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HIV AIDS - The Must Know Facts read

Feb 11 2021


1st December is observed across the globe as World AIDS day to increase the awareness about HIV/AIDS. Till date, there is neither a vaccine nor a cure for HIV. Awareness and knowledge remains our prime weapon against the disease for many myths and stereotypes revolving around the condition, are untrue. Here is a look at some facts that you must know about HIV.

HIV transmission

What CAN cause HIV infection?

HIV spreads when blood or body fluids get transmitted from an infected person to a non-infected person. The body fluids that can transmit HIV are blood, semen and pre-ejaculatory fluid, vaginal fluid and breast milk. Urine, saliva and tears have a minimal concentration of HIV and are not known to transmit the infection. Known modes of HIV transmission are:


  • Vaginal sex without a condom
  • Anal sex without a condom
  • Sharing needles and syringes, spoons, filters etc. used to inject drugs
  • Oral sex. The risk is much lower but the infection is possible.
  • From infected mother to baby
  • Contaminated tattoo needles or shaving instruments (though this is not a common mode)

Theoretically, blood transfusion, surgical procedures or receiving injections at a clinic can cause infection too but doesn’t because adequate precautions are taken in healthcare settings.

What does NOT cause infection?


  • Kissing or biting - the quantity of virus present in the saliva is usually insufficient to cause infection.
  • Hugging, shaking hands, working together, sharing cups and plates
  • Sitting next to an infected individual who is sneezing, coughing or spitting
  • Using swimming pools, toilet seats, showers used by an infected person
  • Playing sports together
  • Mosquito bites


HIV Testing

HIV testing is rapidly evolving. Here are some currently available HIV tests:


  1. Antibody Tests: Most commonly tests for HIV to check for antibodies to the virus. HIV ELISA is a widely available antibody test. Positive results are often followed up with a more detailed antibody test called Western Blot. Rapid Tests are also a type of antibody test. Their main advantage over other antibody tests is that they can produce quick results and do not require laboratory facilities. You can now get tested for HIV using a saliva sample and know your results within just 15-20 minutes using a rapid test. HIV Home Tests are available in some countries to check for antibodies to the virus. Home testing is not encouraged due to the lack of counseling before and after the test.

    How soon can antibody tests detect HIV? Antibody tests become positive much laters, sometime from six weeks to three months of infection. This is known as the “window period”. Hence, it is recommended that you get tested after three months of last exposure to a possible source of infection.
  2. P24 Antigen Tests: It’s a test that can detect the presence of an HIV protein called P24. Soon after contracting HIV infection, P24 can be detected in the blood but becomes gradually undetectable as the HIV antibody level rises. P24 antigen tests are not usually used for diagnostic purposes.
  3. Fourth Generation Tests: These tests combine P24 antigen tests with standard antibody tests to reduce the ‘diagnostic window’. Since these tests are quick to detect the virus, the treatment process can also begin right away.


Should I Get Tested?

If you answer yes to any of the questions below, you should definitely get tested.


  1. Have you had unprotected sex with someone whose history of sex partners and/or drug use is unknown to you?
  2. Have you had unprotected sex with men who have sex with men, multiple partners, or anonymous partners recently?
  3. Have you shared needles to inject recreational drugs or steroids or to pierce your skin or recently got tattoos?
  4. Have you had a blood transfusion before April 1985 (before the routine screening of blood for HIV started)?
  5. Have you had unprotected sex with someone who could answer yes to any of the above questions?



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