots of things that you can do to prevent HIV:

  • Use condoms every time you have sex.
  • Don’t share needles, syringes and other injecting equipment.
  • If you are living with HIV, taking HIV treatment can help to prevent passing HIV on to other people, including an unborn baby if you are pregnant.
  • In some places, HIV drugs are available that can be taken before and after sex to prevent HIV infection. These are called PrEP (short for pre-exposure prophylaxis) and PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis).

To learn more, check out these resources:

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