“Famous 5” Questions on HIV and AIDS
5 frequently asked questions on HIV and AIDS, identified and answered just for you.
1. What is the difference between AIDS and HIV?
HIV and AIDS are two different things. To put it simply, HIV is the virus that causes the disease AIDS. AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome and as the name suggests, it is a group of illnesses acquired when the immune system weakens and is unable to defend the body against infections. Being tested positive for HIV does not mean that the person has AIDS right away. However, if left untreated, the HIV infection could damage a person's immune system and lead to AIDS.
It’s also important to remember that in the early stages, a person infected with HIV looks and feels perfectly all right. It’s only when the immune system gets impaired, that the person starts to show symptoms and begins to feel ill. AIDS is the terminal stage of infection by the HIV. The time between getting infected with HIV and becoming ill with AIDS may range and vary from 2-10 years or even longer.
2. Can I transmit HIV to my baby during pregnancy or breastfeeding?
Yes. An HIV infected pregnant woman can pass on the virus to her unborn baby, before and during birth. HIV can also be passed during breastfeeding. There are drugs that can be taken during pregnancy to reduce the chances of the unborn child getting infected. On the safer side, the pregnant women can choose to have a caesarean section and should not breast feed the baby.
3. Can I become infected with HIV through normal contact and social activities such as shaking hands, sneezing, coughing, sharing toilet seats, swimming pools, and cutlery?
No. HIV is not an air-borne, food-borne or water-borne virus. It does not survive for very long outside the human body. Therefore, casual social contact such as a peck on cheek, shaking hands, coughing, and sharing cutlery or other household objects does not result in the virus being spread from one person to another.
Watch this video on common myths related to HIV/AIDS.
4. Can I get HIV from kissing?
Not always. HIV can not be transferred from casual kissing (skin to skin contact), like a peck on cheek or hand. But open mouth kissing involving tongue and exchange of saliva with someone who has HIV is also not recommended. Saliva is known to have small concentrations of the virus but if it is stained with blood, the risk becomes higher. There could be a possibility of a cut or sore in and around the mouth and oral mucosa through which the virus could enter the blood stream.
5. Which body fluids are capable of transmitting the HIV virus?
Blood, pre-cum, vaginal secretions, semen and breast milk contain high concentrations of HIV and all are known to be transmitters of the virus.
Saliva, sweat, tears and urine can also have the virus in them, but in a much smaller concentration. However, if any body fluid is visibly contaminated with blood, the risk of transmission increases manifold.
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