At the end of 2013, 35 million people were living with HIV globally, according to the World Health Organisation, and 11.7 million people had access to antiretroviral therapy (ARTs) in low- and middle-income countries.
Due to better and cheaper treatments, people with HIV are now living longer and with a better quality of life than ever before. However, it is crucial to surround yourself with a support network and to seek counselling.
By making certain lifestyle choices, you can keep healthy and protect others. These include:
Take your HIV medication as directed. Not taking it correctly may lower the level of immune system defenders called CD4 cells and cause the level of virus in your blood (viral load) to go up. Medicines then become less effective when taken.
Some people report not feeling well as a reason for stopping their medication or not taking it as prescribed. Consult with your doctor if your medicines are making you sick. He/she may be able to help you deal with side effects so you can feel better. Don't just stop taking your medicines – your good heath, and even your life, depends on it.
Share your status
Ensure your partner knows you have HIV. They will then know it's important to use condoms for all sexual activity and to be tested often for HIV.
Some health departments offer counselling services to help you tell your partners about their exposure. Many of these provide free services to people with HIV or other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and their partners. These include helping find sex or drug-injection partners to let them know of their risk of being exposed to HIV or another STIs and provide them with testing, counselling and referrals for other services.
Don't take risks
HIV is spread through body fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. HIV is most commonly passed from one person to another through unprotected anal or vaginal sex and through sharing needles or other drug equipment.
A mother can also pass HIV to her baby during pregnancy, during labour, through breastfeeding, or by pre-chewing her baby's food.
Abstinence (not having sex) is the best way to prevent the spread of HIV infection and some other STIs. If abstinence is not possible, use condoms whenever you have sex – vaginal, anal, or oral.
Do not share drug equipment. Blood can get into needles, syringes, and other equipment. If the blood has HIV in it, the infection can be spread to the next user.
Do not share items that may have your blood on them, such as razors or toothbrushes.
How Clicks Clinics can help you
Are you worried that you may have contracted HIV? Clicks Clinics offers HIV testing and counselling.
To make an appointment at a Clicks Clinic, call 0860 254 257 or visit Clicks Pharmacies and Clinics online.