HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). When HIV gets into a person’s body, the person is then infected with HIV.
HIV can damage a person’s immune system, which is the part of the body that fights infections and keeps us healthy.

When a person’s immune system is damaged, the HIV-infected person start to get frequent diseases or illnesses, they are said to have AIDS.

HIV can be found in different body fluids including blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. To get HIV, one of these fluids from an infected person has to get inside your body. The most common ways one can become infected with HIV:

  • Sex – One can get HIV by having unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex (without a condom) with an HIV infected person.
  • Being born with it – HIV-positive mothers can transmit the virus to their babies during pregnancy, delivery, or even through breastfeeding.
  • Infected blood and blood products or infected sharps – If a person receives a blood transfusion with HIV positive blood, or received an infected organ transplant he or she can become infected with HIV. One can get HIV by using needles, syringes, blades, and other sharps infected with HIV.
  • Touching
  • Casual contact with someone who has HIV
  • Hugging
  • Kissing with an infected person without cut or bleeding
  • Sharing drinking glasses
  • Playing with an infected person
  • Eating at the same table with an HIV positive person
  • Contacting tears, saliva, sweat, urine
  • Through mosquito or insect bites

Myth – widely held but false beliefs and ideas.

  • Herbal medicine can cure HIV- No cure for HIV. Herbal or traditional medicines can interact poorly with ARVs.
  • Only certain groups of people can be infected with HIV- HIV does not discriminate between types of people, though some people are more vulnerable to HIV infection because of their involvement in risky lifestyles.
  • People living with HIV cannot safely have children- A pregnant HIV-positive woman on ART has a 1% or less risk of transmitting HIV to the baby if she adheres to her medication throughout her entire pregnancy (including labour and delivery) and continues for 4 to 6 weeks after birth.
  • HIV is a death sentence- With proper treatment people living with HIV can live a normal life span.
  • Having sex with a virgin, using contraceptive pills, or taking a shower after sex can protect you from contracting HIV. When someone is involved in sex, the only methods of HIV prevention are condoms or pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
  • HIV can be transmitted or contracted through witchcraft.
  • Having sex with a virgin can cure HIV.
  • HIV is a punishment from God.

You can get HIV:

  • From someone who does not have HIV- You can only contract HIV from someone who is already living with HIV
  • By kissing- HIV cannot be transmitted when kissing involves skin-to-skin contact such as a peck on the cheek or hand. However, contracting HIV is likely to occur when kissing involves tongue and exchange of saliva with someone living with HIV who has a cut or ulcer in and around the month.
  • From water- HIV cannot survive in water. Someone cannot contract HIV from swimming pools, baths, shower areas, washing clothes, or drinking water.
  • From tattoos and piercings- someone can only be infected with HIV if the instruments used were infected with the blood of HIV positive person. Professionals are required to use new needles for each new client.
  • From HIV-infected person who coughs, sneezes, or spits.
  • From food, drink, and cooking utensils – HIV cannot be transmitted through sharing food, drinks, or cooking utensils, even if the person preparing your food is living with HIV.
  • From toilet seats, tables, door handles, sharing towels- You cannot contract HIV from any of these as it can only be transmitted through specific bodily fluids.
  • HIV can only be transmitted through blood, semen, or vaginal secretions – Other body fluids like pre-cum and breast milk may also contain HIV and all can transmit the virus.
  • From sweat, tears, urine, or faeces of someone who infected with HIV – No, because the virus can only be transmitted through specific bodily fluids.
  • By touching, hugging, and shaking hands with someone who is infected with HIV – No, because the virus can only be transmitted through specific bodily fluids.
  • By sharing space with someone who is HIV-positive – HIV cannot survive in the air so you cannot get it from sharing a space with someone who is HIV-positive
  • If I take PrEP, I do not need to use a condom – PrEP is a medication that can prevent HIV infection in advance if taken daily. However, it does not protect against other sexually transmitted diseases or infections. Therefore, PrEP is recommended to be used in combination with safer sex practices.
  • If I’m getting treatment, I cannot spread the virus. HIV treatments can lower the amount of virus in the blood significantly to a level that the virus cannot be detected in the blood. This is called an undetectable viral load. If the viral load is undetectable in the blood, it cannot transmit the virus. But if someone who is HIV positive does not adhere strictly to ART treatment the person can transmit the virus to others.
  • If both partners have HIV, there is no reason for a condom- Someone living with HIV and adhere strictly to antiretroviral treatment can reduce the virus to undetectable levels in the blood and less likely to transmit HIV to a partner during sex. The current medical consensus is that “Undetectable = Untransmittable.” However, it is recommended that even if both partners are living with HIV, they should use condoms during every sexual encounter. In some cases, it’s possible to transmit a different strain of HIV to a partner, or in some rare cases, transmit a form of HIV that is considered a “superinfection” from a strain that is resistant to current ARVs.
  • Those who test negative for HIV can have unprotected sex – If someone was recently diagnosed with HIV, the HIV may not show up on an HIV test until up to three months after exposure. Therefore, a second HIV test is recommended after three months to confirm a negative test result.
  • You can tell if someone has HIV/AIDS by looking at the- Someone can be infected with HIV without any symptoms for years. Being tested for HIV is the only way to know if someone is HIV positive.
  • HIV always leads to AIDS- HIV is the infection that causes AIDS. But this does not mean all      HIV-positive individuals will develop AIDS.
  • From insect bites such as a mosquito.
  • With all of the modern treatments, HIV is no big deal.
  • Oral sex does not pose the possibility of contracting.
  • I am HIV positive, and therefore my life is over.

