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HIV/AIDS

What is AIDS?

A (acquired) : got from others
I (immuno) : body's defence system
D (deficiency) : not working properly
S (syndrome) : a group of symptoms

What is Virus?

A virus is the smallest of all living organisms, too small to be seen through even a normal microscope. Flu, polio, smallpox and the common cold are all caused by viruses.

What is HIV?
The Human Immuno-deficiency Virus is responsible for causing AIDS. The HIV gradually attacks and weakens the body's immune system. Hence, a person infected (invaded) by HIV, becomes increasingly open (susceptible) to attack by any opportunistic infection/s and cancers, which is/are caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi or parasites.

HIV infection is specially serious because :

  • The virus remains hidden within the body for 6-10 years without causing sickness. During this stage, the virus can be transmitted to others very easily.
  • This infection is, so far, incurable, but now there are medicines to slow down the progress of the infection.
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How is HIV / AIDS spread?


Most easily by unprotected sexual intercourse, (vaginal, anal or oral sex) (unprotected means without a condom)

This intercourse can take place between a man and a woman, or between two men.

If blood or blood products that are infected with HIV are given by transfusion.


By the use of unsterilised (HIV infected) needles, by careless doctors, nurses or by sharing unsterilised needles, by injecting drug users.

From an infected mother to her unborn child.

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HIV / AIDS does NOT spread by:

Living with or sitting with HIV infected people.

Hugging or touching an HIV infected person

Shaking hands or through social contact with an HIV infected person.


Sharing plates, thalis, glasses or cups, or by using the same utensils as an
HIV infected person.


Travelling together by bus, train or plane.


Through insect bites.

Sharing toilets, towels, combs, soap or clothes.

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Ways of protecting yourself from HIV / AIDS.

As far as possible postpone sex till marriage. After marriage, have a completely faithful, single partner relationship. If the above are not possible, use a condom in the correct way (as shown in the accompanying section).

Ensuring that only blood/plasma tested for HIV/AIDS is used. If only a single unit transfusion is prescribed - avoid this. Use tonics instead.

Ensure that well sterilised (boiled for 20 minutes) or disposable syringes and needles from a reputed source are used on you. A strong solution of 10% bleach kills HIV. The syringe needs to be filled with the solution of bleach and emptied at least twice. Bleach needs to be stored away from sunlight as exposure to the sun reduces its strength. The syringe should then be rinsed thoroughly in STERILISED water.

If an HIV+ woman finds herself pregnant, she could consider

  • having a ceasarian delivery
  • a medical termination of pregnancy (MTP)
  • using drugs like Zedovudine (ZDV) which substantially reduces the risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Which option is used is ENTIRELY up to the mother. (If not pregnant and a child is wanted, adopting a child could be considered)
  • take advice on HIV/AIDS and 'STD' from a good, trusted doctor
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MYTHS or false beliefs commonly encountered:
  • "That all blood available at blood banks is safe."
    60% of blood used in Govt. hospitals is allegedly not tested.

  • That "all disposable syringes are safe."
    Many disposable syringes are picked up for reuse by ragpickers, for sale to IV drug users, and also repacked in an unsterilised state and sold to the chemist.

  • "AIDS in only got from visiting brothels".
    It is much easier for a woman to get the infection from an infected man, than vice-versa, because the woman becomes the receptable for infected semen.

  • "I cannot get AIDS because I only have sex with people from a good and clean family background."
    Any person indulging in multiple partner sex can be infected by any one of the partners who have not been careful in the pervious 6-10 years.

  • "I have got myself tested and the result was negative. I'm safe."
    A single test after high risk behaviour will not reflect a person's status, simply because the virus does not show up in test for 3weeks to 6 months. Therefore, a confirmatory test is essential after 3 months, to show a person's real status vis-a-vis infection.
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What is high risk behaviour?
  • Having intercourse (anal or vaginal) without a condom.
  • Multipartner sex without a condom.
  • Sharing needles for IV drug use.
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What are the common symptoms of AIDS?

There are no specific symptoms of AIDS. Common symptoms include

  • Loss of weight
  • Prolonged fever
  • Loosemotions
  • White patches in the mouth
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Testing

It is possible to detect the presence of HIV infection by testing blood. The commonly used test is called ELISA test. After HIV infection, it can take upto three months for blood to become ELISA positive. Therefore the test should only be done three months after the last exposure. Then a negative ELISA test means there is no infection. For a person to be labeled HIV positive, the test should be repeated twice (a total of three tests on the same blood).

Please remember

  • Nobody can force you to undergo HIV testing.
  • A positive test means the presence of HIV infection, and not necessarily of AIDS. It takes nearly 10 years for HIV infection to cause the disease AIDS.
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Living Positively with HIV

It takes nearly 10 years for HIV infection to lead to AIDS. Therefore, if a person tests HIV+, there may be several years of healthy life in front of her/him, when normal activities can be carried out. This period may be increased to a certain extent if that person takes a positive attitude and looks after his/her health - takes nutritious and balanced diet, takes regular exercise, avoids tobacco and alcohol, and consults a doctor (without delay) when sick.

He can also prolong his life by mentally fighting the disease and refusing to give in.

Even when a person develops AIDS, he/she does not require hospitalization all the time, and can be looked after at home. The family, should make provision for nursing care, including a good diet and avoidance of exposure to infections.

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