HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.This virus attacks the body’s immune system and makes it difficult to fight off diseases and infections. The immune system is considered deficient when it can no longer fulfill its role of fighting infection and disease. Infections associated with severe immunodeficiency are known as “opportunistic infections”, because they take advantage of a weakened immune system. Immune function is typically measured by CD4 cell count. Immunodeficiency results in increased susceptibility to a wide range of infections and diseases that people with healthy immune systems can fight off .AIDS usually takes time to develop from the time a person acquires HIV–usually between 2 to 15 years.

Many people who have HIV don’t even know it because they don’t show any symptoms for years. Even though you don’t show any symptoms, you can still pass on the virus to someone else. Testing for HIV is the only way to know whether you have been infected or not infected.

There is a window period, where it takes 3 months for HIV antibodies to show up on an HIV test. The HIV antibody testing may be negative even though a person is infected. Healthcare workers will recommend retesting after three month window period to ensure the test is accurate.

There is no way to know for sure if someone else has HIV unless they have an HIV test. Many people with HIV look perfectly healthy. Other people who have HIV may have symptoms that are identical to other common illnesses. You cannot tell by looking whether someone is HIV positive.

The symptoms of HIV vary depending on the stage of infection. Though people living with HIV tend to be most infectious in the first few months, many are unaware of their status until later stages. The first few weeks after initial infection, individuals may experience no symptoms or an influenza-like illness including fever, headache, rash or sore throat.

As the infection progressively weakens the immune system, an individual can develop other signs and symptoms, such as swollen lymph nodes, weight loss, fever, diarrhoea and cough. Without treatment, they could also develop severe illnesses such as tuberculosis, cryptococcal meningitis, and cancers such as lymphomas and Kaposi’s sarcoma, among others.

According to the Kenya HIV Estimates Report 2018, there are 1.5million Kenyans estimated to be living with HIV.

Oral PrEP of HIV is the daily use of ARV drugs by HIV-uninfected people to block the acquisition of HIV. PrEP is recommended as a prevention choice for people at substantial risk of HIV infection as part of combination prevention approaches.

The transmission of HIV from an HIV-positive mother to her child during pregnancy, labour, delivery or breastfeeding is called vertical or mother-to-child transmission (MTCT). If a mother is HIV-positive during pregnancy, HIV treatment can improve her overall health and can protect an unborn baby from contracting HIV before, during delivery and after birth.

Prevention of MTCT (PMTCT) involves providing ARVs to mothers and infants during pregnancy, labour and the post-natal period, and offering life-long treatment to HIV-positive pregnant women regardless of their CD4 count.

Correct and consistent use of Male and female condoms is effective in preventing sexual transmission of HIV. Evidence shows that male latex condoms have an 85% or greater protective effect against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).The surest way to avoid transmission of HIV is to abstain from sexual intercourse or having one sexual partner of known HIV status.

No. As long as you aren’t having unprotected sex with them, or sharing needles, you are not at risk for getting HIV from them through casual contact (hugging, kissing, sharing dishes, sharing bathrooms, etc.). Standard cleaning practices will work just fine, since HIV dies outside in open air very quickly anyway.

If you are having sex or sharing needles with your loved one who has HIV, then it would be good to get tested for HIV. Also, if you haven’t already, start using protection every time you have sex and new needles for your own injections