Aids In Namibia:
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Signs, Causes, Prevention
Signs, Causes, Prevention
HIV/Aids has wreaked havoc on the Namibian population, particularly in remote areas. With little access to medical care and education about the disease, bringing it under control or irradiating it has proved to be difficult. But we can, with your help.
While people across the country can and do have the virus, the northern and central parts of Namibia have the highest incidence of the disease. But what is HIV? Is HIV and Aids the same illness? How easily can you contract HIV? In this article, we cover everything you need to know about living with HIV/Aids and your most frequently asked questions.
Today, 13.1% of Namibia’s adult population is infected with HIV. In Namibia, HIV is commonly transmitted in two ways: from mother to child during labour or through sexual intercourse with an infected person.
We Cover The Following Topics In This Article
- The definition of Aids
- What is the difference between Aids and HIV?
- Types of Aids
- The 3 Stages of HIV
- What are the signs of Aids and HIV
- How is Aids transmitted?
- How to prevent Aids?
- Getting tested: what to expect
- Frequently Asked Question
- Know your status
The definition of Aids
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It’s a virus that attacks healthy cells within the body. Multiplying quickly, HIV destroys or damages the CD4 cells, which are vital to fighting infection. If left untreated, HIV causes Aids.
Aids stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Disease Syndrome. It is a term that’s applied to the final stage of HIV infection. Without treatment, a person suffering from HIV Aids will die within three years.
What is the difference between Aids and HIV?
HIV is a virus, whereas Aids is a condition.
A person can become infected with HIV without developing Aids. You are only classified as having Aids (or stage 3 HIV) in the latter stage of the disease. At this point, your immune system is badly damaged and susceptible to diseases such as certain cancers, tuberculosis and pneumonia.
These days, particularly in first-world countries, access to anti-retroviral drugs ensures that people living with HIV no longer develop Aids.
But in Namibia and many parts of Africa, most people infected with the disease live in rural areas and don’t have access to medical treatment.
In fact, 40% of new infections in Namibia occur in the youth, ages 15 -24, most notably, young women. Many of these young girls pass the virus on to their babies through labour or breastmilk.
Types of Aids
There are two types of Aids: HIV-1 and HIV-2.
- HIV-1 is the most common type and is found throughout the world. It’s more easily transmitted than HIV-2 and progresses to Aids (HIV-3) quicker than HIV-2.
- HIV-2 is found almost exclusively in West Africa. It’s harder to transmit than HIV-1. It also takes longer for the infection to turn into Aids.
The 3 Stages of HIV
Stage 1: Acute HIV infection
This is typically the first month after being infected with the virus. Most people experience flu-like symptoms and are most infectious.
Stage 2: Chronic HIV infection
During this stage, a person infected with HIV is asymptomatic. The virus is still active within the body and will continue to reproduce. You can pass the virus on to HIV-negative people. If treated, you may never move into stage 3: Aids.
Stage 3: Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (Aids)
In the final stage of the disease, people will have a high viral load and can easily transmit the virus to others. Aids doesn’t just compromise the immune system. It destroys it. This means your chance of contracting cancer or tuberculosis is far greater.
What are the signs of Aids and HIV
The only way to truly know if you have HIV or Aids is to get tested. However, there are signs and symptoms to look out for.
Within the first two weeks of being infected with the virus, you may experience flu-like symptoms, feeling achy, feverish and generally unwell.
During this period, you are most infectious and can spread the virus easily.
Other symptoms include:
- weight loss
- swollen lymph nodes
Women are more easily infected with HIV than men. HIV-positive women also live longer than HIV-positive men.
How is Aids transmitted?
Aids can be transmitted through sexual intercourse with an infected person without using protection, blood transfusion, or sharing used needles.
An infected mother can also transmit the virus during labour or through breastfeeding.
You can’t contract the virus by kissing an HIV-positive person or touching objects they’ve handled.
To recap, Aids is transmitted through:
- Breast milk
- Rectal fluids
- Vaginal fluids
- Pre-seminal fluids
People living with HIV on antiretroviral therapy have a much lower chance of transmitting the virus to their partners.
How to prevent Aids?
- Always use a condom during sexual intercourse, especially if you don’t know the status of your sexual partner.
- Get tested regularly for STDs. Whether you’re in a long-term relationship or the beginning of a new relationship, an STD can increase your chance of contracting HIV or giving it to someone else. So make sure you get tested regularly, and don’t be afraid to insist that your partner gets tested too.
- Don’t share used needles. While we don’t condone drug use, if you inject drugs into your system, make sure you use a sterile needle.
- Abstinence. The easiest way to avoid getting HIV is to abstain from sexual intercourse.
- Limit the number of sexual partners you have. It’s best to get tested for HIV or wear a condom before engaging in sexual intercourse with your partner.
HIV-negative people can prevent transmission by taking pre-exposure prophylaxis of HIV (PrEP).
Getting tested: what to expect
All it takes is 30 minutes or less to know your status. You can get a rapid diagnostic test at most clinics or your nearest hospital. The attending nurse will take a small sample of blood from your finger and place it on the antibody or antigen test. It looks a lot like a Covid tester.
Then you wait. If the test result is positive, you will be referred for further testing to confirm the diagnosis.
Discovering you have HIV can feel like a death sentence, but it’s not. Getting treatment as soon as possible can ensure you’ll live a long and healthy life. HIV is treated with antiretroviral drugs.
Your doctor may prescribe pills or injections depending on the severity of your condition.
- The pill is recommended for people who have recently been diagnosed with HIV. It is FDA-approved.
- The long-acting injection is recommended for people with a high viral load. Generally, you’ve been infected with the virus for some time but didn’t know. These need to be administered by a healthcare professional once a month or every other month.
Frequently Asked Question
1. Are there side effects of taking antiretroviral medication?
While some people experience no side effects, others have complained of nausea, vomiting, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, dizziness, a headache or rash, and pain at the site of the injection (although this is temporary).
If the treatment makes you ill, talk to your healthcare provider. They may prescribe alternate medications.
2. What is the life expectancy and quality of life for someone living with HIV Aids?
People with HIV lived much shorter lives in the past, mainly due to the lack of knowledge about the virus and access to proper treatment.
These days you can live a very long and healthy life despite your HIV status. Provided you take your antiretroviral medication and receive treatment within the first year of infection.
Getting treatment as soon as possible is crucial to your health. People with HIV who respond well to treatment within the first year can live as long as their peers. But on average, HIV-positive people live 16 fewer years than people who don’t have the virus.
3. Should you be concerned about sleeping with someone with HIV?
You should always be cautious when sleeping with someone who has HIV. It is possible to get the virus through oral sex or unprotected anal and vaginal penetration.
Taking pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV (PrEP) can help to prevent the transmission of the disease, and using a condom during sexual intercourse.
4. Is there a cure for HIV and Aids?
While there is no cure for the disease, medical advancements in anti-retroviral therapy ensure that you can live a long and healthy life despite your HIV status.
Know your status
If you think you have HIV or you’ve recently had sexual relations with someone who has HIV, don’t wait. Seek medical treatment immediately. Contact Welwitschia by calling +264 64 218 911 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit our doctors, and we’ll conduct an HIV screening.
If your results reveal that you are HIV positive, we’ll recommend a treatment plan and a therapist you can speak to. Learning you have HIV is scary, but your life isn’t over. There will be adjustments, but there’s no reason why you can’t continue to do the things you love.
Speaking to a licensed therapist will help you to come to terms with the changes you’ll need to make and how to remain positive.
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