Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is an agent that leads to the disease, AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome); weakening the body’s immune system. It is a global epidemic that affects millions worldwide. According to the United Nations AIDS Gap Report, 2.1 million people in India are infected with HIV, placing India at the 3rd position of the HIV epidemic. 1,30,000 deaths have been reported due to AIDS. Gay men and Transgender are also prone to the risks of HIV/AIDS. About 4.4% of gay men and 8.8% of transgender are living with it. In December 2013, the Supreme Court made same- sex relationships a criminal offence. This has further instilled fear among the affected to seek help.
Unlike popular myths, you need to realise that it is completely safe to interact with a person suffering from HIV/AIDS. It does not travel through air, water or touch. You can safely kiss, eat together, shake hands and share the same bathroom and swimming pool with the carrier of the virus.
How does the virus spread?
- Pre-Seminal fluids (pre- cum)
- Semen (cum)
- Vaginal Fluids
- Breast Milk
- Rectal Fluids
What puts you at the risk of being infected by HIV?
- Sexual Contact with partner(s) who has contracted the disease. Anal sex puts you at a greater risk. Sex with multiple partners can increase the dangers of acquiring the infection.
- Oral Sex in which one uses the mouth to pleasure an affected partner’s genitals can transmit the virus. Ejaculation into the partner’s mouth is dangerous.
- Giving and receiving blood transfusion or organ transplant that has been contaminated.
- Pregnancy, Vaginal Childbirths and Breast Feeding. An infected mother can transfer the virus to her baby.
- Sharing drugs and equipments like needles and syringes with someone who has HIV/AIDS.
How can you prevent AIDS?
- A Condom (male/ female variety) is your best friend when it comes to protection from all sorts of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). They tend to be almost 98% reliable. Consider using water- based or latex condoms than natural condoms made up of lamb- skin. Avoid lubricants like oil, petroleum jelly which can break the condom and reduce the effectivity of the latex. Check the condom for leaks, discoloration and breakages. Do not use the same condom for different sessions. Nonetheless, dispose of condoms safely.
- Sex toys should be cleaned between uses and inserting fingers can be safe given that you do not have open wounds or sores.
- Eliminate the habit of having sex with multiple partners. You are more likely to be exposed to the infection since one of them could be running the risk of being affected. You are less likely to know the medical history of all of them.
- Get tested for HIV and ask your partner to do the same. If you have not had sexual contact with your partner before your wedding, consider getting tested before the big day. If you have conceived or are planning to, consider getting tested after your pregnancy test confirms positive.
- Caesarean delivery will be less riskier than Vaginal Childbirths for an HIV positive pregnant woman. Communicate and work closely with your doctor to avoid passing on the infection to the child.
- Before donating blood or an organ, consider yourself getting tested. Health care centres need to check for the availability of the virus in the donated organ or blood. Carelessness in executing the same has resulted in instances of the virus getting transmitted through donated organs like heart, liver, pancreas.
Do not let enjoyment or a careless attitude towards health doom you life. Prevention is better than cure goes the saying. Stay safe and promote safety measures.