As much as we know about HIV and AIDS, there are still plenty of questions that tend to confuse and scare us when it comes to these two terms that generally go hand in hand. Well, here are a few common doubts; and a few ‘off the beaten track’ questions about the two terms that would provide you with a useful insight into the subject.
The relation between HIV and AIDS
AIDS is a disease and HIV is the virus that causes it. And that about sums up the relationship between these two terms. Apart from this, there is no connectivity between AIDS and HIV. Most people tend to confuse both terms and think they have AIDS as soon as they test positive for HIV.
On the contrary, if an individual tests positive for HIV, it means that he/she has contracted the virus, which if untreated could lead him/her to AIDS in the future. The HIV virus attacks the body’s immune system, weakening it to the extent that it would not be able to cope with even mild illnesses. And the amalgamation of all these illnesses at the end causes AIDS.
A person who has tested positive for HIV would not immediately show symptoms of contracting AIDS. If left untreated, the symptoms would start showing up from anywhere between 2 to 10 years.
Social Contact and HIV
This factor is a cause for concern and it is indeed heart wrenching to note that sometimes, even educated individuals who know all about HIV refrain from speaking to, touching or even sitting near HIV patients.
The HIV virus cannot be transmitted via air, water or food. It cannot even survive outside the human body. And so, the only ways of the disease spreading from one individual to another would be via fluids inside the body. Some of these fluids include blood, vaginal secretions, semen, and pre cum etc.
Even sweat, urine, saliva and tears can contain the HIV virus in them. But the virus would be present in miniscule quantities in these entities and would not pose harm to other individuals in the vicinity.
This implies that normal social contact with HIV positive individuals would not help the virus to spread from one body to another. Common routines like coughing, sneezing, shaking hands, sharing common rooms like toilets, and sharing clothes (restricting undergarments) or cutlery do not cause HIV contamination!
Kissing and HIV
Casual pecks on the cheeks and hands do not cause HIV infection. The risk increases manifold however in the case of open mouth kissing. Open mouth kissing leads to the exchange of sailva, which in turn would increase the chance of an individual contracting HIV if he/she shared an open mouth kiss with an HIV positive individual.
Although the HIV content in saliva is miniscule, if mixed with blood (via sores, ulcers, or cuts), it could cause the transmission of the virus from one individual to another.
Breastfeeding and HIV
A common question asked by mothers who are HIV positive is, ‘Can i breastfeed my baby?’. The answer is ‘No’. If a pregnant woman is diagnosed as being HIV positive, chances are high that she could pass on the infection to her unborn child.
Even after delivery, the baby could get affected by the virus if the mother opts to breastfeed him/her. And although there are plenty of prescription drugs in the market that enable women to breast feed their babies while minimising the chances of HIV contamination, it is considered wise and safe to not breastfeed the babies at all.
Needles and HIV
Unsterilized needles can cause the HIV virus to spread, especially if they are used on an HIV positive individual before being administered to anyone else. There are also tall claims of people being affected by illegally placed needles in coin slot machines and cinema theater seats.
While this is a scary bit of news, the truth is that these rumors are just facts and have not been proven till date. Accordingly, the needle in question would need to contain a very high concentration of the virus in order to infect someone. And there is only a 0.4% of that happening in reality!
HIV and STD
Many people wonder as to whether Sexually Transmitted Diseases can increase the risk of HIV transmission. The truth is that they can, espeically if the individual in question has unprotected sex with someone else. The HIV virus can also be transmitted via genital ulcers that can break in the skin (in the case of herpes or syphilis).
Doing HIV tests at home
Many individuals who have doubts of being HIV positive shy away from clinics and laboratories for tests. These individuals opt for home kits that would help them get a suitable result quickly and conveniently while maintaining their anonymity. Many countries provide home sampling kits that would enable a person to test for HIV within the confines of his/her home. These tests would normally involve taking a blood/oral fluid sample and sending it to a laboratory for testing.
The person in question can then call the laboratory after a few days for the result. Usually a positive result is followed by an offer to meet a professional counsellor or attend support groups for mental strength. As convenient as they may be, there is no guarantee that a home sampling kit would provide accurate results. And even though some of these kits are FDA approved, it is highly recommended that an individual visit a clinic in person to take the test.
Instant HIV test
In addition to the home sampling kits, there are several instant HIV test kits that are marketed online. Instant HIV tests promise to provide instant results on the HIV status of the user. The drawback of these kits is they have not been assessed by any established medical authority and so, can not be trusted to give accurate results.
These so called instant HIV kits are also not advisable on the account that in addition to possibly giving out a wrong result, they would most probably open a flood gate of emotions on the user’s side and may prompt him/her to take a wrong decision.
For example, if an individual finds out that he/she is HIV positive after using the kit, he/she would feel confused on what to do next. In the case of a clinic or laboratory, the individual would be offered help in the form of counselling sessions and treatment options to help him/her get over the issue. This would in turn prompt him/her to go in the right direction instead of becoming emotionally distressed.
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