How is HIV transmitted?
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is a virus that causes the weakening of the body’s immune system.
The immune system is important to us because it is our body’s natural system of defence against bacteria and other viruses. So therefore, someone living with HIV who is not on treatment, can have a much more difficult time fighting off a number of ailments, such as the common cold, than an HIV negative person.
HIV can be found in particular body fluids and may be transmitted when we share these fluids with another person. Body fluids that can transmit HIV are:
- Breast milk
- Vaginal fluids
For transmission to occur, the body fluids of an HIV positive person will need to come into contact with an HIV negative person. This can occur a number of ways, such as:
- Sexual contact
- Childbirth (without access to HIV treatment)
- Breast feeding
- Injecting drugs
Transmission is also dependent upon the volume of fluid and the level of virus in the body, which can vary greatly between people depending on whether they are on treatment, as well as a person’s adherence to their treatment. It is important to understand that HIV is not transmitted through all body fluids, as many fluids do not contain sufficient levels of the virus to be passed on, such as urine, saliva, vomit, sweat, tears and faeces.
What can we all do to prevent HIV transmission?
Practise safe sex – using male and female condoms during anal and vaginal sex can prevent the sexual transmission of HIV and also prevent other STIs and pregnancy. Although oral sex is a low risk activity for transmitting HIV, condoms and dams can be used for protection.
Use safe injecting practices – do not share injecting equipment. Clean needles and syringes are available at NSPs across Queensland.
Universal / standard precautions – using universal precautions in health care settings prevents the transmission of HIV, as well as other BBVs.
Use of infection control practices – infection control practices prevents the transmission of BBVs from equipment used for tattooing and body piercing.
What is the difference between HIV and acquiring an AIDS defining illness?
The advanced stage of HIV infection is known as AIDS, which stands for ‘Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome’. AIDS cannot be transmitted between people; it is the result of a badly damaged immune system due to HIV, which allows opportunistic infections (such as pneumonia) to thrive in the body. An AIDS defining illness can be prevented with treatment and should not be confused with HIV.
Did you know HIV does not have to result in an AIDS defining illness?
With advances in treatment, HIV no longer has to result in an AIDS defining illness. Treatments now keep people living with HIV healthy, ensuring they live a long and fulfilling life that does not progress to an AIDS defining illness (such as pneumonia).
Now that we have the knowledge and ability to prevent an AIDS defining illness, there is a lot of excitement generating as we get closer than ever to preventing the transmission of HIV.
If you would like to speak to our team for more info, please call QPP toll free from a land-line on 1800 636 241, use the contact form provided or call (07) 3013 5555 (nationally).