What is AIDS?

AIDS stands for “Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome”. It is caused by a virus called “Human Immunodeficiency Virus”, or HIV.

HIV is incapable of causing direct symptoms, but once the virus enters the body through blood vessels, they will begin to attack the “T4 Lymphocytes” (white blood cells and macrophages) reside within the immune system, weakening the immune system’s ability to self-repair. Meanwhile, some harmless disease such as pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), which normally do not affect healthy person, begins their infection and thus turning HIV carrier into AIDS patient. Currently there are no definitive effective cure that can completely eradicate HIV virus, yet several adopted treatments have greatly expand AIDS patients life expectancy and quality of life.

HIV exists within the carrier’s bodily fluids, such as semen, blood and vaginal prostate secretory, which the infected person can infect other person through bodily fluid transmission. Besides, the virus count of HIV exists in saliva, sweat, tears and urine are insignificant to cause infection. An HIV carrier may not have any initial symptoms and they cannot be identified by any external features, therefore only through HIV screening test we can confirm whether a person has been infected.

At the early stage of infection, an infected patient may experience:

Incubation Period

AIDS can take 10 to 15 years to develop after the infection with HIV.

Prevention

The definition of HIV prevention refers to no direct contact to HIV-loaded body fluid. Condom is a highly effective protection which serves as a physical barrier. Meanwhile, AIDS Concern supports a combination of preventive strategies to HIV (comprehensively use a variety of approaches) - recent studies show that PrEP is one intervention additional to a whole range of HIV prevention tools, click here to learn more.

Research indicates that PEP, if adopted within 72 hours of exposure, can reduce an infected person’s chance of becoming HIV positive even where HIV has already entered the body. Click here to learn more.

Testing is the last means but early testing can help early diagnoses and proper medication. Regular testing is crucial to maintain sexual health and thus recommended to be done every 6 months.

Window Period

In general, if a healthy person is infected with HIV, the body will take approximately 12 weeks to produce enough antibodies, in which the HIV can be detected during the blood test. It can take up to three months for HIV antibodies to develop after a person has been infected (i.e. the window period). As the blood test result might not be 100% accurate during the window period, thus it is important to adopt preventive measures to reduce the possibility of infecting your sex partner.

You can determine whether you are infected with HIV through blood test by detecting HIV antibodies. A positive test result means that you are infected with HIV, and there is a possibility that you can spread it to others. A negative test result means either that you have not been infected with HIV, or there is a possibility that your body has not yet produces enough antibodies at the time of testing.

Treatment

Infected with HIV does not equivalent to immediate medication treatment. Physicians will base on the HIV virus count and T4 cell count to prescribe medication. At this moment, there is no definitive effective cure for AIDS, however, there are adopted treatments available to reduce the level of the virus inside the body, thus it is possible to postpone the development of AIDS and from other bacteria, and improve the AIDS patient’s health and quality of life. Once started, HIV medication treatment are life term(life long) and HIV patients will have to return to his physician or clinic for regular follow up to check the progress and make necessary modificaiton in the treatment.

Friendly Reminder

Knowing that you are HIV positive can be a traumatic experience. Therefore it is recommended to seek counseling guidance before you receive HIV screening test. If you are HIV positive, try to maintain a balanced diet, exercise and rest can further boost your body immune system to stay healthy.

“Aids Concern” is now providing free-of-charge HIV antibody screening test, please call 2394-6677 for enquiry.

Support to People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLHIV)

As figures of HIV infection among MSM continue to rise, AIDS Concerns offers counselling and mental support services. Generally, newly diagnosed individuals face a lot of stress from medical, employment and family issues. If you need any assistance, do not hesitate to contact us at:

Phone: 2394 6677 (KB/Alan/Amy/Colinette)
E-mail: poz@aidsconcern.org.hk
Website: http://www.poz.org.hk 
For Further Assistance: