IMPORTANT TO KNOW ABOUT HIV
Today around 7,000 people are living with HIV in Sweden. Around 500 are diagnosed as HIV positive every year. Those who are diagnosed early and receive treatment can live and feel fine for a long time with the use of the effective medications that are available today. HIV tests, doctor visits and medications are free of charge in Sweden. Medical staff and interpreters are bound by professional secrecy and no one will be deported just because you have HIV. In Sweden, HIV is not an obstacle to achieving your dreams.
WHAT IS HIV?
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. “Human” means that it is for people. “Immunodeficiency” means that it affects the immune system negatively. “Virus” stands for it being a virus and not a bacteria, which means that it is resistant to antibiotics, but today there is effective medical treatment to counteract it. There is no cure for HIV, but thanks to the medications you can live with HIV as a chronic disease.
SYMPTOMS OF HIV?
Most people never develop any symptoms of HIV. Many people don’t notice it at all. Other people may experience symptoms for one to two weeks that are similar to other virus infections – fever, sore throat, swollen glands or hives. The only sure way to find out if you have HIV is to get yourself tested.
WHAT IS AIDS?
If HIV is not discovered and treated it may cause AIDS. The virus has then caused the T-cells that are supposed to protect the body against infections and cancer to not be able to do their job anymore. AIDS is a collective name for the diseases that may arise. With effective treatment, HIV will not lead to AIDS.
HOW IS HIV TRANSMITTED?
All people – regardless of gender, age or sexual orientation– can get HIV. HIV is only transmitted if one does not receive effective medical treatment. The treatment is life-long with daily medications, but with the right treatment the HIV will become inactive and cannot be transmitted. With untreated HIV the virus can only be transmitted in these three ways:
HIV can only be transmitted:
• during unprotected anal and vaginal intercourse and during oral sex (mouth sex)
• through blood by shared needles and syringes
• from a mother to a child during pregnancy, during child birth or in connection with breast feeding
The risk that HIV is transmitted is the highest during the first months after you have contracted HIV. At that time the virus amount in the blood is very high, while at the same time many people are not aware that they have the virus and can therefore transfer the virus over to other people. The risk of becoming infected is also higher if you are carrying another sexually transmitted disease (STD) at the same time.
DECREASE THE SPREAD OF HIV
Using a condom is a way to show respect and care and is the safest protection against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. The condoms protects against sexually transmitted infections and if it’s left on during the entire intercourse – that is when the penis is inserted into the vagina, mouth or anus. By not sharing syringes or other injection devices with others you can decrease the spread of HIV. Apart from condoms, testing and treatment are the best prevention methods. Have yourself tested regularly for the sake of your own health. Early discovery of HIV and early treatment can decrease the spread of HIV.
HAVE YOURSELF TESTED FOR HIV
In Sweden, testing, doctor visits and medications are free of charge and you can receive support and advice if you need it. You can have yourself tested by leaving a blood sample at, among other places, the healthcare clinic or the hospital, and you can choose to be anonymous if you wish. Doctors and interpreters in Sweden are bound by professional secrecy and cannot reveal to anyone else if you are HIV positive or LGBT.
It is important that you get tested for a number of reasons. In part to prevent that you transfer the infection to other people, and in part to prevent that you develop AIDS. The earlier you receive medication the better your body will respond to the treatment.
Today there are very good HIV medications. The medications will prevent your immune system from breaking down and if it has already been affected, it is simply built back up again. In order for the treatment to work you need to take one or several pills every day for the rest of your life.
LIVING WITH HIV
With information and medication you can today live a long life with HIV. Living with HIV means living with a lifelong chronic disease and thereby life-long medication. There is no cure for HIV but functioning care and medication will prevent the HIV from developing into AIDS. Today’s effective medications reduce the levels of virus in the body to practically zero. HIV is then not life threatening and can basically not be transferred onto others. Everyone who lives with HIV in Sweden have the right to free treatment.
With medications you continue living a normal life when it comes to your job, friends and leisure interests. You can have sex with a new partner as long as you use a condom when you have sex and tell that person that you have HIV. You have no obligation to tell your co-workers or other acquaintances that you have HIV. In Sweden no one is reported or deported because of HIV or your sexual orientation.
SHARING AND TALKING ABOUT HIV
Sometimes it can still be difficult to tell your friends and relatives that you have an HIV infection. If you want to talk to someone and get help and support, you can turn to one of the organizations at the bottom of this page. They can offer you conversations with people who have HIV and their family members. The advice is free and anybody you talk to are bound by professional secrecy.
Sources: www.folkhälsomyndigheten.se/radochfakta, www.1177.se, Noaks Ark, Kunskapsnätverket hiv/STI Mellansverige, rfsl.se, Hiv-Sverige.
Medical review: Hiv-Sverige