You asked, we answered. Questions and Answers about HIV/AIDS

How many people are living with HIV in Kenya?

There are 1.6million Kenyans estimated to be living with HIV.

What is Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)

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.

Why is it important to test pregnant women for HIV ?

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.

How effective are latex condoms in preventing HIV?

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.

Are there any special precautions I need to take to protect myself if my loved one has HIV?

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

Can I avoid getting HIV if I’m having sex?

Yes! You can still have a sex life, and avoid getting HIV .The best way to avoid HIV if you are having sex is to use condoms.

If I test HIV positive what should I do?

If you’re sexually active, you need to tell your sexual partner(s) about the HIV infection so that they can be tested.

  • Seek regular medical evaluation and follow-up
  • Counseling and psychological support
  • Develop an ongoing and open relationship with a health care provider
  • Access to good nutrition, safe water and basic hygiene
  • Never share injection equipment or personal hygiene items like razors or toothbrushes
  • Always practice safe sexual procedures and activities to avoid spreading the virus
  • Always using condom for vaginal, oral or anal sex.
  • Do not donate blood, semen (sperm) or body organs

Where can I get a HIV test?

You can get a HIV test in all government health facilities, mission hospitals, and nursing homes and stand alone HIV testing sites.

What is the benefit of an HIV test?

  • If you learn that you are HIV positive, you can take steps before symptoms appear to access treatment, care and support, thereby potentially prolonging your life and preventing health complications for many years.
  • If you know that you are infected, you can take precautions to prevent the spread of HIV to others.
  • If you know you are uninfected, you avoid risk sexual behavior that put you at risk of being infected

What is HIV Testing Services (HTS)

The term HIV Testing Services (HTS) is used to indicate the full range of services that a client is offered together with HIV testing. This includes counselling (pre and post testing); linkage to appropriate HIV prevention, care and treatment services and other clinical support services; and coordination with laboratory services to support quality assurance and delivery of correct results. All HIV testing services must include the 5 C’s: informed Consent, Confidentiality, Counselling, Correct test results and Connection (linkage to care, treatment and other services).

What is the connection between alcohol, other drugs, and HIV?

There are many drugs that people use or abuse recreationally. Some are legal, others illegal. The most commonly abused drugs include alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and heroin. Alcohol and drugs can alter people’s judgment. They may take risks that might expose them to HIV that they would not take when sober. Alcohol and other drugs can have dangerous interactions with the medicines that people with HIV take to stay well.

Am I going to die of AIDS?

Although complications from HIV infection remain a possibility, current treatments are giving people with HIV a near-normal life-span. This makes patients living with HIV vulnerable to the same health conditions that affect all people as they age. This is why it is important to maintain good health throughout your life.

What is the most common opportunistic infection affecting people living with HIV/AIDS?

Tuberculosis (TB) is the most common presenting illness among people with HIV. It is fatal if undetected or untreated and is the leading cause of death among people with HIV- responsible for 1 of every 3 HIV-associated deaths. Early detection of TB and prompt linkage to TB treatment and ART can prevent these deaths. It is strongly advised that HIV testing services integrate screening for TB and that all individuals diagnosed with HIV and active TB urgently use ART.

What are STIs and how do they relate to HIV infection?

STI stands for “sexually transmitted infections.” STIs are infections that are passed on through the close, intimate contact that usually accompanies sexual activities. Some common STIs include the following: Chlamydia, Trichomoniasis, Gonorrhea, Human papilloma virus (HPV), genital herpes and syphilis.

If you have ever had an STI, you may have been exposed to HIV as well, and should consider getting tested for HIV. If you currently have an STI, you need to see a healthcare provider as soon as possible. Having an STI causes the skin to break down and can increase the risk of getting HIV, or passing HIV to others if an HIV-infected person has an STI. Some STIs can be present without causing symptoms. Therefore, if you think you are at risk of contracting STIs, you should be tested routinely for both HIV and STIs, even if you have no symptoms.

What does HAART stand for in relation to HIV treatment?

Highly Active Anti-retroviral Therapy. A person living with HIV takes a combination of anti-retroviral drugs, commonly called combination therapy, to help stop the virus from reproducing within their immune system. These drugs are very expensive and can have a number of side effects. People living with HIV who choose to participate in H.A.A.R.T. must follow a strict daily schedule in order for the drugs to be effective.

In Kenya, ARV’s are given for free in all public health facilities.

How quickly does a person infected with HIV develop AIDS?

The length of time can vary widely between individuals depending on a person’s health status and behavior. Left without treatment, the majority of people infected with HIV will develop signs of HIV-related illness within 5–10 years, although this can be shorter. The time between acquiring HIV and an AIDS diagnosis is usually between 10–15 years, but sometimes longer. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) can slow the disease progression by preventing the virus replicating and therefore decreasing the amount of virus in an infected person’s blood (known as the ‘viral load’).

