BY MICHAEL GOLDING
The first week of June brings with it many changes: a drop in temperature, change of season and the annual NSW HIV Testing Week which runs from June 1 to June 7.
When people hear about HIV, they think ‘AIDS’ (which stands for Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome). But these two viruses are different: HIV is a virus that may cause an infection; AIDS is a condition or a syndrome. Being infected with HIV can lead to having AIDS which develops when HIV has caused serious damage to the immune system.
Here are things you need to know about HIV in Australia: an estimated 26,900 people in Australia alone live with HIV; around 24,100 are men and 2,800 are women (Data collected to end of 2013).
This complicated and often deadly virus is known to be primarily transmitted by men who have sex with men. But there are ways to prevent the transmission of HIV: The first (in big capital letters): HAVE SAFE SEX – condoms are amazing and should be used any time you intend to have sex; also, sharing needles can transmit the virus, so if you must inject anything in your body please do so safely.
If you think you have been exposed to the virus get yourself tested. There are now rapid tests available which gives you a 98% accuracy rate of a positive or negative result.
If you have tested positive do not worry – there is some hope thanks to a little drug called PEP (Post Exposure Prophylaxis). This is a four week treatment program that can prevent you from being infected. There are some side affects but if there is a possibility of stopping HIVs spread then it might be worth putting up with these.
So between June 1 and June 7 head to any Sydney Sexual Health Center and get yourself tested to find out your status. And you won’t have to worry about payment because most places will charge you nothing.
For more information head to the Ending HIV page. Get yourself tested and make the world a safer place.
Featured image by: Jon Rawlinson