World HIV & AIDS Day - 1 December. World AIDS Day is held on 1 December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day and the first one was held in 1988.
What Is HIV?
To understand what HIV is, let’s break it down:
H – Human – This particular virus can only infect human beings.
I – Immunodeficiency – HIV weakens your immune system by destroying important cells that fight disease and infection. A "deficient" immune system can't protect you.
V – Virus – A virus can only reproduce itself by taking over a cell in the body of its host.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a lot like other viruses, including those that cause the "flu" or the common cold. But there is an important difference – over time, your immune system can clear most viruses out of your body. That isn't the case with HIV – the human immune system can't seem to get rid of it. Scientists are still trying to figure out why.
We know that HIV can hide for long periods of time in the cells of your body and that it attacks a key part of your immune system – your T-cells or CD4 cells. Your body has to have these cells to fight infections and disease, but HIV invades them, uses them to make more copies of itself, and then destroys them.
Over time, HIV can destroy so many of your CD4 cells that your body can't fight infections and diseases anymore. When that happens, HIV infection can lead to AIDS.
How Do You Get HIV or AIDS?
How Do You Get HIV?
HIV is found in specific human body fluids. If any of those fluids enter your body, you can become infected with HIV.
Which Body Fluids Contain HIV?
HIV lives and reproduces in blood and other body fluids. We know that the following fluids can contain high levels of HIV:
- Semen (cum)
- Pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum)
- Breast milk
- Vaginal fluids
- Rectal (anal) mucous
Other body fluids and waste products-like feces, nasal fluid, saliva, sweat, tears, urine, or vomit-don’t contain enough HIV to infect you, unless they have blood mixed in them and you have significant and direct contact with them.
HIV or AIDS Testing
What Is an HIV Test?
An HIV test looks for signs of HIV in your body. When you get tested for HIV, you will usually give a sample of blood, but there are other kinds of HIV tests that use urine or a swab of fluids from your mouth instead. Some tests take a few days for results, but rapid HIV tests can give results in about 20 minutes.
Where Can I Get an HIV Test?
Many places offer HIV tests. Here are some great ways to find an HIV testing location near you:
- Use the HIV Prevention and Services Locator on the right side of your screen. Just enter your ZIP code and you'll get a map that shows you nearby testing locations.
- Visit HIVtest.org. Enter your ZIP code and you'll get a list of HIV testing sites, including those that offer free HIV tests.
- Call 1-800 CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636).
- Text your ZIP code to KNOWIT (566948) and you'll receive a message in reply that lists the nearest testing locations.
- Contact your state or local health department.
You can also ask your healthcare provider for an HIV test. Many medical clinics, substance abuse programs, community health centers, and hospitals offer them too.
Signs & Symptoms
HIV-Positive without Symptoms
Many people who are HIV-positive do not have symptoms of HIV infection. Often people only begin to feel sick when they progress toward AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). Sometimes people living with HIV go through periods of being sick and then feel fine.
While the virus itself can sometimes cause people to feel sick, most of the severe symptoms and illnesses of HIV disease come from the opportunistic infections that attack a damaged immune system. It is important to remember that some symptoms of HIV infection are similar to symptoms of many other common illnesses, such as the flu, or respiratory or gastrointestinal infections.
Early Stages of HIV: Signs and Symptoms
As early as 2-4 weeks after exposure to HIV (but up to 3 months later), people can experience an acute illness, often described as “the worst flu ever.” This is called acute retroviral syndrome (ARS), or primary HIV infection, and it’s the body’s natural response to HIV infection. During primary HIV infection, there are higher levels of virus circulating in the blood, which means that people can more easily transmit the virus to others.
What Kind of Treatments Are Available?
Today, people who are infected with HIV are treated with antiretroviral therapy (ART). ART uses different kinds of medications to keep HIV from growing and multiplying in your body. Most people on ART take a combination of several meds prescribed by their doctors to keep their HIV disease under control.
How Does ART Work?
The goal of ART is to lower the amount of HIV in your body, so that your immune system can stay strong and healthy. Some ART drugs keep the virus from reproducing and some block HIV from entering your body's cells. For more information, see NIH’s AIDS Medicines.
ART works best when you and your doctor can find a combination of drugs and a treatment plan that will keep your HIV in check and have the fewest side effects.
Does ART Cure HIV?
No; at this time, there is no cure for HIV/AIDS. When it works, ART keeps HIV from damaging your immune system—but it cannot cure HIV disease.
When Should I Start ART?
Even though you are HIV-positive, you may not need to start treatment right away. When to start anti-HIV (also called antiretroviral) medications depends on:
- your overall health
- how well your immune system is working (CD4 count)
- the amount of virus in your blood (viral load)
You and your doctor will determine the best time to start treatment.
