Basic HIV and AIDS information
What is HIV?
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that causes AIDS.
Is HIV infection a deadly infection?
HIV weakens the immune system. Since the immune system is supposed to protect the body from illnesses, HIV infection eventually becomes life-threatening when the immune system is unable to protect the body from a variety of opportunistic infections such as Tuberculosis, cancer, pneumonia, etc. However, antiretroviral therapy (ART), combined with positive living can contain the immune weakening effect of HIV for many years.
What is AIDS?
AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. In an infected person, HIV weakens the immune system, leaving the person vulnerable to infections and illnesses. Only when someone with HIV experiences recurring infections and illnesses or loses a significant amount of immune cells are they diagnosed with AIDS.
Do I have to get tested?
Although some people develop temporary flu-like symptoms shortly after infection an infected person can appear and feel healthy. It is therefore necessary to know your HIV status, even if the risks of being infected are slim.
What are “risks of being infected”?
You are at risk of HIV infection if you have, or have had:
- unprotected sex / sexual intercourse with someone whose HIV status you don’t know.
- sharing needles, syringes, or injection equipment with someone whose HIV status you don’t know.
- someone’s blood comes in contact with your skin where there may be lesions.
- piercing any part of your body or getting a tattoo without the assurance that sterile equipment is being used.
How can I reduce my risks of being infected or infecting someone?
- It starts with knowing my own status.
- Avoid unprotected sex / sexual contact with someone whose HIV status is unknown to you.
- If you have sex with a partner whose HIV status you do not know, always use a condom.
- If you know that you or your partner is HIV positive, always use a condom.
- If you use latex condoms, make sure that you only use water-based lubricants.
- Only engage in unprotected sex if you know that you and your partner are both HIV negative, and stay negative.
- If not, make sure you always use a condom and use it correctly.
- When it comes to blood, always assume that the person might be HIV positive and do not touch someone else’s blood without wearing gloves.
- Do not share needles, razors or other objects that might have been in contact with someone else’s blood
Are there situations that I do not have to worry about?
- HIV is not transmitted through normal social contact (shaking hands, eating together, sneezing, coughing, sharing bathroom facilities, etc).
- Body fluids such as sweat, tears, vomit, urine (of an HIV positive person) do not contain enough HIV to infect another person. However, blood, semen, vaginal fluid and breast milk of an HIV positive person do contain enough HIV to make infection possible.
- Insects (mosquitoes, fleas, etc) do not transmit HIV.
What is “positive living”?
“Positive living” focuses on what strengthens the body’s immune system (for example, getting enough exercise and rest, eating fresh and healthy food, happy and supportive relationships, etc) and excludes anything that burdens the body’s immune system (for example, stress, exposure to people who are ill, excessive alcohol or tobacco use, etc).
The following two documents are copyrighted by CABSA. CABSA granted permission to CHABAHIVA Trust to have them as downloadable PDFs on this website. Please contact CABSA at training(at)cabsa.org.za if you want to use these documents in any way other than for your personal needs.
1 – Teaching the essentials of HIV and AIDS (0.2MB)
2 – Basic ARV fact sheet (0.2MB)
These documents form part of the Churches, Channels of Hope Facilitator Training of CABSA that aims to empower faith leaders towards HIV competency. For more information about this programme contact CABSA at the address mentioned above.
If you want more basic information about HIV and AIDS, visit https://www.avert.org/about-hiv-aids
For comprehensive as well as Christian specific information about HIV and AIDS, consult http://www.cabsa.org.za/