World Aids Day 2016 (1 December)
Posted: 30 November 2016 at 11:31 am | Author: Laura Morris
Did you know that tomorrow is World Aids Day? Is your knowledge up-to-date?
HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system, weakening your ability to fight infections and disease. Although there is no cure for HIV, medical advancements mean that being diagnosed with the virus is no longer the death sentence that it used to be.
Unfortunately social stigma and discrimination can make living with HIV harder than it needs to be. World Aids Day is about fighting social stigma and ensuring that those living with HIV feel they can be honest about their condition without fear of negative or ignorant responses.
Common questions answered
What’s the difference between HIV and aids?
Somebody who has the HIV virus in their body is described as living with HIV; whereas a person is described as having developed aids when the immune system is no longer strong enough to protect the body against diseases it would usually cope with easily.
How is HIV passed on?
The most common ways HIV is transmitted is through sex without a condom and sharing infected needles, syringes or other injecting drug equipment.
MYTH: HIV can be passed on through saliva, sweat, urine, day-to-day contact, sharing utensils, kissing or biting.
FACT: HIV does not survive for long outside of the body; the most common forms of HIV transmission are sex without a condom, oral sex without a condom (very low risk) or sharing a needle or injecting equipment with a HIV positive person. In addition, a small number of people living with HIV in the UK acquired it before or soon after birth (‘vertical’ or ‘mother-to-child’ transmission). 
Who is at risk of HIV infection?
Anyone that is having sex without a condom is putting themselves at risk. While some groups in the UK carry a disproportionate burden of HIV (for instance, around 1 in 20 men who have sex with men is living with HIV in comparison to around 1 in 525 in the UK population overall), 25% of people diagnosed with the condition in the UK are not in any of these groups. 
What are the symptoms of HIV?
70-90% of people experience various symptoms within the first three months of acquiring HIV, including flu-like symptoms, headaches, mouth ulcers, night sweats, weight loss and swollen glands.  After these symptoms have subsided, it is possible for a person to live for many years without any indication that they have the virus. This is why it is important to get tested as soon as you believe you have put yourself as risk of HIV infection, as the lack of any symptoms thereafter means that the virus can strengthen for years before treatment can be started.
I have put myself at risk of HIV. What should I do?
If you believe you may have exposed yourself to HIV, it is important that you seek a diagnosis as soon as possible. You can do this by taking a free, and completely confidential, test at your local sexual health clinic to determine whether you have HIV. Alternatively you can get a self-testing kit if you would prefer to take a test at home.
If you have put yourself at risk and it is within 72 hours of possible exposure to HIV, you can look into Post Exposure Prohylaxis (PEP) treatment from a sexual health clinic or A&E; PEP will not necessarily prevent HIV infection, however it is more effective the sooner it is taken.
More information on what you can do to combat social stigma can be found of the National Aids Trust website.
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