How to stay safe from HIV

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that damages and destroys the body’s immune system. The immune system defends the body from all the diseases that attack the body. Once a person is contacted with HIV, there is no way to get rid of it as it is not curable but new drugs can help the people to stay in good health and live longer.

Ways to stay safe:

Avoid Unprotected Sex: Both men and women can get infected through unprotected sex and blood to blood contact. In case of unprotected sex (without condoms), HIV infected semen as well as vaginal fluid and blood from one person can pass on to another person through tiny cuts or sores in the vagina, penis, etc. This is, in general, the most common way of spreading the disease.

HIV transmission becomes easier when any person is already infected with some other sexually transmitted infection (SFI) as the STI can harm the skin of the sexual organs thereby making it easier for the contaminated blood to enter the bloodstream.

Needles and drugs: Needle sharing among the drug addicts is a very common, effective and easy way of transmitting HIV. Again using the same needle for two or more persons in taking out and/ or injecting blood can be dangerous and highly risky for any individuals. Reuse or sharing of a blood polluted needle by another drug injector carries risks of HIV communication as the infected blood can be directly injected into the blood stream of the uninfected person.

Mother to child transmission (MTCT): Mother to child transmission takes place when an HIV infected women pass the virus to her baby at the time of pregnancy, labor and delivery or breastfeeding. This has been virtually eliminated in the high income countries. If the HIV infected mothers are not treated properly, there is a high chance that around 30% babies born to these mothers get infected with HIV during pregnancy and delivery. Another 10-20% gets infected through breast feeding.

Transfusion of blood: Blood transfusion is the process of transferring blood from one person into the circulatory system of another person. The good news is that the risk of spreading HIV to blood transfusion recipients has been radically removed due to the improved donor selection and receptive serologic screening.