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HIV AIDS Education

 HIV simply stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus.  This virus changes certain immune system cells or replaces them to make many copies of itself and causes slow but constant damage to the immune system.

AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.  AIDS is the condition caused by severe HIV infection.  AIDS makes the body vulnerable to life-threatening illnesses called opportunistic infections.

An AIDS diagnosis is generally made when either the body's protective T-cells drop below a certain level, or the HIV-positive individual begins to experience opportunistic infections.  

An opportunistic infection is an infection that would not normally affect an otherwise healthy person.

How  HIV is transmitted
HIV is transmitted through four body fluids:  blood, semen, vaginal fluid, and breast milk.  In order to pass HIV from one person to another, HIV-infected fluid from one person needs to get into the bloodstream of another person. 

HIV is usually transmitted through sharing needles, unprotected anal, vaginal, and sometimes oral sex, and from mother to infant before or during delivery or while breastfeeding.

The spread of HIV by exposure to infected blood usually results from sharing needles, as in those used for illicit drugs. HIV also can be spread by sharing needles for anabolic steroids to increase muscle, tattooing, and body piercing.

To prevent the spread of HIV, as well as other diseases including hepatitis, needles should never be shared. At the beginning of the HIV epidemic, many individuals acquired HIV infection from blood transfusions or blood products, such as those used for hemophiliacs. How to prevent  contracting HIV?Becoming educated about HIV and understanding how it is transmitted is the first step to prevent the spread of HIV. It is essential for people to make informed decisions about the level of risk they to take. HIV counseling and testing are fundamental for HIV prevention. People living with HIV are less likely to transmit the virus to others if they know they are infected and if they have received counselling about safer behaviour.

For example, a pregnant woman who has HIV will not be able to benefit from interventions to protect her child unless her infection is diagnosed. Those who discover they are not infected can also benefit, by receiving counselling on how to remain uninfected.Abstaining from sex and sharing of razor blades and needle is most effective way for people to protect themselves from HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. However abstinence cannot be realistic for everyone so use of condoms is highly recommended.  Oral sex: Oral sex stands a good chance to reducing the risk of HIV transmission while maintain good oral hygiene ( Do not brush your teeth right before or right after the act) 

This can however be dangerous for people with gum bleeding.

What should I know about HIV testing?

When thinking of getting tested for HIV, there are a few important things to consider: Window Period: The HIV test is looking for antibodies, which are the body’s response to having HIV in it.  For most people,  it takes 6 weeks for the body to produce enough antibodies for a standard HIV antibody test to be accurate. Some people call this the "window period".  

It is recommended waiting 6 weeks between an individual's possible HIV exposure and the time they get tested, providing there are no risks within that time period.  Anonymous vs. Confidential Tests: An anonymous test does not require an individual to provide their name at the time of testing, while a confidential test does require a name. In either case, written consent from the patient is the only way the results will be released, and otherwise will be kept private. 

Doctor's offices use confidential testing while some private clinics and testing sites will still do anonymous HIV testing, although it is becoming increasingly difficult to find.Standard vs. Rapid Testing:  A standard HIV test refers to a blood draw, typically done at a doctor's office. Results are usually received within 5 to 10 business days. Rapid tests (sometimes referred to as OraQuick or OraQuick Advance) involve either a finger prick or a mouth swab. Results are given in about 30 minutes. See below for descriptions of different types of HIV-Antibody tests. Cost: Depending on where you get tested, either insurance will cover the cost, pricing may be based on a sliding-scale which will depend on your income, or you may be able to get a free test.           For more information about testing send mail to health@ghanaschools.org  How is HIV treated?
Current HIV antiviral treatments and treatments for opportunistic infections are prolonging the lives of many HIV+ individuals.  However, many of the drugs used to treat HIV are very harsh on the body, very difficult to take, and don’t work for some people.  Research is making great strides toward developing vaccines and better medications for people who are living with HIV, but there is still no cure.

Most people who are taking HIV treatments are taking two or more medications at the same time.  This is called Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy (HAART).  It may also be called combination therapy or “the cocktail”.  Combination therapy has been found most effective at combating HIV by attacking the virus in many different ways.  There are currently three main classes of medications that are used to treat HIV:  Entry Inhibitors, Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (Nucleoside, Non-Nucleoside, Nucleotide), and Protease Inhibitors. If you have specific questions regarding medications, side effects, interactions, etc. please contact health@ghanaschools.org  

HIVpositive and pregnant women. -Will the baby be born with HIV?
Being an HIV-positive mother-to-be does not guarantee that your child will be born HIV-positive. HIV transmission usually occurs during delivery, but can also before birth in the mother's womb. If an HIV-positive mother receives appropriate care throughout her pregnancy, including medication to lower the amount of virus in her blood, HIV may not spread to the child. Without treatments, risk of HIV transmission to the child is higher, but with medications taken regularly throughout the pregnancy, as well as delivery by Caesarian section, the risk of transmission is lowered dramatically - to about a 1-2% chance of transmission. It is important to note that all children are born with their mother's antibodies, and will therefore test positive on HIV antibody screening tests, regardless of their actual status. These antibodies will usually clear sometime between 6-18 months after birth, and viral load testing can be done around 6 months to determine the infant's actual status.

Source http://www.aac.org

 

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