Living with a serious disease (read terminal illness) can be devastating. It’s even more difficult when the disease has a stigma. Even when people have a deeper understanding of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) nowadays, they can still be isolating and scary for those affected.


Human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, is the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome). HIV/AIDS weakens a person's ability to fight infections. It is contracted through unprotected sex or needle sharing. An HIV test confirms diagnosis. Medications may suppress the virus and delay the onset of AIDS.


What is HIV?

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. If left undiagnosed and untreated, it can lead to the disease AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). Unlike other viruses, the human body cannot get rid of HIV completely. So once a person is infected with HIV, they have it for lifetime.


HIV primarily targets the human immune system, specifically the CD4 cells (T cells), which is the backbone of immune system helping it ward off infections. During the infection phase, it reduces the number of CD4 cells (T cells) gradually in the body, making the immune system more vulnerable to infections or infection-related cancers.


Over a period of time, HIV destroys many cells and completely impairs the immune system such that the body can’t fight off infections and disease. These opportunistic infections or cancers take a toll over the weak immune system and indicate that the person has AIDS, the last state of HIV infection.


How does one contract infection?

HIV is found in the body fluids of an infected person, which includes semen, vaginal and anal fluids, blood, and breast milk. The virus is fragile in nature and does not survive outside the body for long.


It cannot be transmitted through sweat or urine.


The easiest way of contracting HIV in the UK is by anal or vaginal sex without protected sex (use of condom). According to statistics from Public Health England, 95% of those diagnosed with HIV in the UK in 2013 acquired HIV as a result of sexual contact.


Other routes of contracting HIV include:

  • a contaminated needle, syringe or other injecting equipment
  • transmission from mother to baby during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding
  • oral sex and sharing sex toys, although the chances are very low.
  • People who accidentally prick themselves while handling an infected needle (chances of such infection are very low)
  • Blood transfusion (possibility very rare in the UK while it’s still a problem in developing and underdeveloped countries)


Why is HIV testing important?

There is no permanent cure to HIV infection, however, an early diagnosis through confidential HIV testing at IPSA Medical can delay the spreading of the virus. It can significantly lower the damage to the immune system and can help lead a relatively healthier life.


The only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested. The process is relatively simple. You can ask your healthcare provider for an HIV test. Many medical clinics, substance abuse programs, community health centers, and hospitals offer them too. You can also buy a home testing kit at a pharmacy or online.

 To find an HIV testing location near you, use the HIV Testing & Care Services Locator.


Author's Bio: 

Contrast this to Jems Fort, who focuses only on the credentials and status signifiers that the reader would care about and understand, like his specialties and companies he works for.