Facts on HIV/AIDS and Tips on Prevention

World AIDS Day is marked every December 1.  To add to the annual event, AUN Health Center has put together the following tips:

HIV/AIDS remains one of the world's most significant public health challenges, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

Infection with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) results in the progressive deterioration of the immune system, breaking down the body's ability to fend off some infections and other diseases. AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) refers to the most advanced stages of HIV infection, defined by the occurrence of any of more than 20 opportunistic infections or related cancers. Globally, 40 million people are infected with AIDS.

HIV can be transmitted through:

  • unprotected sexual intercourse (vaginal or anal) or oral sex with an infected person;
  • transfusions of contaminated blood or blood products or transplantation of contaminated tissue;
  • the sharing of contaminated injecting equipment and solutions (needles, syringes) or tattooing equipment;
  • through the use of contaminated surgical equipment and other sharp instruments;
  • the transmission between a mother and her baby during pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding.

A person cannot get HIV from hugging or touching someone with HIV/AIDS; using public bathrooms or swimming pools; sharing cups, utensils, or telephones with someone who has HIV/AIDS, or by bug bites.

Key ways to prevent HIV transmission:

  • practice safe sexual behaviors such as using condoms and having one sexual partner
  • get tested and treated for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV to prevent onward transmission;
  • avoid injecting drugs using unsterile needles and syringes;
  • ensure that any blood or blood products that you might need are tested for HIV;
  • access voluntary medical male circumcision in a sterile or medical facility
  • if you have HIV start antiretroviral therapy as soon as possible for your own health and to prevent HIV transmission to your sexual or drug-using partner or to your infant (if you are pregnant or breastfeeding);
  • Use pre-exposure prophylaxis prior to engaging in high risk behavior; demand post-exposure prophylaxis if there is the risk that you have been exposed to HIV infection in both occupational and non-occupational endeavors.

Combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) prevents HIV from multiplying in the body

Effective ART results in a reduction in viral load which is the amount of virus in the body, and greatly reducing the risk of transmitting the virus to sexual partners. If the HIV-positive partner in a couple is on effective ART, the likelihood of sexual transmission to the HIV-negative partner can be reduced by as much as 96 percent.

HIV testing can help to ensure treatment for people in need

Access to HIV testing and medicines should be dramatically accelerated in order to reach the goal of ending AIDS by 2030. WHO is recommending innovative HIV-self-testing and partner notification approaches to increase HIV testing services among undiagnosed people.