Destigmatizing HIV: The More You Know - IG Post

What is HIV?

HIV is human immunodeficiency virus. HIV can cause AIDS.


The virus affects cells in the human immune systems like helper T cells, macrophages, and dendritic cells. these cells are important for the immune system. There are two types of HIV - HIV-1 & HIV-2. while there is no known cure for HIV, but there is treatment.


HIV-1 without treatment tends to be more fatal than HIV-2. HIV-2 tends to be concentrated in West Africa and progresses more slowly than HIV-1. HIV-1 accounts for 95% of all worldwide cases. Since HIV infects/attacks the immune system, it decreases the ability to fight off other infections and diseases. While HIV is considered an STI, it can be transmitted without any sexual contact.


Transmission

  • blood products - sharing needles, unclean needles, unscreened blood, poor management of blood/needle play in kink, blood transfusions

  • fluid exchange through intercourse - genitalia & anal

  • birthing parent to baby - during pregnancy, labor, and nursing

  • broken skin, bleeding wounds or sores - less likely but still a chance


Myths

  • mosquitoes, ticks, or other bugs

  • saliva, tears, sweats that isn't mixed with HIV+ blood

  • touching - hugs, shaking hands, etc

  • sharing dishes and silverware

  • closed mouth kissing

  • from a person with undetectable HIV during intercourse


Symptoms

HIV symptoms vary person to person. it can be asymptomatic for a long time until progression to AIDS, hence the importance of testing often. Symptoms can range from fever, chills, night sweats and other flu-like symptoms to rapid weight loss and mouth ulcers.


Treatment

HIV medicine, called antiretroviral therapy (ART), reduces the amount of HIV in the body. The amount of HIV in the blood is called viral load - taking medication can lower the viral load. lowering the viral load can lead to undetectable / untransmittable HIV.


Undetectable HIV

Undetectable HIV is when the viral load is undetectable in the blood. undetectable means that the virus cannot be transmitted through s3x. A person who is undetectable is informed by their doctor during their treatment and maintains this level by taking their medication daily with regularly scheduled doctor visits. This level is aka virally suppressed.


Stop the Stigma

A lot of the fear surrounding HIV is rooted in miseducation, racism, and queerphobia. Stopping the stigma around HIV can start with the language we use. HIV and AIDS are not one in the same. differentiate between just HIV and HIV and AIDS. People do not "catch" HIV - say diagnosed, acquire, or transmit.


Prevention

  • abstinence

  • don't share needles

  • ensuring proper sanitation before/during/after blood/needle scene

  • utilize barriers

  • HIV prevention medication like PreP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) or PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis)

  • get tested

  • if diagnosed, get treatment as soon

  • if pregnant, talk to your doctor to prevent transmission to child

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