The subject of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is one most Nigerians approach with care and caution. This often makes it difficult for people to educate themselves on the matter since there is almost no one willing to talk about it. Even in schools, some teachers barely go beyond the definition of the virus. This means that there are a lot of misinformation and misconceptions going around,
But properly educating yourself about the virus is key to enable you to protect yourself and others around you. In today’s post, we would be looking at some of the things every Nigerian should know about HIV.
1. HIV Is Not A Death Sentence
Many Nigerians still see HIV as a disease that automatically leads to death, even though cases over the years have shown that it is not true. Thanks to advancements in medication, people with HIV can live a normal life now and live as long as other people. This allows people with HIV to even have a family and raise their kids. While there is still no cure for the virus, having HIV these days can be managed better and the person can continue with their lives like normal.
2. HIV Cannot Be Gotten Through Handshakes And Hugs
This is one thought that leads to discrimination. Most people still think that you can get the virus by shaking hands with a patient or hugging them, but that is false. You cannot get HIV simply by shaking or hugging a victim. You cannot also get it from sharing spoons, cups, or plates with a patient. One survey found out that a lot of Nigerians believe that HIV is transmitted by mosquitoes.
This means we should stop discriminating against those with the virus but should instead treat them right. Stigmatising them on account of the virus could have a serious psychological impact, causing them to withdraw. This could even force them to stop seeking ways to manage their condition better. Learn to treat people living with HIV with compassion and respect, as you would treat any other person.
3. PrEP Can Prevent HIV
Pre-exposure Prophylaxis is a method of HIV prevention where you take drugs meant for treating HIV if you feel you might come in contact with the virus, such as before you have unprotected sex. The drug for this is Truvada, which contains Emtricitabine and Tenofovir, two medications that are effective against the virus. PrEP helps your body to build immunity and resistance so that it can fight the virus as soon as it enters the body.
4. Condoms Are Important
Even though it is easier to live with HIV these days, it is still important that you observe safe sex practices. Besides HIV, there are other STDs that can be passed during unprotected sex. Using condoms protects you and your partner as well.
5. Mother-to-child Transmission of HIV Can Be Prevented
HIV can be transmitted from an HIV-positive woman to her child during pregnancy. This is known as mother-to-child transmission of HIV. It is the spread of HIV from a HIV positive woman to her child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding (through breast milk).
However, what most Nigerians don’t know is that mother-to-child transmission of HIV can be prevented. The HIV medicines and other strategies can help to lower the rate of mother-to-child transmission of HIV to 1%. These HIV medicines are called antiretrovirals. Also, Prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) programmes can aid women of reproductive age living with or at risk of HIV to live healthy, and prevent their children from acquiring HIV.
6. Get Tested Often
Early detection is key to getting proper treatment and care. That is why you are advised to get tested often, especially when you have a new partner. Make sure both of you get tested. Also, get tested if you get caught by a razor or clipper used by somebody else. Getting tested would give you peace of mind and would also ensure you are not putting people around you at risk.