Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) remains one of the world’s most significant public health challenges. HIV is the virus that causes HIV infection; AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV.

HIV is the virus that causes HIV infection. AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV infection.

HIV is spread through contact with the blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, or breast milk of a person with HIV. It’s treated with Antiretroviral therapy, which is the use of HIV medicines to treat the infection. People on ART take a combination of HIV medicines each day.

HIV can be prevented and treated with the proper knowledge. Here are five facts about HIV you need to know:

1) HIV infects the immune system, decreasing its ability to fight off other infections and diseases. It results in progressive deterioration of the immune system. HIV attacks and destroys the infection-fighting CD4 cells of the immune system. Losing these cells makes it difficult for the body to fight infections and certain cancers. HIV can gradually destroy the immune system and advance to AIDS, if not treated.

2) You cannot get HIV through contact such as shaking hands or hugging an infected person. Nor can you get infected using dishes, toilet seats, or doorknobs used by a person with HIV. Its not spread through insect bites and HIV is not an airborne virus.

HIV is spread through fluids, but also through pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding. This is called mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

3) Globally, an estimated 36.7 million people were living with HIV in 2015, and 1.8 million of these were children, according to WHO. A huge majority of people living with HIV are living in low-and middle-income countries. An estimated 2.1 million people were newly infected with HIV in 2015. Its also been estimated that 35 million people have died from HIV-related cause so far, including 1.1 million (940 000-1.3 million) in 2015, WHO statistics state.

4) Effective Antiretroviral therapy results in reduction in the amount of virus in the body greatly. If the duplication of HIV stops, then the body’s immune cells are able to live longer and provide the body with protection from infections. If the HIV positive partner in a couple is on effective Antiretroviral therapy, the likelihood of the HIV-negative partner contracting HIV through sexual transmission can be reduced by as much as 96%. HIV treatment contributes to HIV prevention efforts.

5) Progress has been made in some areas such as prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and keeping mothers alive. In June 2016, three countries: Armenia Belarus and Thailand were validated for eliminating mother-to-child HIV. Before that, in 2015, almost 8 out of 10 pregnant women living with HIV-1.1 million women-received antiretroviral worldwide. Also in 2015, Cuba was the first country declared by WHO as having eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis.

While there are constantly improvements in treating and handling HIV, prevention is just as important. Understanding the basics in prevention, as well as being covered by an affordable medical aid scheme could save your life.

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