The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is one of the most feared viruses on the planet. It was discovered in humans in the 1980’s and was found to lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS. Most viruses we encounter daily are usually harmless and our body is able to get rid of them. However, the human body cannot get rid of HIV.
That means that once you have HIV, you have it for life. Based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it showed that 20% of sexually active gay and bisexual men in America are HIV-positive . The alarming part is that 44% of them don’t know that they are infected with HIV.
Unfortunately in Singapore, no data specific to men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM) were made available but male adults between the ages of 21 and 59 years old form the majority of HIV patients in Singapore.
The risk of getting HIV varies widely depending on the type of exposure or behaviour
Which is the riskiest type of sexual behaviour?
Anal sex is the riskiest type of sexual behaviour with receptive anal sex (Bottom) being more risky than insertive anal sex (Top), with a risk of 138 per 10000 exposures and 11 per 10000 exposures respectively.
What are the other behaviours that may put you at risk?
- Having multiple sex partners.
- Having other Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
- Sharing needles and syringes used to make injectable drugs with a HIV positive person
- Oral sex. However, the risk of getting HIV through receptive and insertive oral sex or anilingus is very low.
There is no risk from biting, spitting, throwing of body fluids such as semen or saliva and sharing of sex toys.
When it comes to HIV infection, it’s important to know what early symptoms to look for.
What are the Signs and Symptoms Of HIV?
If I have these symptoms does it mean I have HIV?
In the first few weeks (usually 2 to 6 weeks) after an infection your body will react to fight off the virus.
This action by your immune system will lead to the development of a variety of symptoms. This is known as Acute-Retroviral Syndrome (ARS).
HIV symptoms may vary from fever, lethargy, weight loss, swollen lymph nodes, rash, sore throat, diarrhea, headaches along with muscles or joint aches.
If you think about it, most of us have encountered symptoms like these before and are more commonly caused by other infections such as the common cold.
With that in mind, if you had an exposure to HIV and developed these symptoms it doesn’t mean that you are infected with HIV.
It is just a symptom of your body’s immune system fighting off an infection.
The only way to know if you have HIV or not is to test at the appropriate HIV window period.
If treatment is not available, HIV will progress to AIDS
After ARS, HIV infected patients may not experience any symptoms for months to years.
Once someone is diagnosed with HIV and the right medical treatment is initiated, the infection is usually well controlled and most patients live a normal life span.
However, if HIV is untreated or in some cases delay in the initiation of treatment, it may develop into AIDS.
This is the state, when HIV has destroyed a significant number of cells in your immune system that the body can’t fight off infections and diseases. Opportunistic infections or cancers take advantage of a very weak immune system and signal that the person has AIDS.
You cannot tell if you have been infected with HIV or not by analyzing your symptoms
The only way to know is to get tested
Be safe, Be responsible. Get tested today.