SELF HELP RESOURCE - Wellness / Health

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How do we protect ourselves against the HIV / AIDS virus? To answer this we need to first understand how this virus is contracted. This will help us take the necessary precautions and protective measures.

 

How do people develop AIDS?


HIV can be transmitted from an infected person to another through:

• Blood (including menstrual blood)
• Semen
• Vaginal secretions
• Breast milk

Blood contains the highest concentration of the virus, followed by semen, followed by vaginal fluids, followed by breast milk.


Activities That Allow HIV Transmission

Unprotected sexual contact: Direct blood contact, including injection drug needles, blood transfusions, accidents in health care settings or certain blood products
Mother to baby (before or during birth, or through breast milk)

Sexual intercourse (vaginal and anal): In the genitals and the rectum, HIV may infect the mucous membranes directly or enter through cuts and sores caused during intercourse (many of which would be unnoticed). Vaginal and anal intercourse is a high-risk practice.

Oral sex (mouth-penis, mouth-vagina): The mouth is an inhospitable environment for HIV (in semen, vaginal fluid or blood), meaning the risk of HIV transmission through the throat, gums, and oral membranes is lower than through vaginal or anal membranes. There are however, documented cases where HIV was transmitted orally, so we can't say that getting HIV-infected semen, vaginal fluid or blood in the mouth is without risk. However, oral sex is considered a low risk practice.

Sharing injection needles: An injection needle can pass blood directly from one person's bloodstream to another. It is a very efficient way to transmit a blood-borne virus. Sharing needles is considered a high-risk practice.

Mother to Child: It is possible for an HIV-infected mother to pass the virus directly before or during birth, or through breast milk. Breast milk contains HIV, and while small amounts of breast milk do not pose significant threat of infection to adults, it is a viable means of transmission to infants.


How do you protect yourself against AIDS?

Sexual transmission:

Ways of eliminating or reducing the risk of becoming infected with HIV during sex is by choosing to - 

• Abstain from sex or delay first sex
• Not have sex with a person who is infected or is having sex with others*.
• Be faithful to one partner or have fewer partners
• Use of Condoms, which means using male or female condoms consistently and correctly

*You can't tell who's infected with HIV by how they look. It takes an average of 8 years for symptoms of AIDS to develop after a person is infected with HIV. So even people who don't look or feel sick can give you AIDS.

The other methods that have known to reduce the probability of infections is male circumcision which has shown to reduce the risk of HIV transmission from woman to man by around 50%. Another significant manner in which HIV transmission has been facilitated is through sexually transmitted infections, such as Chlamydia and gonorrhea. Treating such infections has been found to reduce HIV transmission during sex.

Transmission through blood:

• Not sharing medical equipment like injections, syringes, etc
• Persons who use drugs for recreational purpose need to use clean needles.
• Safely disposing used needles, syringes and other medical equipment
• Using only HIV screened blood from recommended hospitals or blood banks and not purchasing it from persons who are not screened for HIV/ AIDS.
• Don't come in touch with blood or other body fluids without having proper protection.
• Ensure safe procedures for activities that involve contact with blood, such as tattooing and circumcision - by routinely sterilising equipment. An even better option is to dispose of equipment after each use, and this is highly recommended if at all possible.
• Universal precautions include washing hands and using protective barriers like hand gloves, tongs and other appropriate equipment for direct contact with blood and other body fluids.

Mother-to-child transmission:

HIV can be transmitted from a mother to her baby during

• pregnancy,
• labour and delivery,
• breastfeeding.


The first step towards reducing the number of babies infected in this way is to prevent HIV infection in women, and to prevent unwanted pregnancies. But that is not the only way there are a number of things that can be done to help a pregnant woman with HIV to avoid passing her infection to her child.

A course of antiretroviral drugs given to her during pregnancy and labour as well as to her newborn baby can greatly reduce the chances of the child becoming infected. Although the most effective treatment involves a combination of drugs taken over a long period, even a single dose of treatment can cut the transmission rate by half.

A caesarean section is an operation to deliver a baby through its mother's abdominal wall, which reduces the baby's exposure to its mother's body fluids. This procedure lowers the risk of HIV transmission, but is likely to be recommended only if the mother has a high level of HIV in her blood, and if the benefit to her baby outweighs the risk of the intervention.

Weighing risks against benefits is also critical when selecting the best feeding option. The World Health Organization advises mothers with HIV not to breastfeed whenever the use of replacements is acceptable, feasible, affordable, sustainable and safe. However, if safe water is not available then the risk of life-threatening conditions from replacement feeding may be greater than the risk from breastfeeding. An important note that mothers should keep in mind is that they weigh out the risks and benefits of different infant feeding options that are most suitable for their situation.

 

While taking care of persons with HIV/ AIDS:

If you have to look after someone who has HIV / AIDS, make sure that you wear gloves when in contact with blood or body fluids, secretions, excretions or non-intact skin, or contaminated surfaces or articles. Also wash hands thoroughly before and after such contact.

 

What contact is safe?

It's also important to know how you cannot get AIDS. HIV can't live very long outside the body, so you can't get it through casual contact. You can't get the virus by touching, shaking hands, hugging, swimming in a public pool, giving blood, or using hot tubs, public toilets, telephones, doorknobs or water fountains. You also can't get it from food, mosquitoes or other insects.

Anyone can get AIDS. The virus affects people across all socio-economic groups, in every country and every race. One can get AIDS from use of even one contaminated needle or one sexual act with a partner who has HIV/AIDS. It is the responsibility of each individual to exercise reasonable care in protecting himself or herself against AIDS.

 

Latest Comments

Seamstress on 02 Mar 2017, 23:50 PM

drinking 8 10 glasses of water should be enough to flush out toxins from the body

udayjoglekar on 12 Feb 2015, 16:09 PM

How much quantity of water should be daily consumed? I drink almost 3.5 to 4 liters of water daily.