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Things you DON’T KNOW about HIV


We have just celebrated World Aids Day and there are still people all over the world who still don’t have the right information about HIV/AIDS, which has taken so many lives in the past 60 years.

There are many myths and misinformation about HIV/AIDS that still exist around the world, getting the right information can help you live longer and if you are negative prevent you and others from getting infected.

At a recent workshop Dr Sindi van Zyl, a specialist in the HIV and Aids field spoke about things that are important for people to know about HIV/AIDS whether you have the virus or not

Here are things you should know about HIV/AIDS:

Undetectable = Untransmittable
It is now understood that when you are positive, taking your ARVs can help you become undetectable which means you can not transfer the virus to someone else. Zyl said “When an HIV-positive person’s viral load becomes undetectable, it changes the way they live their life: they can have condomless sex, they can have babies, mothers can breastfeed, for example. If you’re ‘undetectable’, you can essentially live the life of a normal, healthy person.”

It can take 20 years for symptoms to show
In some people, their asymptomatic phase can last up to 20 years which means the phase where you have the virus but no symptoms while the virus is still replicating in your system. Zyl also said that “There are groups of society in our country who believe they’re ‘immune’ to HIV, who think it happens to ‘them’ but never to ‘me’. But there’s no them or me with HIV.”

HIV self-test kits
Many pharmacies around South Africa have self-test kits, which you can use with your partner if you don’t have time to go to the clinic, it is recommended that if you do use them to always get a second opinion from a doctor or a clinic.

Professor Ian Sanne, Divisional Head at the Clinical HIV Research Unit says that “The kit works very well and the studies that we’ve done on these kits show very good results, but the prevention method still needs to be linked to the self-test kit,”

You need 3 or more ARV drugs to treat HIV
Zyl says that “We always give more than two drugs to block the life cycle of HIV, because different drugs work at different phases of the life cycle to stop the virus from multiplying. And this is why taking medication every day is absolutely crucial.” It is understood now that they are different phases of the HIV life cycle and your clinic or doctor needs to explain which stage you are at to give you the right type of medication.

You can prevent HIV by using PrEP
PrEP full name Pre-exposure prophylaxis is mainly used by people without HIV who are at risk for getting the virus from sex or injection drug use. The Centers for disease control and prevention says that PrEP is for people who “have a sexual partner with HIV especially if the partner has an unknown or detectable viral load or have not consistently used a condom or have been diagnosed with an STD in the past 6 months”