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Family Planning

HIV, AIDS and STIs…Explained

If you’ve ever been told the following statements,  ‘I’m HIV+, I have AIDS.’ ‘All contraception prevents STIs.’, don’t believe them! There is unfortunately a lot of false information out there about HIV, AIDS and STIs, which can lead to unnecessary infection. In this article, we’d like to separate fact from fiction. Here is what you need to know about HIV, AIDS and STIs.

The difference between HIV and AIDS

HIV is a virus

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus; it attacks your immune system and causes it to deteriorate and not work effectively. It leaves you susceptible to contracting other viruses and infections. At this point in time, There is no cure for HIV, but it can be controlled by taking antiretrovirals (ARVs). 

AIDS is a syndrome

HIV can lead to a condition called Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). The symptoms of AIDS are connected to the infection(s) you may have developed because your body was unable to fight them due to your weakened immune system; common infections include tuberculosis (TB), pneumonia, cryptococcal meningitis and certain cancers.

HIV doesn’t always progress to AIDS

As mentioned earlier, HIV is a virus that can cause a condition called AIDS. Therefore, it’s imperative to understand that if you are HIV+, it won’t necessarily progress to AIDs. The medical advancements in treatment have the potential for an individual living with HIV to have an excellent quality of life. 

STIs

Sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) can be spread in two ways: through the exchange of infected bodily fluids, e.g. semen, blood and vaginal fluids. However, STIs can also be transferred through skin-to-skin contact, e.g. Human papillomavirus (HPV.)

There are over 25 STIs that can be contracted from unprotected sex; the most common STIs include:

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhoea
  • Syphilis
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Pubic lice
  • Hepatitis B
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)

The best way to avoid contracting an STI is to practice safe sex. This means using effective contraceptive methods such as male and female condoms. If you use another form of birth control, please be aware that it may prevent pregnancy but not the transference of STIs – ensure that you choose the contraceptive methods that suit you best.

Source: Marie Stopes South Africa (Safe Abortion and Post Abortion Family Planning)

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