HIV/AIDS

AIDS means Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. It is a disease that destroys your ability to fight other infections through your immune system. You get AIDS from a virus called HIV – Human Immunodeficiency Virus.
People who get HIV can stay healthy for many years and most infected people do not even know that they are HIV positive. There are no visible signs to show that a person is infected. They can pass the disease on to other people by having unprotected sex with them.

The second phase of the disease is when you get AIDS and start becoming ill more easily. AIDS itself does not kill people – they usually die from other infections like flu, diarrhoea, pneumonia or TB. Poor people who are not well nourished and live in bad conditions, tend to become ill and die much sooner than others.
Some of the symptoms of a person living with AIDS could be losing weight very quickly and getting ill often with things like flu or pneumonia or stomach problems.

How Do You Get AIDS
There are only three ways to get AIDS: unprotected sex, contact with infected blood or body fluids and mother to baby transmission.

Unprotected Sex:

This is the most common way that people get AIDS – If you have sex with an HIV-positive person.

Contact with infected blood
If you have an open wound and it comes into contact with the blood of an HIV positive person, you can get infected. This contact could be through using the same needles for drugs or unsafe instruments used for circumcision. You can also get it from blood transfusions if the blood is contaminated [in SA all blood is screened]. Medical workers can get it from accidentally pricking themselves with needles they have used to inject HIV positive people.

Mother to baby transmission
HIV positive mothers can pass the infection to their babies, although this does not happen in all cases. Transmission can happen during pregnancy, or childbirth because of the contact with blood, or during breast feeding.
Social attitudes
The biggest problem in fighting AIDS is breaking the silence that surrounds the epidemic. Although thousands of people are ill or dying, it is not spoken about and families often hide the fact that their relatives had AIDS.



People still feel that it is something that happens to others and not to their families. People who are infected fear rejection and discrimination from those around them and try to hide their illness. Although testing is available, only about one in ten people who are HIV positive know it. This means that they can carry on infecting others without knowing it.
• Methods of drug treatment
• Safer injecting practices and other messages for IDUs
• Principles of working with IDUs
• Effectiveness of harm reduction interventions
• Testing and treatment for HIV + IDUs
• Providing care and support for HIV + IDUs

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