Is there a cure for HIV?

There is currently no cure for HIV infection. However there is treatment that make it possible for someone to live with HIV but avoid getting sick with AIDS. Effective antiretroviral (ARV) drugs can control the virus and help prevent transmission so that people with HIV, and those at substantial risk, can enjoy healthy and productive lives. ARVs help to prevent HIV from multiplying, and this helps the immune system “catch up” by killing off infected cells and letting new immune cells survive. This helps the immune system to “rebuild” itself

ARVs help to prolong and improve the quality of life of those infected with HIV.

Most current ARVs well tolerated with few side effects.

How do I protect myself from getting HIV?

  • Abstinence
  • Remain faithful in a relationship with an uninfected equally faithful partner with no other risk behavior
  • Use male or female condoms correctly each time you have sex.
  • Do not have oral sex when your partner is on their period, having bleeding gums, sores or abrasions on your genitals.
  • Avoid sexual activities or practices that may injure body tissues and result in direct blood contact
  • If you do use injection drugs don’t share needles or syringes with another person. Obtain clean needles and syringes from Needle Exchange Program
  • Avoid having sex under the influence of alcohol or drugs that may alter your ability to make safer sexual decisions
  • Do not share piercing or tattoo equipment.

What are the risk factors of HIV infection ?

Behaviors and conditions that put individuals at greater risk of contracting HIV include:

  • having unprotected anal or vaginal sex;
  • having another sexually transmitted infection such as syphilis, herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and bacterial vaginosis;
  • sharing contaminated needles, syringes and other injecting equipment and drug solutions when injecting drugs;
  • receiving unsafe injections, blood transfusions, medical procedures that involve unsterile cutting or piercing; and
  • experiencing accidental needle stick injuries, including among health workers.
  • Having multiple sexual partners
  • Using nonsterile needles for piercing or tattooing

Other factors that may put you at risk of HIV infection include:

  • Having been the victim of sexual assault
  • Having sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Having a mother who had HIV when you were born

What are the risk factors of HIV infection ?

Behaviors and conditions that put individuals at greater risk of contracting HIV include:

  • having unprotected anal or vaginal sex;
  • having another sexually transmitted infection such as syphilis, herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and bacterial vaginosis;
  • sharing contaminated needles, syringes and other injecting equipment and drug solutions when injecting drugs;
  • receiving unsafe injections, blood transfusions, medical procedures that involve unsterile cutting or piercing; and
  • experiencing accidental needle stick injuries, including among health workers.
  • Having multiple sexual partners
  • Using nonsterile needles for piercing or tattooing

Other factors that may put you at risk of HIV infection include:

  • Having been the victim of sexual assault
  • Having sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Having a mother who had HIV when you were born

You cannot get HIV from

  • Salivatears,sweat,feces, urine, vomit or ear wax
  • Kissing, hugging or touching
  • Massage
  • Shaking hands
  • Insect or animal bites
  • Living in the same house with someone who has HIV
  • Sharing showers,bathrooms,pools or toilets with someone with HIV
  • Touching public surfaces – like doorknobs, phone booths, or public benches
  • Sharing food, drink or dishes
  • Sharing a cup
  • Sneezing
  • Sharing items of clothing, bed linens or towels
  • Sports, going to the gym, sharing exercise equipment

How does one get HIV?

  • Unprotected sexual intercourse (vaginal or anal)
  • Blood transfusion and organ transplant if donor is HIV infected
  • Sharing drug injection equipment (needles and/or syringes) with an HIV positive person
  • From an HIV positive mother to her infant during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding
  • From unprotected oral sex with HIV positive person
  • From accidental needle-stick injury involving a patient who is HIV positive
  • By using tattooing and body piercing equipment that is infected with HIV.

Which body fluids transmit HIV?

HIV can be transmitted via the exchange of a variety of body fluids from infected individuals, such as blood, semen, vaginal secretions and breast milk. However, HIV cannot be transmitted through urine, saliva or sweat.

What are the signs and symptoms of HIV?

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.

How is HIV infection diagnosed?

HIV infection is often diagnosed through rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs), which detect the presence or absence of HIV antibodies. Most often these tests provide same day test results; essential for same day diagnosis and early treatment and care.

How can I tell if someone else has HIV?

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.

How can I tell if I have HIV?

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.

What is AIDS?

AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS applies to the most advanced stages of HIV infection. It is defined by the occurrence of any of more than 20 opportunistic infections or HIV-related cancers.

What is HIV?

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.