About HIV and AIDs

What is HIV and AIDS?

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) weakens the white blood cells in the body, so the cells are no longer able to defend the body effectively against infections.
With early and effective treatment, people living with HIV can lead lives no different from others. However, if someone infected with HIV does not seek treatment early enough, their immune system can become weak. The disease then progresses to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

How is HIV transmitted?

HIV is transmitted:
• During unprotected sexual intercourse with an HIV-infected partner
• Through the sharing of contaminated needles and sharps
• From an infected mother to her baby during pregnancy, at birth, or through breastfeeding
• By receiving infected blood and blood products (e.g. organs, plasma)
HIV does not spread via shaking hands, hugging or touching; saliva, tears or sweat; sharing of food or drinks.

How can I prevent HIV?

You can protect yourself by:
• Not engaging in casual sex
• Being faithful to your partner and being honest about your sexual history
• Practising safer sex with a condom, especially if you have multiple sex partners
• Always remembering to use a new condom during each intercourse
• Using only clean, sterile needles and using a reliable service provider when getting a piercing, tattoo or injection
• Asking your doctor about preventive medicines

Preventive medications

There are preventive medications that can be used for potential exposure to HIV. Medication that is taken after exposure is called Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) and can reduce the risk of becoming infected with HIV.
This medication may be recommended after a rape, injuries caused by needles that puncture the skin or if a condom has broken during a high-risk sexual activity.

How do I know if I have HIV?

Usually, an HIV-infected person may not notice any symptoms. However, some people may experience the following:
• Tiredness
• Weight loss
• Prolonged fever
• Night sweats
• Skin rash
• Persistent diarrhoea
• Lowered resistance to infections
The only way to be sure of your HIV status is to go for a test.

Where can I get tested for HIV in Singapore?

You can get yourself tested for STIs or HIV/ AIDS at polyclinics, private clinics and hospitals in Singapore. Most clinics offer routine HIV screening services, while some also offer rapid HIV testing.
If you prefer anonymity, there are clinics in Singapore that offer anonymous HIV rapid tests. No identifiable information will be taken during anonymous testing. Instead, a number not linked to your identity is assigned to the test.

Can HIV be treated?

While there is currently no cure for HIV, there are advancements in medical treatment which have shown that HIV can be suppressed effectively with early and consistent treatment. Knowing your HIV status early allows you to seek treatment and delay the onset of AIDs and further complications.

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