6 HIV facts to shout about

1. It’s not all about condoms

Believe it or not, condoms aren’t the only way to prevent HIV. Thanks to recent developments, carefree sex is possible these days if you don’t always use condoms.

First off, people living with HIV can now achieve ‘undetectable’ levels of virus in their body, meaning they cannot pass HIV on. So as long as they are regularly monitored by their doctor who has given them the all clear – they can have sex safely knowing they are ‘untransmittable’ for HIV.

There’s also ‘PrEP’ (pre-exposure prophylaxis), which if taken by an HIV-negative person will virtually eliminate their chances of getting HIV, even if they don’t use a condom.

So if a person is HIV-negative and on PrEP, and their partner is HIV-positive and undetectable – HIV is pretty much covered.

Unfortunately, we’ve haven’t quite got savvy enough to prevent other STIs without condoms, so just be aware of that and get regularly tested.

2. We don’t really say ‘AIDS’ anymore…

With the word ‘AIDS’ comes connotations of wasting away and death. But HIV and AIDS are not the same thing, and the reality is that millions of people are living healthily with HIV.

AIDS used to be a catch-all term for a number of medical conditions related to an unknown virus – what we now know to be HIV. It’s still used medically to define a specific bunch of illnesses that you get if your immune system fails as a result of HIV. But thanks to antiretrovrial treatment, it’s less common for HIV to damage someone’s immune system to the point that these illnesses occur. Some, including the World Health Organization, have actually scrapped the term ‘AIDS’ altogether, instead referring to ‘clinical stage 4’.

But why does it matter? It’s just terminology, isn’t it?

The negative imagery associated with AIDS has been really unhelpful in getting people to come forward to test for HIV. Being HIV-positive today doesn’t look like the horrible AIDS deaths heavily imprinted on our minds. With treatment, HIV is now a manageable condition, and AIDS is no longer the reality for the large majority of people living with HIV.

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