Q. What is HIV?

Ans. HIV stands for Human Immuno-Deficiency Virus. HIV after entering the human body gradually destroys the immune system, i.e. the ability to fight infections/diseases.

What is AIDS?

Ans. AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. It is the later stage of HIV infection. It is a condition in which a group of symptoms appear as the immune system becomes very weak. It can take around 8-10 years from the time of HIV infection to the stage of AIDS. HIV infected people can lead symptom–free and productive lives for years.

Q. Do all people with HIV have AIDS?

Ans. No. Being diagnosed with HIV does not mean a person will also be diagnosed with AIDS. Healthcare professionals diagnose AIDS only when people with HIV infection begin to get severe opportunistic infections (OIs), or their CD4cell counts fall below a certain level.

Q. How do people get infected with HIV?

Ans. HIV can be transmitted through: Unprotected sex with an HIV infected person; Transfusion of HIV infected blood or blood products; Sharing of needles contaminated with HIV infected blood; and from HIV infected mother to her baby – during pregnancy, during birth or after delivery through breast milk. Apart from the above modes of transmission, HIV doesn’t spread by any other way, HIV doesn’t spread through ordinary social contact; for example, by shaking hands, traveling in the same bus, eating from same utensils, by hugging or social kissing etc.

Q. Why the HIV/ AIDS epidemic is considered so serious?

Ans. HIV generally affects people at the most productive age, leading to premature death thereby severely affecting the socio-economic structure of whole families, communities and countries. Secondly, HIV infection goes unnoticed in the initial years because it is not symptomatic in the initial phase. Thus, early detection, treatment and management get tough. This is the reason why HIV / AIDS is often called a silent killer. A considerable amount of stigma and discrimination is associated with AIDS, which creates hindrance in prevention as well as care and support efforts. And, because HIV spreads mostly through sexual contact which being very personal and private affair, it becomes difficult to address it.

Q. Can I get HIV from getting a tattoo or through body piercing?

Ans. A risk of HIV transmission does exist if instruments contaminated with blood are either not sterilized or disinfected or are used inappropriately between clients. It is recommended that instruments that are intended to penetrate the skin be used once, then disposed of or thoroughly cleaned and sterilized. Personal service workers who do tattooing or body piercing should be educated about how HIV is transmitted and take precautions to prevent transmission of HIV and other blood-borne infections in their settings. If you are considering getting a tattoo or having your body pierced, ask staff at the establishment what procedures they use to prevent the spread of HIV and other blood-borne infections, such as hepatitis B virus.

Q. Why is injecting drug use a risk for HIV?

Ans. At the start of every intravenous injecting episode, blood from the vein is drawn in for confirmation and thus blood is introduced into needles and syringes. HIV is present in large quantity in the blood of a person infected with the virus. The reuse of a HIV infected blood -contaminated needle or syringe by another drug injector (sometimes called "direct syringe sharing" has some quantity of the HIV infected blood present in the hollow of the needle and the base of the syringe cylinder. Hence the reuse of such needles and syringes carry high risk of HIV transmission or any other blood borne virus when pushed into the blood stream of the next user. In addition, using some unsterilized medical equipment can pose a risk of spreading HIV. "Street sellers" of syringes may repackage used unsterilized syringes and sell them as sterile syringes. For this reason, people who continue to inject drugs should obtain syringes from reliable sources of sterile syringes, such as pharmacies and NGOs implementing IDU-Targeted Intervention under NACP. It is important to know that sharing a needle, syringe or any other injecting paraphernalia for any use, including skin-piercing and injecting steroids, can put one at risk for HIV and other blood-borne infections.