Every year, another 56,000 Americans become infected with HIV—but it doesn’t have to be that way! It’s easy to protect yourself and others from HIV if you know the facts.
Your risk for getting HIV—or transmitting it to others—is extremely low if:
- You aren’t having sex of any kind (anal, oral, or vaginal)
- You aren’t injecting drugs
- You aren’t pregnant
- You aren’t likely to have contact with infected body fluids in your workplace
But if you are having sex, injecting drugs, pregnant, or might be exposed to HIV at work, here’s what you need to know...
Most people who get HIV get it by having unprotected sex (anal, oral, or vaginal) with a partner who is HIV-positive. “Unprotected” means without a condom or other barrier to protect you from infected body fluids.
Prevention Before and During Sex
Here’s what you can do to protect yourself and others if you are sexually active:
- Know your own HIV status and your partner’s too
- Use condoms, correctly and consistently
- Limit your number of sexual partners
Knowledge Is Power
Have you been tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs)? Has your partner? Knowing your health status, and that of your sex partner(s), is the best way to protect each of you from STIs, including HIV.
Condoms Keep You Safer
Condoms offer excellent protection against HIV if you use them correctly. Both male condoms and female condoms are effective in preventing HIV infection.
About World AIDS Day
What is World AIDS Day?
World AIDS Day is held on 1 December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day and the first one was held in 1988.
Why is World AIDS Day important?
More than 90,000 people are currently living with HIV in the UK and globally an estimated 33.3 million people have HIV. More than 25 million people between 1981 and 2007 have died from the virus, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.
Today, many scientific advances have been made in HIV treatment, there are laws to protect people living with HIV and we understand so much more about the condition. But despite this, people do not know the facts about how to protect themselves and others from HIV, and stigma and discrimination remain a reality for many people living with HIV. World AIDS Day is important as it reminds the public and Government that HIV has not gone away – there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.
What should I do on World AIDS Day?
World AIDS Day is an opportunity for you to learn the facts about HIV and put your knowledge into action. If you understand how HIV is transmitted, how it can be prevented, and the reality of living with HIV today - you can use this knowledge to take care of your own health and the health of others, and ensure you treat everyone living with HIV fairly, and with respect and understanding. Click here to find out the facts.
You can also show your support for people living with HIV on World AIDS Day by wearing a red ribbon, the international symbol of HIV awareness.
World AIDS Day is also a great opportunity to raise money for NAT and show your support for people living with HIV. If you feel inspired to hold an event, bake sale or simply sell red ribbons, click here to get started. If you'd like to see what other events are taking place — click here and find out more.
But what about after World AIDS Day?
Although World AIDS Day is a great opportunity to get the public talking about HIV and fundraise, we need to remember the importance of raising awareness of HIV all year round. That's why NAT has launched HIVaware — a fun, interactive new website which provides all the information everyone should know about HIV. Why not use what you have learnt on World AIDS Day to Act Aware throughout the year and remember, you can fundraise at any time of year too — NAT is always here to give you suggestions and ideas.
Treatment as prevention is a term increasingly used to describe HIV prevention methods that use antiretroviral treatment to decrease the chance of HIV transmission.
Antiretroviral treatment is already being used to reduce the risk of HIV from being passed on to another person - for example from an HIV positive pregnant woman to her unborn baby. It is also used to prevent HIV infection from being established in someone who has recently been exposed to the virus - for example a healthcare worker who has received a needlestick injury.
Although HIV treatment can significantly reduce infectiousness if taken exactly as prescribed, it cannot eliminate the risk of transmission completely, as HIV is never completely eradicated from the blood.
HIV stands for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is a virus which attacks the body's immune system — the body's defence against diseases.
HIV can be passed on through infected bodily fluids, most commonly via sex without a condom or by sharing infected needles, syringes or other injecting drug equipment.
There are now more people than ever living with HIV in the UK — more than 90,000 — with around a quarter of those unaware they have the virus.
Here are a few more facts about HIV in the UK:
- Over 90% of people with HIV were infected through sexual contact
- You can now get tested for HIV using a saliva sample
- HIV is not passed on through spitting, biting or sharing utensils
- Only 1% of babies born to HIV positive mothers have HIV
- You can get the results of an HIV test in just 15-20 minutes
- There is no vaccine and no cure for HIV
Have any of these facts come as a surprise? There is still loads more you can learn about HIV in the UK by visiting HIVaware — our fun, interactive new website which provides all the information everyone should know about HIV. HIVaware gives you facts and stats on HIV, busts common myths and answers your frequently asked questions.
Take your first step to Acting Aware by visiting HIVaware today.