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HIV stands for the human immunodeficiency virus. The virus attacks the body's ability to fight disease and thereby causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). There is a gap in time between HIV-infection and the development of signs of AIDS. Sometimes this gap is quite short - a year or two - and sometimes quite a few years will pass before there is any sign of illness. This period of wellness can be extended by health living and good health care.

How is it passed on?

HIV can be passed on in the following way :

  • During sexual intercourse (heterosexual or homosexual) where no condom is used.
  • During oral sex without a condom
  •  From an HIV positive mother to her baby during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding.
  • By cutting or piercing the skin with an instrument - for instance a blade, knife, injection needle or tattoo needle - that has infected blood on it. This is why HIV is common among drug users who inject themselves.
  • By means of blood transfusion if the blood is infected. This is extremely rare in South Africa where our blood banks have effective screening methods.
  • By touching the blood of an infected person if you have an open cut or sore on your hand
  • You cannot get HIV from hugging, kissing, sharing cups and plates, by using the same toilet and bathroom

What are the signs and symptoms?

When a person gets infected with HIV there are usually no clear signs and you can be HIV positive for years without knowing. Usually people only realize they are HIV positive once they start suffering from HIV/AIDS related illnesses. Such as:

  • Skin rashes
  • Swollen glands
  • Sweating at night
  • Loss of appetite
  • Repeated diarrhoea
  • Repeated colds and flu
  • Tuberculosis
  • Pneumonia

    How to prevent HIV and AIDS

    Safer sex - adopt safer sexual habits. Safer sex involves choices. The option you choose depends on your personal beliefs and stage of life.

    Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)

    ARV’s are being given for occupational injury and rape victims according to the management protocol.

    PEP management protocol means that the person:
    • Must go to a hospital as soon as possible (within 72 hours)
    • Counselling and HIV testing is necessary
    • If HIV tests are negative, ARV-PEP will be given for a period of 28 days
    • Follow-up HIV tests at 6, 12 and 24 weeks

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    Copyright KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health, 2001

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