HIV – your top questions answered
While we’ve all heard about HIV and AIDS, there are always questions that remain unanswered… So Love Matters has collected some queries from our readers – along with the answers!
‘Is the virus in the semen or in the sperm?’
The virus can be found in seminal fluid, but also in blood, vaginal and anal fluids and even breast milk.
‘Is it true women are at a higher risk of being infected?’
Yes, that’s true. One of the reasons is that women are more likely to get small wounds during sex, for example when they are very dry or the sex is rough. That makes it easier for the virus to enter the body. Other reasons include having less access to education and a higher risk of being a victim of violence.
‘If I got HIV, are there any drugs I can take immediately?’
If you think you may have been exposed, you can go on an emergency drug course called PEP (short for post-exposure prophylaxis). The sooner you start, the better. The medication will need to be taken for 28 days. Unfortunately, many people experience side effects during this period, such as nausea and diarrhoea. PEP is very effective, but sadly not 100 per cent.
‘How can I ask my boyfriend to take a HIV test with me without making things awkward between us?’
It’s great you want to do it together – that in itself will help make this tough conversation a bit easier. Be honest with him about why this is important to you – it could be that you want both of you to be safe, or that it’s a rule you have before sleeping with someone. It won’t be an easy conversation, but stand up for yourself, and be proud that you care about the wellbeing of both of you.
‘Is it possible to live with someone who is positive and you remain negative?’
Yes, absolutely! You will need to take some precautions, but someone’s status shouldn’t stand in the way of a loving relationship. It would be best to get advice from a healthcare provider or a VCT on condom use, viral load, pregnancy and other subjects before you start making love.
‘Can someone get AIDS through kisses or oral sex?’
Getting an HIV-infection through kissing is pretty much impossible, unless both of you have blood-gushing wounds in your mouths. The risks for oral sex are also quite low. Using condoms or dental dams (a piece of latex to cover the vulva) can be used to decrease these odds even further – especially if you have bleeding gums and sores, other wounds or STDs.
‘Can you get HIV when a lady has a lot of water in her private parts?’
You can only get infected if you have sex with someone who is HIV-positive and vaginal fluid can indeed contain the virus. Being very wet, however, isn’t a sign of HIV infection but rather it’s a normal reaction to arousal.
‘Is the total cure for this virus out? Or how long can you live with the virus?’
Unfortunately, not yet. It’s very difficult because the virus constantly changes (mutates). Scientists are working hard on a vaccine and other ways to prevent infections. The good news is that with the current drugs available, many people can live relatively normal lives. That’s especially the case if you follow your doctor’s instructions regarding medication very, very carefully and if you lead a healthy lifestyle.