HIV - Did you know?

Given our passion for getting people to think differently about HIV, we thought it might be helpful to share 10 interesting facts you might not know about HIV:

1. HIV infects the white cells of your immune system called T-helper cells (or CD4 cells)  This causes your body to fight against itself and gradually breaks down your immune system.

2. HIV can be transmitted from numerous bodily fluids 

  • Blood
  • Semen
  • Breastmilk
  • Vaginal fluid
  • Rectal secretions
  • Saliva is NOT one of them - you can’t get HIV from kissing

3. HIV and AIDS are not the same thing. AIDS refers to the advanced stages of HIV.

4. There are 36.7 million people living with HIV worldwide according to the World Health Organisation (WHO)

5. According to the WHO there is also an estimated 1.8 million children living with HIV worldwide.

6. AIDS is now the leading cause of death among young people in Africa and the second leading cause of death among young people worldwide.  Every week 7,500 young women acquire HIV globally.

7. HIV is symptomless, although some people do get flu-like symptoms in the stages of sero-conversion which is when your body starts to make antibodies shortly after infection. So because you do not get any symptoms, the only way to know if you have HIV is to test.

8. If you don’t know you have HIV you can’t treat. Testing is the only way to know your status and HIV self-testing is just another choice where you’re able to test on your own terms, whenever it’s convenient and wherever you feel most comfortable.

9. Onwards transmission of HIV can be prevented and it’s not all about condoms. If you know you have HIV then you will be given anti-retroviral treatment which if you take regularly, reduces the amount of HIV virus in your blood to an undetectable level, meaning you can’t pass HIV on. That's how mother to child transmission has now almost been eliminatedPrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is taken before having sex, in a similar way to the female contraceptive pill, and   virtually eliminates the chances of contracting HIV.

10. You can live a long, healthy and happy life if you have HIV and are on treatment. Once your viral load is undetectable your life expectancy is the same as someone who is HIV negative. In fact the health outcomes for someone with HIV are better than someone with diabetes, so there should be no fear in testing as it really could save your life.