This article looks at why it is import to know your HIV status. "Young people (15-24 years) account for 40% of all new adult HIV infections. Each day, more than 2,400 young people become infected with HIV infection - some 5 million young people are living with HIV " - UNFPA.
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Data from UNAIDS for 2017 suggests that Nigeria has the second largest HIV epidemic in the world.
Estimates suggest that over 3.1 million Nigerians are living with HIV.
About two-thirds of new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa occurred in Nigeria.
However - only about 38% of Nigerians are aware of their HIV status.
This means we may not know the exact number of Nigerians living with HIV.
It also suggests that the risk of transmitting HIV in the Nigerian population may be higher than we know.
The good news is that Nigeria recorded a 5% reduction in new HIV infections between 2010 and 2017.
How HIV causes infection.
The full meaning of HIV is 'Human Immunodeficiency Virus'.
When the virus (HIV) enters the human body, it multiplies in the white blood cells (WBC).
The WBC usually helps the human body fight infections.
They are important to your immune system.
By infecting and multiplying in your WBCs, HIV infection attacks the cells that are supposed to protect you.
As a result, your immune system over a period of time gets weaker and weaker.
However, how long it takes to significantly weaken and destroy the immune system depends on your health status.
AIDS (which means Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome), is the result of HIV infection progressing to a point where the body’s immune system becomes weakened and destroyed.
Now, this can happen slowly in many people, taking on the average up of 10 years to advance into AIDS if the HIV infection is not treated.
Consequences of HIV Infection
At this point, the body is unable to fight off infections and diseases, which can be life-threatening. This can happen in either of two situations:
- The person is not aware of his/her HIV status (but is infected with HIV) and therefore not receiving appropriate treatment.
- The person is aware of his/her HIV status but not receiving appropriate treatment for some reasons.
So, the first step is to be aware of your HIV status by taking the HIV test and getting the right counselling.
Secondly, you need to start receiving appropriate treatment immediately if you test positive to HIV.
Early treatment of HIV infection would stop the infection from progressing to AIDS.
While every one of us has a fear of the unknown, and the stigma (discrimination) against people living with HIV, this should not discourage you from knowing your HIV status.
This is because a positive HIV test does not mean that you have AIDS.
It only means that you have the HIV infection.
It is not a death sentence.
People with HIV infection can enjoy a long and healthy life if they receive appropriate treatment.
We call the medications we currently use in treating HIV infection Antiretroviral drugs and - they are very effective.
If you are HIV positive, antiretroviral therapy helps to keep you in stable health and reduces the amount of the virus (viral load) in the body.
Over time, the virus numbers become “undetectable” in your blood as long as you are receiving the appropriate treatment.
Another therefore, another benefit is that the lower viral loads reduce the risk of HIV transmission.
And it means that somebody who is HIV positive (and receiving appropriate treatment) cannot transmit or infect their partner or contact.
Studies such as the PARTNER study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on the 12th of July, 2016 have proven this fact:
Undetectable equals Untransmittable.
Your HIV Status And AIDS
To summarise, these are the 8-points we need to know about HIV and AIDS:
- HIV infection is not a death sentence.
- It is important to do regular testing to be aware of your HIV status
- If your test positive to HIV, start receiving treatment immediately to protect your immune system from becoming weakened and destroyed, so that you do not develop AIDS.
- Nowadays, fewer people develop AIDS because of the advancement in HIV treatment.
- You can find HIV in blood, breast milk, vaginal and anal fluids. (HIV cannot pass from one person to another from sweat, saliva or urine).
- It is important to practice safe sex or abstinence to prevent HIV infection.
- It is also important to ensure standard precautions when providing healthcare services.
- Let us stop the stigma and discrimination against Nigerians living with HIV.
Are you still unsure about checking your HIV status today? Talk to us here; or call UNFPA on Glo: 07058890112, Airtel: 07080601771.
For more information, you can visit:
- The National Agency for the control of AIDS (NACA) has a toll free number 6222 for Airtel and 9mobile users.
Editing by AskAwayHealth Team
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