HIV or human immunodeficiency virus is a virus that can lead to AIDS or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome if not treated. Since it is a virus, once you have it- you always have it. Unfortunately there is no cure for HIV but, with medical advancements, there are options for treatment regimens that control HIV. Antiviral medications, if taken properly as prescribed, can drastically improve the lifespan of someone with HIV. In fact, if the medication is initiated prior to the person developing AIDS, someone with HIV can live just as long as someone without it.
Although improvements have been created to lessen the burden of HIV, you should know about HIV and how to prevent it to keep you healthy and avoid transmission.
HIV can be transmitted through sexual contact, sharing needles to inject drugs, from mother to baby during pregnancy, birth and through breastfeeding. HIV cannot be transmitted by air, water, saliva, sweat, tears, closed-mouth kissing, insects, pets or by sharing toilets, food or drinks.
The only way to completely avoid transmission of HIV and all Sexually Transmitted Diseases – STDs – is through abstinence. However, if you are engaging in sexual activities, there are several ways to protect yourself. Get tested at least once a year or more often if you are at risk. Use condoms the right way every time you have anal or vaginal sex. Limit your number of sex partners. Don’t inject drugs, or if you do, don’t share needles. If you are at very high risk for HIV, ask your health care provider if pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is right for you. To prevent HIV, you can choose activities with little to no risk such as oral sex; however, remember that oral sex puts you at risk for getting other types of STDs.
Anyone having unprotected sex is at risk for getting STDs. Have an honest, open discussion with your health care provider and ask whether you should be tested for HIV and other STDs. You should get tested regularly for HIV if you are pregnant, are a man who has sex with men, have other STDs, and/or have partner(s) who have tested positive for HIV.
For more information on HIV and other STDs, you can call your local Sampson County Health Department at 910-592-1131, ext. 4972. To schedule an appointment to get checked for STDs, call the Health Department at 910-592-1131, exts. 4001 or 4220.