What is HIV?

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a retrovirus that can lead to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). AIDS is a condition in which the immune system begins to fail, leading to life-threatening infections that the body would ordinarily be able to fight naturally.

How is it transmitted?

HIV infection occurs by the transfer of infected blood, semen, vaginal fluid, pre-ejaculate, and breast milk. The virus can be passed on through unprotected sexual contact with an infected person, by sharing needles and/or syringes (often for drug use) with someone who is infected, or through transfusions of HIV infected blood.

Catching HIV through oral sex (either giving or receiving) is possible, but extremely rare.

How will I know if I have it?

The symptoms of an early HIV infection, if present, can be very similar to that of a bad cold. This can include fever, rash, headaches, sore throat, chest infections, and vomiting. Around 60% of people will have symptoms.

Testing

Better2Know provides several HIV testing options across Africa. For those whose potential exposure occurred 10 or more days ago, we have a 10-day HIV RNA PCR test, which is available on its own, or as part of our Early Detection Screen. Alternatively, our state of the art fourth generation, 28-day HIV test is available just four weeks after an incident of concern

Our Instant HIV test is appropriate 26 days after potential exposure, and is available at selected locations across Africa. The test detects both types of HIV as well as the p24 antigen, with results available within 30 minutes of providing your sample. Contact our Patient Services team today to locate your nearest Instant testing facility.

Treatment

Though there is currently no cure for HIV, the condition is no longer considered life-threatening, if it is detected early and properly managed by specialists. Those who are diagnosed with HIV and take the correct treatment, which consists of Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART), will remain healthy and should expect a normal life expectancy

Adverse Consequences

HIV damages your immune system by reducing the number of CD4 cells in your blood, that fight off foreign infections and diseases. The reduction in the numbers of these CD4 cells means you become unable to fend off infections that your body would normally deal with naturally. This will eventually, lead to the conditions known as AIDS.

Women with HIV should be aware that babies born to HIV infected women may become infected before or during childbirth, or through breastfeeding.