Prepared by Loo Han Boon, Pharmacist
What is HIV/AIDS?
World Health Organization defines HIV as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that infects cells of immune system, destroying or impairing their function. Infection with the virus results in progressive deterioration of the immune system, leading to immunodeficiency where eventually it can no longer fulfil its role of fighting infection and disease.
AIDS is referring to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome which is a term applied to most advanced stages of HIV infection. It is defined by occurrence of any of more than 20 opportunistic infections or HIV-related cancers.
In other words, HIV is the virus that causes AIDS and AIDS is the result of progression of HIV infection.
How is HIV transmitted?
HIV can be transmitted through several means as listed below:
- Unprotected sexual intercourse (vaginal or anal) with infected partner
- Exposure of broken skin or wound to infected blood or body fluids
- Transfusion with HIV-infected blood
- Sharing of contaminated needles, syringes or surgical equipment
- Transmitted between mother and child during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding
HIV cannot survive long outside the human body and are destroyed when exposed to oxygen or sunlight. The virus will not be able to transmit through the air or by mosquitoes’ bites (or any other blood sucking insects). Furthermore, hand shaking and hugging a person who has HIV will not get you infected since HIV can only be spread via the blood (and certain body fluids). Infection will not take place if the blood with HIV do not enter into the bloodstream. Sharing of public facilities such as swimming pools, public telephone or public toilets are safe as well.
What are the body fluids that contain high concentration of HIV?
- Pre-ejaculation fluids
- Vaginal fluids
- Breast milk
HIV can be transmitted through the above-mentioned body fluids. However, other body fluids such as saliva, sweat, urine, etc. with low concentration of HIV will not be able to spread the virus.
Can a person with HIV is distinguished from the physical?
No. The status of HIV infection can only be identified by taking HIV screening test.
Where can a person get HIV testing and how much does it cost?
One may undergo HIV screening test at the government hospitals and clinics for free.
Is there a cure for HIV?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for HIV but the progression of the disease can be slowed with good adherence to the treatment. People infected with HIV can remain well and productive for extended period of time with proper treatment.
- World Health Organization. HIV/AIDS: Online Q&A. Available from: https://www.who.int/features/qa/71/en/ [Accessed 23rd November 2019].
- Ministry of Health Malaysia. Country Progress Report on HIV/ AIDS. 2018. p. 2, 4.
- Malaysian AIDS Council. Education and awareness. Available from: http://www.mac.org.my/v3/what-we-do/awareness/ [Accessed 23rd November 2019].