What is HIV/AIDS?

HIV/AIDS is the world’s leading infectious killer, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

15 January 2016

An estimated 39 million people have died since the first cases were reported in 1981 and 1.5 million people died of AIDS-related causes in 2013 (latest data).

South Africa has the highest HIV incidence in the world with a recent Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) survey indicating that the total number of HIV-positive South Africans stands at about 6.4 million.

HIV is primarily a sexually transmitted infection, but it can also be spread via exposure to infected blood (for example, sharing needles) and from mother to child during childbirth.

HIV causes the immune system to become weakened, as it destroys disease-fighting T-cells (also called CD4 cells), leaving the body vulnerable to common diseases, like tuberculosis, and opportunistic infections that a healthy immune system would be able to fend off.

Most HIV-infected people who do not receive treatment will eventually become ill and die of complications from HIV infection.

HIV diagnosis is done with a blood test, which can pick up HIV-specific antibodies in the blood. The severity of the HIV infection is classified according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), starting with the symptomless Primary HIV Infection, then progressing through four clinical stages, each with its own characteristics (with Stage IV indicating AIDS).

AIDS is diagnosed when an HIV-positive person’s CD4 cell count drops below 200 (that is, less than 200 cells per microlitre of blood) – a healthy person’s CD4 count can vary from 500 to more than 1000.

Usually HIV testing is done in conjunction with pre- and post-test counselling to help people better understand the disease, their HIV status and – if they test positive – their treatment options.

Anyone of any age, race, sex or sexual orientation can be infected, but you're at greatest risk of HIV/AIDS if you:

  • Have unprotected sex: This means having sex without using a new latex or polyurethane condom. Anal sex is more risky than vaginal sex. The risk increases if you have multiple sex partners.
  • Have another sexually transmitted infection (STIs): Many STIs produce open sores on your genitals, which make it easier for HIV to enter your body.
  • Use intravenous drugs: People who use intravenous drugs often share needles and syringes, which exposes them to drops of other people's blood.
  • Are an uncircumcised man: Studies indicate that lack of circumcision increases the risk of heterosexual transmission of HIV.

How Clicks Clinics can help you

Did you know Clicks offers HIV testing and counselling at their clinics? To make an appointment at a Clicks Clinic, call 0860 254 257 or book online at Clicks Clinics online

HIV home test kits are also available for purchase in-store.

Shop for condoms on Clicks.co.za

Don't be caught unawares – rather stock up on condoms via the convenience of online shopping so that you can ensure you're practising safe sex at all times.

Read More: HIV/AIDS Super Section