Everything you need to know about HIV/AIDS

As Published on independent.ie

What does it mean to be diagnosed with HIV in 2015?

It means knowing you are infected but can access specialist healthcare. It is current best practice to treat all patients newly diagnosed with HIV. Response to treatment is assessed by monitoring the CD4 count, a measure of the immune system and the viral load, the amount of the virus in the blood. Within months on the appropriate treatment, the immune system starts to improve and the viral load becomes undetectable. This means that your infectiousness to others is greatly diminished.

Could I have HIV and not know it?

Absolutely – untreated HIV infection slowly damages the immune system and may take 10-15 years before the immune system is sufficiently damaged to cause clinical problems which are identifiable as advanced HIV infection. If you do not test, you will not know your HIV status; you will have a progressive loss of immune function and will be unknowingly infectious to others.

I’m worried I might have HIV but don’t know what to do

If you are worried, get tested. The blood sent to the laboratory is accurate 4-6 weeks after your exposure. The test might be negative in which case you will be reassured. If positive, you can go on treatment.

Will being diagnosed with HIV ruin my sex life?

HIV infection will not ruin your sex life. You will be on appropriate treatment. In 2008, the ‘Swiss Statement’ reported that if you are on effective treatment for a minimum of 6 months with an undetectable viral load and are not infected with another sexually transmitted infection; you are not sexually infectious to others. Knowing that you are not infectious should help your sex life.

Will I be destined to get really sick?

Not if diagnosed early and put on appropriate medication. Some people are not great at visiting their doctors which means that monitoring of blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol is not as good as it should be. Those who are HIV positive and engaged in HIV care are reviewed at least twice a year and will have ongoing monitoring of clinical wellbeing. Late diagnosis with HIV infection can be very serious and life-threatening.

Will I be obliged to tell people?

No, you are not obliged to tell people. If you deliberately have unprotected sex with someone, are not on appropriate HIV treatment and are infectious, you are committing a serious crime. If you are not infectious you are not. Unfortunately, HIV is still a stigmatised illness, patients should think carefully before disclosing their diagnosis.

How many Irish people live with the disease?

There are 4,500-5000 people currently living with HIV in Ireland.

Which groups are most at risk?

Of those new cases for whom a risk of infection can be established, the group at highest risk is men who have sex with men who represent almost 50pc of those testing positive each year. Less than half of these men are born in Ireland. Heterosexual infection accounts for approximately 30pc of new cases. The majority of these cases were born in areas of generalised HIV epidemic. A small percentage of cases of HIV infection were in people who inject drugs and this has been linked to homelessness. Mother-to-child transmission during pregnancy is currently extremely low.

How is HIV transmitted?

HIV is transmitted in four main ways: by unprotected sex, from mother to child during pregnancy, by injection drug use with needle sharing and by untreated needle stick injury, occupational or non-occupational.

The full article can be see on the Irish Independent Website: https://www.independent.ie/life/i-was-stunned-by-people-saying-charlie-sheen-must-be-gay-34246840.html

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