Facts about HIV & AIDS

10 things you should know about AIDS

1. In South Africa it is estimated that 5.6 million people are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This means South Africa continues to have the worlds largest epidemic (UNAIDS, Global report fact sheet)

2. We have the fastest growing HIV infection rate in the world, an estimated 1800 people become infected every day. It's not happening somewhere else, it is happening here.

3. When someone tests positive for the virus, he or she is HIV+. Being HIV+ is not a death sentence. People can live for many years in good health with HIV.

4. Being HIV+ does not mean having AIDS. AIDS is a syndrome that happens after many years of being HIV+, when the immune system, the body's natural defence system, breaks down and can't fight infections. People do not die from AIDS, but the infections their bodies can not fight.

5. HIV enters the body through the sharing of body fluids like semen, vaginal fluid and blood. HIV is spread from one person to another by:

• Unsafe sex (sex without using a latex condom)
• From mother to child (during childbirth or breast feeding)
• Through sharing HIV infected 'sharps': needles and razors

6. You can't get HIV through 'casual contact' like kissing, hugging, sharing cups, plates and utensils, toilet seats, swimming pools, tears or saliva.

7. HIV does not discriminate. It doesn't care about race, gender, sexual preference or age. It is not a gay, white or black disease. People of all races and creeds can become HIV+.

8. The best thing you can do to fight AIDS is prevent becoming infected. Practise safer sex: have sex with only one partner and use a condom every time you have sex. It's not easy, but talk to your partner about using condoms BEFORE you have sex. In the middle of it, may be too late.

9. If you know someone with HIV, treat them with the love and respect you always have. Fear, ignorance and prejudice not only create the stigma of HIV, but encourage the spread of the virus by creating a wall of silence and denial about AIDS.

10. There is no cure for AIDS, but you can be careful and play safe. It's your body. It's your life. It's worth it.