HIV prevention 

  • Abstinence
  • Sex with a regular HIV-negative partner
  • Correct and consistent use of condoms
  • Regular testing for HIV


Treatment care and support

  • Most people with HIV look and feel most healthy. Many people who have HIV don’t even know that they have the virus.
  • Some people may have mild symptoms at the early stages of their infection. These symptoms often go unnoticed since they can be easily confused with other illnesses, such as cold or flu.
  • A person can often go many years without noticeable symptoms. However, the person can still pass on the virus to partners or through pregnancy or breastfeeding during this time.
  • During the later stages of HIV, people may start to develop symptoms from the illness such as weight loss, white patches in the mouth, cough, or diarrhea.


What to do if one tests HIV-positive.

  • Enrol in the treatment called antiretroviral therapy (ART)
  • Practice safer sex and encourage past and present sexual partners to get tested.
  • Adherence to medicines and the use of other measures to prevent unborn babies from becoming infected in the case of pregnancy.

Enroll in a support group for love and support.

AIDS             Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome

ANC                 Ante-Natal Care

ART                  Antiretroviral Therapy

AR                    Antiretroviral

ASWHAN         Association of Women Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria

ATM                AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis

AYP                  Adolescent and Young People

AYPLHIV          Adolescent and Young People Living with HIV

BBFSW             Brothel-based Female Sex Worker
BCC                 Behavior Change Communication
CBO                 Community Based Organization

CSO                 Civil Society Organization

EID                   Early Infant Diagnosis

eMTCT            Elimination of Mother to Child Transmission

FSWs                Female Sex Workers

GBV                 Gender-Based Violence

HBC                   Home-Based Care

HCT                 HIV Counselling and Testing

HIV                  Human Immunodeficiency Virus

HIVDR              HIV Drug Resistance

HTS                  HIV Testing Services

HIVST               HIV Self Testing

IDU                  Injecting Drug Users

IP                     Implementing Partner
IPC                   Interpersonal Communication

KP                    Key Populations

LGBTI               Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex

MPPI                Minimum Prevention Package Intervention

MSM               Men who have Sex with Men

MTCT              Mother to Child Transmission of HIV

NACA               National Agency for the Control of AIDS

NBBFSW          Non-Brothel-based Female Sex Worker

NEPWHAN       Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria

OIs                   Opportunistic Infections

OVC                 Orphans and Vulnerable Children

OSS                  One Stop Shop
PABA               People Affected By HIV/AIDS

PEP                  Post-exposure Prophylaxis

PHDP               Positive Health, Dignity and Prevention

PICT                 Provider Initiated Counselling and Testing
PrEP                 Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis

PLHIV               People Living with HIV
PMTC              Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV

PWID               People Who Inject Drugs

SACA                State Agency for the Control of AIDS

SBCC                Social Behavior Change Communication
STIs                  Sexually Transmitted Infections
TasP                 Treatment as Prevention
TG                    Transgender

TLD                  Tenofovir, Lamivudine and Dolutegravir
VL                    Viral load

  • Concordant – Couples where both partners are uninfected
  • Sero-discordant – where one partner is uninfected and one partner is infected
  • Driver – The term relates to the structural and social factors, such as poverty, gender, and human rights that are not easily measured and can increase people’s vulnerability to exposure to HIV.
  • Incidence – HIV incidence (sometimes referred to as cumulative incidence) is the proportion of people who have become infected with HIV during a specified time, for example during the past year.

Prevalence – HIV prevalence refers to the number of infections (old and new) at a particular point in time (like a camera snapshot).

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