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Human Immunoinsufficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that is passed from partner to partner via blood or body fluid transmission. You can get it from vaginal,anal or oral sex as well as mother to baby either through breast milk or birth.
HIV is the virus you can catch from a partner and it causes Acquired Immuno Deficieny Syndrome (AIDs). AIDs is defined by certain infections and cancers that happen more often in people with HIV.
Safer sex practices, including the wearing of lubricated, extra-strength condoms if you practise anal sex, will reduce your risk of infection.
If you think you have been exposed to the virus within the last 72 hours (three days), anti-HIV medication may stop you becoming infected. For it to be effective, the medication, called post-exposure prophylaxis or PEP, must be started within 72 hours of coming into contact with the virus.
The quicker PEP is started the better, ideally within hours of coming into contact with HIV. The longer the wait, the less chance of it being effective. PEP has been misleadingly popularised as a “morning-after pill” for HIV. But the description is not accurate. PEP is a month-long treatment, which has serious side effects and is not guaranteed to work. The treatment involves taking the same drugs prescribed to people who have tested positive for HIV.
You should be able to start this treatment at a locla hospital or GUM clinic.
If you've tested positive for HIV it is treated with antiretrovirals (ARVs), which work against the HIV infection by slowing down the spread of the virus in the body.
A combination of ARVs is used because HIV can quickly adapt and become resistant to one single ARV.
Patients tend to take three or more types of ARV medication. This is known as combination therapy or antiretroviral therapy (ART).
Some antiretroviral drugs have been combined into one pill, known as a "fixed dose combination". This means that the most common treatments for people just diagnosed with HIV involve taking just one or two pills a day. Once HIV treatment is started, you will probably need to take the medication for the rest of your life.
Side-effects such as diarrhoea, tingling in the hands and feet and abnormal redistribution of fat (lipodystrophy) are common. Up to 14 tablets a day may need to be taken, and at specific times. Many people find the treatment regime very hard to stick to but for the treatment to be effective, it will need to be taken on time, every time.
Increasingly good as treatments become more sophisticated and effective.
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Date of last review 08/04/14
Date of next review 07/04/17
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