What is HIV, and how much do you know about it? A common misconception is that HIV only affects homosexual people, but anyone - regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or other factors - can get HIV, and statistics show that diagnoses in heterosexual people are higher than those in gay and bisexual people for the first time in 10 years.
At iPlaySafe, we love to break down the barriers and smash the taboos of talking about sexual health, so we’ve spent National HIV Testing Week (7th-13th February) spreading awareness of HIV and discussing the ways you can prevent it, simply with open conversations and regular testing!
Let's Talk About HIV
What's it Like to Live With HIV?
Jay Hawkridge joined the iPlaySafe team and Feed Me Female for this incredibly open and honest interview where we talk about HIV diagnosis and prevention.
Living with HIV Today
Jay+ discusses the importance of knowing your status.
How is HIV/AIDS Transmitted?
The truth is you can't "catch" AIDS. It's the most advanced stage of HIV, and if you don't seek HIV treatment, the virus attacks your immune system until you eventually develop AIDS.
AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) can be a life-threatening condition caused by HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). HIV infection damages your immune system, meaning your body won't be able to fight disease and infection.
HIV is an STI (sexually transmitted infection). However, HIV transmission can also happen through infected blood, semen, or from a mother to her baby during pregnancy or breast milk during feeding.
Although there isn't a cure for it, HIV medicine can slow the progression of your condition dramatically, giving you a better quality of life and preventing you from developing AIDS.
Being aware of the symptoms and transmission of HIV, as well as preventative measures, means you have a much better chance of avoiding catching it.
HIV testing is crucial because HIV often goes undetected for a great deal of time, which means an increased chance of somebody unwittingly passing the virus on to others.
HIV typically displays itself initially as a flu-like illness between 2-6 weeks after a person is first exposed to the virus. These initial flu-like symptoms, which include fever, fatigue, swollen glands and joint or muscle pain, are evidence that a person's immune system is attempting to fight off the HIV infection. However, these initial symptoms typically subside after around 2-3 weeks - after which the virus can lie dormant and undetected for several years.
HIV Home Testing
An HIV self-test is one of the most common ways of finding out if you are HIV positive, as they produce rapid results in just 20 minutes or less and can be carried out from the comfort and safety of your home. These self-testing kits use technology that closely resembles an at-home pregnancy test, only they require a blood sample to detect the presence of HIV antibodies.
The antibodies your body produces when your immune system is fighting off HIV are unique to the virus and are therefore a reliable indicator of whether or not the virus is present in your body. In-home rapid HIV tests have been extensively tested and refined by scientists to the point that they are incredibly accurate and effective. These HIV tests have a proven clinical sensitivity of 99.7%, meaning that every 997 of 1000 positive results will be accurate.
If you test negative after taking a rapid test, the clinical sensitivity of the results is even higher, with a 99.9% accuracy rating out of every 1000 tests taken. Anyone looking into doing in-home HIV testing should be aware that the rate at which a person's immune system develops antibodies when infected with HIV varies from case to case.
It can take up to 12 weeks for HIV tests to accurately detect antibodies in someone infected. Therefore, anybody concerned they may have contracted the virus should try speaking with sexual health or medical professionals and arrange for a lab test.